Dips and Nibbles

The Spread

The Spread

A good friend came to town this past weekend, visiting from Seattle.  The plan for Saturday night was to make a huge spread and enjoy!  We made fresh goat cheese, pureed beets, warm Brussels sprout salad and bagna cauda (anchovies, cream, garlic oh my).  I won’t overwhelm you with all the recipes right now so we’ll start with the beets.

I got the recipe out of my current favorite cookbook Jerusalem.  The photos are gorgeous and every time I flip through I pause at the picture of the bright purple-red beet puree.  Luckily my friend is also a fan of the earthy beet flavor so we decided to try the recipe.

Give just over two pounds of beets a good scrub and roast them whole at 400 degrees for about an hour.  You know they are done when a knife slides through easily and the skin begins to separate from the flesh.  Give them plenty of time to cool and peel away.  Put on gloves if you don’t want pink fingers!  I was able to just rub most of the skin off but a paring knife might be necessary in some spots.

Ready to Roast

Ready to Roast

After peeled- cut into 1/2 inch cubes and put in a food processor or high-powered blender with 2 cloves crushed garlic, one red chili (I had to use a serrano-which worked fine!) and one heaping cup of plain Greek yogurt.  Blend until smooth.

Time to add extra flavor.  Put the puree into a  mixing bowl and stir in 1 1/2 tbsp date syrup (I used a combination of maple and agave since I didn’t have date syrup on hand), 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp za’atar*.  Salt to taste.

Put in your serving bowl and top with 2 thinly sliced green onions, 2 tbsp chopped and toasted hazelnuts and 2 oz crumbled goat cheese.  Serve at room temperature with bread for dipping but you might just find yourself eating it by the spoonful!

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

 

I wish the picture wasn’t so dark, the color really was phenomenal.

 

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that usually includes a combination of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram), toasted sesame seeds, sumac and a bit of salt.

 

Are you a fan of beets or do they taste too much like dirt?  What do you like to do with your beets?

Weeknight tomato jam and stupid complicated BLTs!

 

Look at the beautiful colors on those backyard tomatoes!!

Look at the beautiful colors on those backyard tomatoes!!

My abundance of tomatoes continues.  As much as I enjoy tomato and cucumber salad, it’s fun challenging myself to come up with interesting things to do with my bounty.  I’ve been toying around with canning a bunch of tomato jam to preserve and enjoy throughout the year.  First I must settle on a recipe to use- there are tons on the internet.  The main components are tomatoes (obviously), lots of sugar, spice and vinegar or some other sort of acid.

Tonight I decided to play around with the flavor combinations on my own to make a small version of a stove top jam.

Jam components

Jam components

1.5 cups chopped tomato

1/2 medium red onion

1/3 cup white sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 pepper

 

Dump everything in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture has begun to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the tomatoes have fully burst and the sauce has reduced by half.

For my first try this was pretty tasty.  Next time I’ll reduce the sugar a bit and maybe substitute a portion of it with honey or brown sugar.  I’ll also increase the acidity- perhaps some lemon zest or an increase in vinegar.

Once my tomato jam was cooling I got to work on my fancy BLT.  Why mess with a BLT?  I’m not sure, just to make thing more complicated it guess!

BLT componets

BLT componets

Fancy baguette instead of sandwich bread.  Goat cheese and avocado instead of mayo.  Tomato jam in lieu of tomatoes!  I used a spring mix and “artisan” bacon, whatever that means!!

As a side note, I used Metropol bread.  I love bread, I love this bread the best of all.  Maybe it’s just because it’s the first “fancy” bread I was introduced to as a kid, but I can honestly say nothing beats this stuff!  My oldest friend in the world- who has lived in big cities with access to fantastic bakeries all over the country would agree.  Every time she comes back to Eugene she requests that a Metropol baguette greet her first thing.

I mention this because as much as I love this bread, I didn’t want to fill up too quickly on it.  I carve out a bit in the middle- saving the insides for breadcrumbs in the future.  My new hollowed out pieces are easier to stuff.

Bread, missing its middle

Bread, missing its middle

Time to make the BLT!  I used the avocado to coat one side and a goat cheese and tomato jam mixture for the other.

Ready to be assembled

Ready to be assembled

Add bacon and lettuce and it is ready to eat!

Fancy BLT

Fancy BLT

Yum, yum, yum!  As I mentioned before the jam could have used a bit more acid.  Maybe a big slice of tomato would have put this sandwich over the top, but as it was it certainly was tasty!

Do you preserve food?  Favorite recipes?

Do you ever dress up everyday foods?

