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Pan-Seared Dove Breast and Sunflower Seed Hummus on Toast Recipe

This savory dove dish is a must-have recipe for your early season menu lineup.

Pan-Seared Dove Breast and Sunflower Seed Hummus on Toast Recipe

Kick off the hunting season and give a kick to your taste buds with this delightful dove dish. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

I cuss like a sailor when I hunt doves. No other outdoor activity has that kind of effect on me. Doves are quick, obviously, but every year, their Matrix-like moves never cease to amaze. Hitting feathers won’t take down a dove. Coincidentally, this slight, though clever, target is made of more feathers than vital area. Just when I think I’ve hit one, it keeps on sailing to the next county. Still, the same reasons that make doves so frustrating to hunt are also reasons that make them so thrilling to shoot. On good days, when my hunting companions and I could get birds close, there’s no better place to be in the world than standing over a field of sunflowers or hiding near a dead tree in the middle of Nebraska Sandhill country on September 1st. Those who have just come off a fast-action dove hunt know, even several days after a hunt, just the sight of a sparrow zooming across the sky becomes an impulse. With doves, you savor the hunt as much as you do the meat, and part of it is because of the notable pile of empty shells at your feet. While I can’t give you any shooting tips, I can give you a couple pointers on cooking them. A delicious balance between gamy and tender, doves are one of my favorite game birds to eat. They possess dark, rich flavors that you would expect from wild meat, and they are also quite simple to prepare and cook.

Needless to say, I’ve had a few dove poppers over the years, but there are also other ways that I enjoy dove. The thing about poppers is that they’re easy to overcook; by the time the bacon has rendered and cooked through, the meat would’ve turned gray, bringing out minerally—livery—notes. Instead, enjoy dove meat pink, which will preserve the best of this game bird’s texture and flavor. Cook dove meat hot and fast. Prepared whole or breasted out, dove only need a few minutes of high heat on each side. So, if you’re looking to try something else with dove breasts outside of poppers, here’s one way to enjoy the breasts: quickly seared and served on toast with homemade sunflower seed hummus, spicy radish, and creamy goat cheese. Not only does this dish look appetizing to eat on a warm, late-summer day, it’s also easy to pull together. You could prepare the hummus and cook the dove ahead of time and serve cold. I keep a well-stocked pantry of herbs and spices, but I am aware that not everyone does. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern style blend of spices that goes well with red game meat. It’s tart and savory, and as my husband describes it, gives the meat a grilled flavor without it actually being grilled. The seasoning is nice, but not necessary to accomplish this recipe. Also, if you don’t feel like making sunflower seed hummus, traditional store-bought hummus would also work nicely.

Serves: 4 light portions
Prep time: 12 hours
Cook time: 10 minutes

Main Ingredients:

  • 12 boneless breasts (from six doves)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Thinly sliced radish
  • Crusty bread (olive bread pictured), thickly sliced and buttered

Sunflower Seed Hummus Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of tahini
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • About ¼ cup of water

Za'atar Seasoning Ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon of sumac
  • ¼ teaspoon of dried oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon of coriander
  • ⅛ teaspoon of cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon of allspice
Pan-seared dove breast with sunflower seed hummus on toast recipe
You'll have almost as much fun preparing and eating this meal as you did in the field. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

Directions for Sunflower Seed Hummus:

  1. Submerge raw sunflower seeds in water and soak overnight or up to 24 hours.
  2. Rinse seeds with water and strain.
  3. Transfer strained seeds to a food processor with minced garlic, sea salt, lemon juice, cumin, and tahini.
  4. Pulse to combine. Then with the machine running on low, gradually pour in olive oil to emulsify. Increase speed if needed to get the mixture as smooth as your machine can get it. Then loosen gradually with water; amount listed is approximate.
  5. Season to taste and set aside.

Directions for Cooking Dove Breasts:

  1. Coat a pan with oil and heat over medium-high.
  2. Pat dove breasts dry with paper towels and season with salt.
  3. When the pan is screaming hot, brown breasts for 2 to 3 minutes on each side—you’re looking for medium in the middle.
  4. Remove breasts from pan and allow them to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing thinly on the bias. You could also skewer the doves and cook them on a high-heat grill.

Directions for Za'atar Seasoning:

  1. Combine ingredients.
  2. Toast your sliced and buttered bread to desired crispiness.
  3. Spread sunflower seed hummus onto toast and assemble with sliced dove, thinly sliced radish, and goat cheese.
  4. Sprinkle with za’atar seasoning and freshly cracked pepper.
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