Allow me to introduce you to the little black dress of my pantry: Simply OrganicFrench Onion Dip. My neighbor, Eliza, turned me onto to it several years ago when she served it at a party. I seriously could not stop eating it – like get your face out of the dip bowl Mayone.
This dip is terrific with crudite, especially Persian cuke slices, and particularly sinful with Trader Joe's Ridge Cut Potato Chips. As I type this I really want to go to the downstair's fridge and indulge but I will wait until the pre-game show. I think I can, I think I can…
Made one day ahead with 2 cups of sour cream, this dip is a party staple. It is also organic, certified gluten-free and vegetarian. Last night as I was prepping dips, I thought this dip base would probably make a superb slow cooker pot roast and veggies. I promise to report back. If you cannot find the packets at your grocery, it is available fro sale online.
Happy Super Bowl to you flavoristas, may your gameday buffets be overflowing.
One of my favorite snack indulgences is Yummy's Choice Labaneh. As I hate to beholden to buying snack foods so I embarked on trying to make my own.
Labaneh, not to be confused with keffir cheese or Greek sour cream is a wonderful "cheese" made from strained yogurt that has many iterations from the Eastern Mediterranean. In most households the plain strained yogurt is simply served with some dried mint and unfiltered olive oil as a dip for pita bread. Some add Z'hatar spice too. Sammy's takes it a few delectable steps further.
A quick web search found me scratching my head as there seemed to be quite few interpretations of what constitutes labaneh. One of my favorite blogs, The Nourished Kitchen had thorough information as to how to make labaneh and then suggestions as to how to enjoy it in addition to all the health benefits you get from eating it. Wikipedia provided decent background information on strained yogurt.
I was driven to my tower of cookbooks. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, intrepid Canadian travelers and chroniclers of international traditional foods as well as the amazing Eastern Mediterranean expert, Claudia Roden and historical food writer Anne Mendelson, offered what I needed in terms of background and recipes.
Flatbread and Flavors, a favorite book by Alford and DuGuid, and Anne Mendelson's Milk Through the Ages have the best recipes for making yogurt cheese balls that you store in olive oil. If you don't have either book and don't feel like purchasing yet another cookbook – their technique is the same as the one on the Nourished Kitchen site listed above. Claudia Roden in Arabesque calls it "cheese and yogurt dip" and includes adding feta to the yogurt -like Yummy's, but no walnuts.
Here is my version of Yummy's labaneh. I guarantee that you will enjoy this tangy, salty, herbaceous "yogurt cheese". I served it with some homemade pita crisps (Labaneh is pictured in the center) and even placed some in some nastursum flowers.
The other nibbles are fresh figs with caramelized walnuts and Pt. Reyes blue cheese, dates with parmesean cheese and Marcona Almonds and "fried" chick peas (recipe posting soon). To me the closest thing I can relate this "cheese" recipe to is French Boursin. I could see leftovers being used in Kimberly's Grilled Portabella Mushroom Sandwich on Meatless Mondays.
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 feta cheese
1/4 cup Greek Gods Lebani (Keffir Cheese)
1 clove garlic
EVVO, a nice fruity variety
1 Tbsp. each Chives, mint, parsley -chopped fine
You can make this by hand which makes for a wonderful consistency, but I prefer to use my food processor. The recipe also easily doubles for a crowd.
Place the walnuts into the food processor and pulse until they are fine and crumbly. Remove about 1 Tbsp.
Add the feta and Greek God's keffir cheese and the clove of garlic. Turn machine on and puree with the machine running add about 1/8 cup olive oil.
Remove from the food processor and place into a bowl. Stir in the finely chopped herbs. Drizzle on some more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining walnuts and serve.
If you're entertaining and need something green to snack upon, here are some lovely and simple spreads to put out with carrots or crackers of your choice. Radishes offer a gorgeous color contrast to these verdant springtime dips.
Homemade dips and spread are great make-ahead appetizers. Any leftovers are perfect for vegetarian sandwiches. I love how these dips have variations of green color.
Our friend Becky of The Organic Dish in Boulder shared her green pea hummus with us a while back. Kimberly has made Becky's recipe with 1/2 green peas and 1/2 edamame and happily reports that it was super yummy. I have also made it with fresh mint and no tahini with equally refreshing, delicious results.
This lima bean skordalia was inspired by one I bought at Market Hall in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, CA. Like the green pea hummus, it's easy to make and yummy. Fava bean puree takes a bit more time as you need to shell the fava beans.
Lima Bean "Skordalia" with Feta
1 bag frozen lima beans
Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp., more to taste)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp freshly chopped oregano
4 to 6 Tlbs. best quality EVVO
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces Feta cheese (I recommend a French Sheep's Feta), crumbled
Cover the lima beans,and 4 cloves of garlic with water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let limas cool in the water.
Strain off the water, reserving at least 1/2 a cup for adding to the puree later. Place the beans in the bowl of a food processor.