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

I was a vegetarian for many years, almost a decade.  I’m still not a big meat eater, but on occasion I get a really strong craving.  Unlike most antidotes it wasn’t bacon that did me in, the culprit was rotisserie chicken.  I was at a office warming party out of town.  I had driven five hours to be there for my dad’s big day.  Before I could even congratulate my dad, the smell of chicken that had been slowly roasting all night caught me.  What happened next is blurry in my mind but my mom claims to have found me, fifteen minutes later, in a corner with chicken.

These days chicken is on the bottom of the list for meat choices but I still have a soft spot for rotisserie chicken.  That is how I found myself bringing home an entire chicken this weekend.  I know it is impossible for me to eat the entire thing before I start getting worried about it going bad, but I just couldn’t resist.  In an effort to not waste most of the bird I picked all of the meat off the bones and froze 3/4 of it.  I also froze the bones to make homemade broth once the weather cools.  With the remaining chicken I decided to make stuffed Anaheim peppers.

First up prepare the stuffing.

To be stuffed!

To be stuffed!

Clockwise from top left- 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup red onion diced, 1 cup chopped chicken (I used white and dark meat), 1 jalapeno, 1 cup cilantro (I am a big cilantro fan!).  Depending one your taste you could go chicken heavy or tomato heavy, whatever you like!

I added these to one can of black beans and 3/4 grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Beans and cheese!

Beans and cheese!

I had picked up some Anaheims form a Mexican market down the street.  I took off the tops and removed the seeds.

Ready to be stuffed

Ready to be stuffed

I packed these as full and as tight as I could get them prior to baking.  I knew I would need some sort of liquid to put in the bottom of the baking dish to help steam the peppers.  Broth?  That sounded too boring.  I considered a can of Mexican style chopped tomatoes.  Then a jar of homemade roasted salsa verde given to me by a friend caught my eye.  I must say, good call!  It had a smokey flavor and was full of heat, but not an overwhelming amount.  I spread the salsa on the bottom of my baking dish to just barely coat it.

Ready for peppers

Ready for peppers

I arranged the stuffed pepper in to the dish and covered with foil.  Forty to forty five minutes at 350 degrees.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Check that the peppers have softened and then broil for five minutes to get a bit of char on the skin.

Topped with more salsa verde and sour cream

Topped with more salsa verde and sour cream

Sorry for the dark picture!  This was awfully tasty.  I’m not sure how much credit I can take for it and how much was the super salsa.  This meal worked well for me because I was able to pull out a pepper (or two) at a time to put under the broiler after the initial bake to make single serving portions.

What do you do with rotisserie chickens?  Any favorite stuffed pepper dishes?

Tomatoes Part Two!

I like Thursdays at work.  The work week is already over halfway done, the day is usually busy (which makes it go by quickly), it’s also doughnut day!  In an effort to inspire health my co-worker has been bringing in a veggie tray in addition to the doughnuts.  While I don’t often get inspired from broccoli florets and celery sticks at 8 am, I did find a bag of cherry tomatoes from another co-worker left on my desk inspiring!

By the time I got home, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  I combined my friend’s yellow tomatoes with a few reds that I had on hand to make soup!  Yes soup in ninety degree weather!  I love soup and have gone without for months, tonight I decided I was eating it regardless of the heat, but I was going to do my best to not warm up the house even more.

A little heat was necessary so I started by roasting two cups of tomatoes.

Two cups tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Two cups tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Twenty minutes at 425 degrees.  As an afterthought I through on a few sprigs of thyme and two cloves of garlic.  I knew the tomatoes were ready when I heard them popping.

A couple of months ago I invested in a high powered fancy blender.  I’d read that the friction in the blender was enough that it would actually increase the heat of the ingredients.  Tonight was the perfect night to test it out- no stove top to further increase the temperature in the house.

 

Tomatoes and garlic!

Sorry for the bad picture!  I simply dumped the tomatoes and garlic into the blender.  I included the oil but pulled out the thyme sprigs.  Put the lid on (thank you high tech blender, no explosions!) and hit the soup button.

I wanted a grilled cheese with the soup, but all I had in the fridge was a Mexican blend.  Again, avoiding the stove I was using my panini press.  Because I was using a Mexican blend cheese, I decided to dress up the soup with Mexican flavors.  Sour cream, a sprinkle of cumin, and a dash of chili powder.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

This was so good!  Savory and fresh.  Perfect for one.  The soup was surprisingly filling and could easily be stretched into two servings, especially with the addition of some veggie or chicken broth.

What tricks do you use in the heat to keep the house cool while still craving hot food?

Tomato Season!

