Not pictured: vinegar-spiked water dripping down my forearm as I munch on these and type.
Hamutzim (pronounced: khawm-ooo-tzeem) are the Israeli version of the plate of bread that comes before your meal at a restaurant. And they are insanely addictive. Once I have one I have to eat the entire bowl and then I can’t stop thinking about them till the next time I eat them. They usually accompany hummus or go inside a falafel, though sometimes hamutzim merely refers to the bowl of cut up pickles and onion that can also accompany a bowl of hummus, instead of this version, which is cauliflower, cabbage, carrot and red bell pepper.
This recipe comes from Roni, a very nice man in the Iraqi shuk at Mahaneh Yehuda market, who sells large to-go containers but was generous enough to share his recipe with me, as well as his phone number in case I ran into any problems. Roni also sells olives and amba (pickled mango), and I met him a few weeks back when I asked him for a recipe for amba and he laughed in my face. I guess it’s really hard to make? Thanks to my friend Amira’s Iraqi grandmother, as soon as mangoes are in season here, I’m going to take a stab at it. And then I’ll go laugh in Roni’s face.
Nevertheless, I was shocked at the likeness of these. They are exactly what I eat in the restaurant. Add them to your salad, eat them with meat, munch on them, stick them in a sandwich or falafel, or enjoy them with some hummus. I’m salivating and going back for more right now.
Makes about 6 cups
What you need:
One head of cauliflower; leaves removed and florets separated and cut small
5 leaves of cabbage; coarsely chopped into 1″ x 1″ squares or 2″ x 2″
2 small red bell peppers or 1 large red bell pepper; cut into 1″ squares and small strips for variety
1 carrot; cut on a bias
10-12 bay leaves
3 tsp amba spice mix – At an Indian or Middle Eastern spice store, it may be called “Amchur/Amchoor.” Alternately, pull together some ground mustard seeds, chili powder, hot paprika, and a little cumin. But FYI, I’ve made this without the spice mix and it’s still good.
1 tsp turmeric
a pinch of ground pepper
1 tsp peppercorns–the big ones (about 25-30)
3 tblsp salt
8 c water
2 c white vinegar
How to do it:
Cut the vegetables into slices and disassemble the cauliflower into little florets. Wash the vegetables and transfer them to a large pot. Add the water and vinegar and cook until water boils. Once it boils, turn off the heat, move the pot to another burner, add the spices and cover. Allow to sit for at least two hours on the counter. Transfer to a jar and secure tightly. Enjoy!