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Fresh, Delicious Dining With ‘My Fat Dad’

Dawn Lerman’s sweet potato hummus is an easy homemade replacement for store-bought hummus.

I recently picked up the memoir by New York Times Well blogger Dawn Lerman and was immediately intrigued. How could I not be, with a title like that? I was hooked after reading the three-page introduction, titled “Always Hungry,” in which Lerman describes the relationship each of her parents has with food — relationships that will have a profound effect on the course her life takes.


Dawn Lerman’s “fat dad” is a massively overweight fad-dieter, who’s always looking for the next magical solution to his weight problem. My own dad, though not what you’d consider fat, has been consistently struggling to get slim for several years. I found myself relating to young Dawn, who would help her father prepare healthy meals that catered to his latest diet.

I can’t imagine having a childhood in which the rules of restrictive weight-loss regimes like Atkins and the Cabbage Soup Diet dictated family dinners, but for Lerman, that was the harsh reality. Understandably, young Dawn is left yearning for real, wholesome food made with love — food she looks forward to making on weekends at the home of her maternal grandmother, Beauty. Lerman discovers her love of cooking during those weekends with Beauty, who makes traditional Jewish dishes like chicken soup with matzo balls, latkes and kugel — always with fresh ingredients.

This touching and absorbing memoir is divided into anecdotal chapters that illustrate Lerman’s growing passion for cooking and eating nourishing foods. She follows each chapter with a few of the recipes mentioned in that particular snapshot of her childhood. Some are the original recipes from Beauty and Bubbe Mary, Lerman’s paternal grandmother, but most of them are the author’s own creations.

I share Lerman’s love for cooking, and I also share her commitment to making healthy food that tastes good. I narrowed in on three healthy, pescatarian-friendly recipes and was not disappointed. The salmon and leeks baked in parchment paper is a simple, delicious dish to serve as a main for a healthy meal. I was blown away by the sweet potato hummus, which I will now be making weekly as a replacement for store-bought hummus. And I will never fear homemade miso soup again: Lerman’s healing mushroom miso soup was incredibly easy to make, and after one soothing mouthful, my frustration at being snowed in by last weekend’s impressive blizzard, Jonas, completely melted away.

Image by Dawn Lerman

Sweet Potato Hummus

By Dawn Lerman

If you are looking for a light, healthy appetizer, this sweet potato hummus is bursting with flavor, spice and color. Because of it’s high protein content it will help control your appetite and mood. My dad named it the caviar of hummus —exclaiming that it was almost illegal for something so nutritious to be this delicious. As a 210-pound vegan, this is a staple on his table for holidays, snacking and late- night cravings.

Serves 6

1 large sweet potato (about 9 ounces)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional, as needed, for thinning)
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of nutmeg

1) Position the baking rack in the middle and heat the oven to 425˚ F. Wrap the sweet potato in foil and bake in a shallow baking pan until it can be easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow the potato to cool completely.

2) Peel the skin off the sweet potato and transfer to a food processor fitted with a blade. Add the chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and nutmeg, and process until smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add a little extra olive oil or water and process until the desired consistency is reached.

Recipes from by Dawn Lerman, Berkley Books/2015.


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