Lebna bil Kusa (summery squash & cumin spread)

Think outside the hummus. 

Lebna bil Kusa (summery squash & cumin spread)
Hummus is the "king (or queen) of spreads", but lebna bil kusa makes a great princess!

Hummus is the "king (or queen) of spreads", but lebna bil kusa makes a great princess!

I love me some hummus and it has been heartening to know that I am not alone in my enthusiasm - when you see a Super Bowl ad featuring a food, you know that it has truly been adopted by America. This love affair with hummus in the U.S. is so passionate that I even use it as a case study for examining the biocultural factors contributing to cuisine in one of the courses I teach at UC Berkeley. Hummus adheres to many current food trends - among other things, it's plant-based, Mediterranean, healthy, and snackable and, as this Wall Street Journal article discusses, demand has grown to the point that you'd be unlikely to attend any kind of potluck without finding some sort of hummus on the table. Many of the store-bought hummuses you'll find at a potluck however, are made from dried and powdered garbanzo beans, which are incredibly subpar in my opinion (though powdered hummus is great for backpacking). But, I digress - this post is supposed to be about another spread and I promise I'm getting there!

Typically, I'm a hummus purest. Give me a blend of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, and salt and I am happy (please don't put garlic in my hummus). I worked for many years off-and-on at an "eclectic Mediterranean" restaurant in Berkeley that is now, sadly, closed. The owners are a husband and wife team, good friends of mine, and most of my Mediterranean cooking skillz I credit to the Iraqi husband. In addition to teaching me to not put garlic in hummus, he showed me that although hummus is still the king of spreads, there are some other contenders that give it a run for its money.

Lebna bill kusa (in Arabic, lebna means "yogurt" and kusa means "squash") is one of those contenders. As it's made with yellow squash, which is only available in summer months, one of the great things about LbK is that it is always a seasonal treat. As a side note, did you know that the straight yellow summer squash is also called "gold bar squash"? Pretty cool and appropriate. The yogurt in LbK nixes it from the list of dishes you can share with your vegan homies, but by upping the tahini/olive oil and adding some lemon juice you can make a vegan version that's almost - but not quite - as good. The recipe specifies a range of quantities because whenever I make it I just kind of mix and match until the consistency and flavor is to my liking. Feel free to add other herbs and spices as desired or make it as thick/thin as you like it! Zucchini would also work, but the color would not be as appealing. Makes about 2 cups.

Yellow summer squash (aka "gold bar squash" shown here) gives lebna bil kusa its bright hue.

Yellow summer squash (aka "gold bar squash" shown here) gives lebna bil kusa its bright hue.

  • 1.5 pounds summer squash (about 3 medium "gold bar" squash or 4-6 pattypan or crookneck), chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1-2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt, to taste
Rustic bread or crackers from whole grains or crisp raw vegetables are a great way to dip up this spread.

Rustic bread or crackers from whole grains or crisp raw vegetables are a great way to dip up this spread.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. On a baking sheet, toss diced squash with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until soft and golden brown, tossing halfway through.
  3. Using either a food processor or potato masher (food processor if you like your spreads to be smoother, potato masher for chunkier), blend squash with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon tahini, and 1 tablespoon yogurt. Continue adding more of these wet ingredients in small amounts in addition to cumin and salt until you have reached the desired texture and taste. 
  4. Serve immediately with crackers, bread, or raw vegetables or store in refrigerator for up to one week. Garnish with paprika, herbs, and drizzled olive oil if desired.