The highest honor in cooking is receiving a James Beard award.
To date, nine times has a Beard Award gone to a chef or restaurant in Minneapolis. One day Naimah Muhammad could be among that select group of chefs.
Muhammad, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Marcy Open School in Minneapolis, is already gaining national acclaim for her culinary creations. Within the past year she has earned a second place team award in the Iron Chef Jr. competition and this past February, the young chef earned a third place individual award in the Super Snack Challenge, an event that was part of the Super Bowl LII festivities in the Twin Cities. What makes Muhammad’s accomplishment all the more impressive is the fact that she is a vegan/vegetarian chef.
With the Super Snack Challenge, being a vegan chef played to her advantage.
“For the challenge, our dish had to be healthy,” said Muhammad. “That was what they (judges) were looking for. Then they judged each dish on taste, creativity and appearance.”
What Muhammad came up with was a spicy pumpkin hummus.
“My family loves spice and I love pumpkin and we eat a lot of hummus, so that’s how I came up with the dish,” said the budding chef.
More than 400 Minnesota teens and preteens entered the Super Snack Challenge. From there, the pool was whittled down to 52 and three were selected as award recipients.
Along with the bragging rights, Muhammad’s dish earned her a trip to New York and Connecticut to tour Newman’s Own facilities. The brand named after famed actor Paul Newman and known for its charitable giving sponsored the challenge. Muhammad was also awarded $10,000 to give to a charity of her choice.
“I chose the North Community YMCA,” said Muhammad. “When I was younger I used to go there all the time and I just wanted to give something back to the people who gave so much to me.”
In addition to her $10,000 donation, Muhammad will be offering cooking demonstrations for kids in a new commercial kitchen at the Y.
Muhammad said she hopes to make her passion her profession, with plans of opening her own healthy-eating restaurants in the future.
As for that now famous spiced pumpkin hummus, Muhammad agreed to share her winning recipe in Insight News. It is also included in a Super Snack Challenge cookbook.
Spiced Pumpkin Hummus
1 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
1 can pumpkin puree
2 cans (15 oz.) chick peas/garbanzo beans
1 package pita bread
2 bell peppers (one yellow, one red)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp cayenne (or chipotle power)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini (can substitute almond or cashew butter)
1-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt (Muhammad uses pink Himalayan salt)
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Drain and rinse the can of peas/beans (save some for garnish along with pumpkin seeds)
Place ingredients in a food processer
Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape sides of the processer when needed (add oil if lumpy)
Serve with pita chips, fresh veggies or tortilla chips