Last Thursday I was making a simple spinach salad for dinner.  I stopped by the store for avocado and a pint of grape tomatoes.  I used maybe five grape tomatoes.  On Friday one of my co-workers brought me in a bag of cherry tomatoes.  On Saturday I went to the Farmers’ Market to be greeted by an abundance of local tomato varieties (I bought a beefeater for BLTs and some heirlooms I’d never seen before.  On Sunday my black cherry tomatoes started to ripen.  Now it’s Tuesday and I have tomatoes coming out of my ears!

What to do with all of my tomatoes?!  I found inspiration from weekend morning Food Network.  Ina Garten was making a tomato gratin and from chatting with a farmer and taking her recommendation.

The Barefoot Contessa was making a fresh tomato gratin.  I was sweeping and talking on the phone, but she caught my attention talking about what to do with a bunch of cherry tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

Grape tomatoes from the grocery store, red cherries from a friend, black cherries from the backyard.

I started by coating the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Next came the gratin topping, blended in the food processor.  Ina called for bread crumbs, parsley and garlic.  I added parmesan because cheese makes everything better.  

Ready to blend!

Ready to blend!

The parsley came from the backyard and I had a sandwich roll that needed to be used.  Three cloves of garlic and three tablespoons of parm.  Blend it up and dump on top of the tomatoes.

Up next, baking.

Up next, baking.

I put a couple of pads of butter on top.  Like cheese, butter makes everything better.  Into a four hundred degree oven for thirty minutes.  The recipe called for 40, but my bread crumbs were getting a bit toasty so I pulled it out.  

Time to let it rest.

Time to let it rest.

While the gratin was cooking I was working on recipe number two for tomatoes.  Two of the heirlooms I bought had a fleshy skin but were largely hollow.  The farmer recommended them for stuffing!  Since it’s still pretty warm out, I though tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad served over greens sounded perfect.  

I always mix my tuna salad with tons of veggies, close to a fifty fifty ratio!  I finely chopped one small carrot, 1/3 cup red onion, 2 dill pickles, 1 tbsp mayo and one tbsp yellow mustard before adding the tuna.

Ready for the fish!

Ready for the fish!

I added one can of oil packed tuna (I drained about half of the oil, you could not drain and omit the mayo) and mixed it all up.

Tuna salad

Tuna salad

I mix my tuna right in a tupperware bowl so I can easily store the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Stuff the tomatoes, place on top of greens, lightly dress with homemade honey mustard dressing!

Stuffed tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes

I served my salad with a side of gratin and had plenty of leftover tuna salad and gratin for the week.

Perfect summer side!

Perfect summer side!

I just used the tomatoes I had on hand for the gratin, in the future I’d double the amount but keep the breadcrumb amount the same.  It was still delicious!

What do you do in the summer with an excess of tomatoes or zucchini?  

Sabih

I’m finally blogging!  The last few weeks it has been 90+ degrees out almost nonstop and cooking has not sounded like fun.  Salads, cheese and crackers, smoothies have been my meals.  I did cook a couple of times, even photographed my efforts but nothing was blog worthy.  My lasagna wasn’t bad.  The blueberry muffin bread was okay.  But neither was good (or bad!) enough to share.  My dinner last night however, fantastic!

Sabih with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and a tahini and chili dipping sauce!

Sabih with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and a tahini and chili dipping sauce!

Several of my posts have been recipes from the cookbook Jerusalem.  I was initially drawn to the cookbook for the beautiful photography, the pictures made my mouth water!  I was a bit intimidated by the recipes because they seemed long and involved.  Additionally I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the ingredients.  I dove in though and despite the long and seemingly complicated recipes with a whole new set of flavors for my palate – I’ve found the book accessible and rewarding.  In addition, I love the forward to each recipe.  It’s a little cultural history that makes me even more excited to try the recipe.

Sabih, a street food that was originally developed by Iraqi Jews who settled near Tel Aviv in the 1950s, draws on influences throughout the Middle East.  The best part about it (for me) is that all of the components can be prepared in advanced and easily assembled for a quick dinner.

Okay – enough rambling, let’s get to the food!  Over the weekend I prepared all of the pieces of the recipe.  I first cut the eggplant in strips and sprinkled them with salt and left them alone while I got to work on my chopped salad, dipping sauces and  hard-boiled eggs.  A simple chopped salad of tomato, cucumber, green onion, parsley (from my garden!), lemon juice and olive oil.  The sauces are a bit time-consuming but they make the dish.

Condiments!!

Condiments!!

The recipe calls for mango pickle, which I didn’t have but I did have pilpelchuma, a chili garlic (20 cloves) paste that I had made (red/brown on left).  On the top is a tahini sauce.  Finally I made Zhough, a fresh, herby, spicy paste.