Add the garlic, oregano, lemon juice and the EVVO. Process until smooth, adding some of the hot water to make the puree smooth. Remove to your serving dish and stir in the crumbled feta. Season with salt and pepper.
Fava Beans Puree
This recipe is adapted from the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. This puree has always been a harbinger of summer for me. Fava beans are very earthy, do not try and make this with the canned variety. You will be disappointed.
2 lbs. fresh fava beans, parboiled, cooled in iced water and shelled
Splash of dry white wine
1 small leek, white part sliced very thinly
1/4 cup EVVO (preferably a different one from the lima bean skordalia, something fruity like Puget from France.
2 cloves garlic
1/4 of a bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pan under medium to low heat, add the leek and cook until soft. Add the minced garlic and fresh thyme and bay leaf. Now add the shelled fava beans and splash of white wine.
Once you can smash the favas with the back of a spoon easily, remove from heat. You can now either smash the mixture with the implement of your choice or remove the bay leaf and place the beans in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning and serve.
Here is a recipe I picked up while traveling in Thailand in 1989. I attend a cooking school at the Intercontinental Hotel in Bangkok. It was a great class covering the basics of Thai cooking. This is one of my favorite recipes for parties.
I usually offer it with beef tenderloin and chicken breast. Grilled they are superb but they broil well too. I serve it with a cucumber dipping sauce. If you have any leftovers, you can chop up the cooked meat and toss it with the cucumbers for a delicious salad. Place on your favorite greens.
Beef and Chicken Sate
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lime zest
1 can coconut milk (lite works well too)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
3/4 to 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into evenly sliced long pieces
3/4 lb. beef tenderloin, cut into long thin strips
24 (6) inch wooden skewers soaked for at least 6 hours in water
Mix all the ingredients (except for meats) together well. If you are making chicken and beef sates, then divide the marinade up between two bowls. Allow the meat to marinate for at least 1 hour.
Thread the meat onto the skewers and place onto a parchment lined broiler pan. You can grill these for about 4 to 6 minutes or broil them for the same amount of time. Serve with Cucumber Chutney (recipe below).
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup rice wine winegar (non-seasoned variety)
1 cup diced English hot house cucumber
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Place all ingredients into a bowl and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Serve with the sates.
These cheese crisps couldn’t be easier to make and are perfect for noshing. I highly recommend that you grate the Parmesan as opposed to purchasing the already grated variety. Parchment paper is also a necessity.
I served these alongside my curried apples. You can make some with almonds and some without for a little variety. They last for about 3 days in an air tight container, depending on the humidity where you live.
For 16 crisps
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
As pictured, make small slightly compact piles of grated cheese and then place some of the almonds on top. place in the oven and bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
These are also delicious with soups and salads. Enjoy!
I have been playing around with fun, quick things to make-ahead for cocktail parties. Working with pre-made frozen puff pastry sheets couldn’t be easier.
There are so many things you can do with these cocktail sticks. You can season them with hard cheeses, spice blends and savory jams, or make them into dessert sticks by brushing them with raspberry jam before baking or dip them into chocolate once they are baked.
You can twist them or make the, straight. Better yet, you can make them ahead, freeze the sticks, then always have them on hand – Instant, impressive hors d’oeuvres.
I buy pre-made puff pastry from Dufour. This is an excellent product. You can find it at Whole Foods in the freezer section. Their website is not working at the moment but check it at a later date to locate other places that sell Dufour.
It’s not inexpensive but if you consider the time it takes to make good puff pastry (and if you feel the need to do so then I highly recommend Martha Holmberg’s Puff) – Dufour is well worth the money. I try to always have a package in the freezer as it’s so versatile and I don’t have the time to make puff pastry.
Allow the puff pastry to defrost for about 2 hours before using. Remove from package. There are 2 sheets, I usually only need one for making sticks for a party of 12.
On a floured surface, place the dough and sprinkle with more flour. Roll out until the you have a nice even rectangle. Cut the puff into long thin strips, about 6 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. I use a pastry cutter because I like the ruffled edges, but a knife will work too.
Brush the strips with egg whites and sprinkle on the za’atar, extra nigella and sumac. Have a cookie sheet ready that is lined with parchment paper. Gently pick up each end of one strip and place on the cookie sheet with several twist of the wrists, lightly lift and pull the strips and then place them down on the cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining strips.
They can fit relatively closely together on the cookie sheet, just don’t have them touching. Press each end firmly down. Once cookie sheet is filled, place the pan into the freezer for about 20 minutes. Once they are frozen, you can store in a freezer safe container until you want to bake them.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the sticks for 12 minutes. Allow to cool before removing them from the cookie sheet. Enjoy!
If any of you have ever been to Trader Vic’s then you might have delighted in their pupu platters. I loved them as a kid. Here is an idea for what I call a white girl pupu platter.
