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?

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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?