After all the sauces I got back to my eggplant.  I took a paper towel to gently wipe off the excess salt then I pan-fried them in sunflower oil until soft.  At this point it was close to eleven on Sunday night so I packaged everything up, went to bed and looked forward to dinner all day on Monday.

Assembly was a breeze.  I put a pita in my toaster oven and topped with a layer of eggplant, I only toasted for a couple of minutes, long enough to take the chill off but not actually cook.  I peeled and quartered my egg.  I pulled the rest of the ingredients out of the fridge.  Stack stack stack!

Ready to stack!

Ready to stack!

There was about half of the tahini sauce (tahini with lemon juice, garlic and water) left so I put a teaspoon of the red chili paste in and mixed it up.  It was perfect for some sweet potato wedges that I had roasted over the weekend.

A closer view

A closer view

So good.  I’m going to make myself round two right now.

Would anyone be interested in the detailed recipes for the red and/or green chili paste?  I can blog about those, there are so many uses but don’t want to bore you.

What is your favorite street food?

Sunday Night Meal Prep

I have a busy week coming up.  Work, class, fun, and always the unexpected!  In order to make the week as stress-free as possible and not depend on take out, I decided to do a bunch of meal prep Sunday evening.  Food that didn’t need much assembly or much cooking (too hot to have the oven going!) was important.  This meant I was going to rely on- surprise, surprise- salads.  I found a couple of salads in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman that I knew would last longer than a day or two, made some originals, and also picked up a few things at the store to supplement.

First up a Perelman recipe.  Vinegar slaw with cucumbers and dill.  I love dill in the summer and I really liked the simplicity of this recipe.  In addition, vinegar slaws tend to improve with time and they have a shelf life of up to a week.  Such simple ingredients!

Only Six Ingredients!

Only Six Ingredients!

I used a mandolin to shred one medium head of green cabbage and thinly slice one English cucumber.  I mixed those with two tbsp fresh dill.  Two tbsp kosher salt and four tsp were dissolved in 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and then 1/2 cup water was added and the dressing was mixed with the veggies.

Cucumber Slaw

Cucumber Slaw

I tasted this after about an hour, I’m sure with time it will get better and better.  It was a bit salty and on further inspection I saw a side note on the recipe that the salt should be cut down unless Diamond brand kosher salt was used.

Onto the second Perelman recipe- sugar snap salad with miso dressing.  I already had miso paste in the fridge from last week’s chopped salad so I figured I’d give this one a try.  All the veggie ingredients gathered up.

I used savoy cabbage instead of the napa the recipe called for

I used savoy cabbage instead of the napa the recipe called for

Three tbsp toasted sesame seeds (I only had black on hand), three green onions, 1/2 lb sugar snap peas, and four radishes.  I boiled the peas for two minutes and then put them in an ice bath before cutting them thin on a bias.  I quartered and thinly sliced the radish, sliced the green o’s, and shredded the cabbage.  For the dressing, into the blender went- 1 tbsp minced ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp mild miso paste, 2 tbsp tahini, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sesame oil, and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Mix with the veggies and it is good to go.  Again with a vinegar based dressing- this one will last a few days.

Sugar Snap Salad

Sugar Snap Salad

I really enjoyed this salad- the peas add a natural sweetness.  I’m looking forward to eating this all week.

In addition to the salads made humus and chopped carrots for snacks and side dishes.  I do a pretty basic humus- one 15 oz can garbanzo beans plus 1/4 cup of the liquid, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp tahini, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, a dash of paprika, and a dash of cumin.

I made tuna salad for sandwiches or as a topper for greens.  I like wild albacore in extra virgin olive oil.  The oil adds more fat than water packed tuna but it also adds moisture so not as much mayo is needed.  My tuna is mixed with an equal ratio of tuna and veggies.  I throw in whatever I have on hand.  This time was yellow pepper, carrot, red onion, and pickles.  Two to one mayo to mustard ratio.

Next up I prepped bags of fruit and veggies for my whole juice smoothies in the morning.

Tomorrow's Juice!

Tomorrow’s Juice!

Beet juice is my current favorite.  Mixed with apple, carrot, and fresh ginger.  I mix this with water and ice for juice in the morning.  I have five bags in the freezer waiting for me this week.

To round out my prep I hard-boiled some eggs and washed some cherries.  I was going to bake tofu like I did with the chopped salad but I found some already marinated tofu on sale at the grocery store, so I made it easy on myself.

Ready for the Week

Ready for the Week

I almost forgot.  While doing all of this prep I made some sun tea in the backyard (back right).  With the addition of some bread, salad greens, and maybe some bacon and cheese, I’m all set for the week!

Do you prep food for the week?  What are some of your meal prep ideas to last a few days?