While not as fun or interactive, it satisfies the munchies and is easy to assemble for a cocktail party. The peppadews are filled with Haystack Mountain Herb de Provence goat cheese.
The crackers are called Raincoast Crisps and are my absolute favorite. While they are really pricey, I can find them on sale and save them for special occasions. In the center I placed some quick curried pickles. The star of this pupu platter are the prosciuto rolls.
These are incredibly yummy and great to have on any buffet or as an appetizer. Using a very good quality ricotta, or better yet, homemade ricotta is key. Some cheese shops are offering fresh ricotta. If it is not available to you the best commercial ricotta for this recipe is from Organic Valley co-op. I recommend straining it for about an hour to get the excess moisture out. Here is my technique. I call it ricotta bondage.
The results are great for lasange too or any recipe calling for ricotta.
Fig preserves can be found in the cheese section of natural groceries and gourmet shops. You could substitute honey, just use a little less.
2 Tbsp.. EVVO
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tub fresh Ricotta cheese (You could use cream cheese or goat’s cheese too)
2 cloves freshly chopped garlic
12 slices prosciutto, not to thin
1/2 cup fig preserves or moscato
1/2 bunch fresh arugula, cleaned and dried, or watercress
Freshly cracked pepper
Whisk the oil, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the cheese with the garlic and set aside.
Place a piece of prosciutto on a cutting board and spread a thin layer of the fig preserves across the whole piece. Now spread on the cheese mixture. Place a large leaf of the arugula on top. Drizzle a bit of the dressing and crack some fresh pepper on top.
Roll the prosciutto up around the filling and place on a platter. Continue with the remaining slices. You can cut these in half and place pretty tooth picks through the center for a passed hors d’oeuvres.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we visited dear friends in Virginia. Flavorista Mary-Jo had picked up a copy of the Food Network’s magazine and it featured a Jamie Oliver recipe for Baked Camembert Pasta which sounded lovely but we were not feeling like pasta. Instead, we followed the first few steps of the recipe and slathered the rosemary & garlic infused camembert onto slices of baguette.
Seriously easy, seriously impressive… With the Superbowl approaching, think of it as upscale game day fare.
1 (8-oz) box of camembert cheese
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, sliced or minced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, pick the leaves off the woody stalk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the cheese and place it back into the wooden box (or place it into an oven-safe bowl). Use a paring knife to cut away the top of the cheese making a small well in the center of the cheese (see first pic above). Place the prepped cheese onto a baking sheet.
Lay the garlic slices on top of the cheese, sprinkle some pepper and drizzle the olive oil. Scatter the rosemary leaves over the top and gently pat with your fingers to coat them in the oil. Bake the cheese in a for about 25 minutes, until golden, melted and poofed.
The recent issue of Holiday Entertaining by Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for potted shrimp. I compared it to the one I’ve had for years and used frequently over the holidays. I prefer the recipe below as the whipped cream cheese gives it a light consistency. With its origins in England, Potted Shrimp is classic holiday fare. I love it because it is a make-ahead recipe and a nice alternative to classic shrimp cocktail.
The Cook’s Illustrated recipe uses just butter. Make sure to use a good quality sherry like Lastau Los Arcos; even Dry Sack will do. Serve with homemade crostini or thin crisp crackers (see below).
Potted Shrimp Makes 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1 bay leaf
6 Tbsp. butter at room temperature
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 Tbsp. dry sherry
4 ounces whipped cream cheese ( about 1/2 a cup)
2 Tbsp. minced chives (you can substitute scallions but use just the green parts thinly sliced)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bay leaf and the shrimp, season with some salt and pepper and cook until shrimp are nice and pink. Add the sherry and boil until the liquid is almost evaporated. Cool mixture and remove bay leaf.
Transfer shrimp to a cutting board and chop finely. Whip the remaining butter and cream cheese together. Add the shrimp, herbs and lemon juice and mix until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve with crostini or thin, crisp crackers like Finn Crisps.
PS from Kimberly: What a perfect appetizer to bring to a holiday party!
Part of what makes having a food blog so much fun is not only sharing our recipes but also featuring people, businesses and products we love. The Organic Dish is one of my Boulder faves.
When I first heard about Beckie’s business I was really intrigued. Making partially prepared meals that are easy, creative and healthy is not what you might think. Oh, did I mention her business is zero waste? She also features locally grown meat, vegetables and gluten-free pasta from Pasta Bozza. I have been so impressed by Beckie’s creativity as well as her commitment to our community and the environment. We have all enjoyed some outstanding meals from the Organic Dish.
Beckie’s green pea "hummus" is the perfect schmootz for spring and summer but now I make it whenever I entertain as it’s easy to adapt to other flavors and it is so beautiful.
Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Stacy’s Pita Crips, Triscuit Thin Crisps, Mary Gone Crackers or sliced red bell peppers and cucumbers and celery.