Spinach Avocado Hummus

Spinach Avocado Hummus

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These days any bean spread or dip is called “hummus.” It used to bother me because hummus is such an iconic dish in the Middle East. It just seemed disrespectful. And then I thought – “loosen up! Get a grip.” So while this Spinach Avocado “Hummus” definitely includes chickpeas and tahini, it also includes spinach and avocado to create a vibrant green deliciousness. This wonderful riff on a classic just might become a new favorite.

The seemingly long time in the food processor creates a beautifully fluffy spread with every element well blended. This almost light-as-air hummus practically melts in your mouth.

And while I had never seen nor tasted this Spinach Avocado Hummus before, when I went searching for recipes to compare, there were about a dozen. All were pretty similar and I have no idea which one came first. For me, I became aware of it here.

The measurements given should be viewed as a starting place. Obviously, you can fine tune things to suit your personal tastes. I changed up a few things to suit my tastes, adding more spice and lemon juice. So definitely don’t get bogged down in having exactly 200g of baby spinach or one cup of onions etc.

One thing I do feel pretty strongly about is that whenever possible, I like to cook my own beans. If I am making soup, the cooking liquid is a great base for the broth. (The liquid can also be used as aquafaba.) But while the beans do honestly taste better (just ask my granddaughter!) this Spinach Avocado Hummus will also be quite good if you only use canned chickpeas. However, if you must use canned beans, please use a good quality organic bean. This is especially important if you are vegan or vegetarian where beans may be a big source of daily protein.

This gorgeous dip will brighten up any table. As I have written before, we always have at least four or five salads, dips or spreads for Shabbat that we then enjoy all week. It is a habit that I picked up after living in Israel for almost a year. There and throughout the Middle East, salads are served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Unlike my traditional hummus, which I prefer to eat still warm, the Spinach Avocado Hummus tasted best after refrigeration. I thought that the flavors had more time to meld and enjoyed it even more the second day.

Just be sure to have plenty of fresh pita, naan or challah to scoop up the Spinach Avocado Hummus. Of course, crispy veggies or pita chips work well too.

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Check out some of my other salads and spreads:

Salads for Every Meal

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Beet Caviar

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Farro Salad

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Recipe

Yield: About 8 servings

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Ingredients

2 cups (340g) cooked, drained chickpeas

2 T EVOO plus more for serving

1 cup (52g) thinly sliced yellow onions

¾ cup (177ml) tap water

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

53.3 oz. (200g) baby spinach

Juice of 1.5 lemon or to taste

3 Tablespoons tahini paste

Flesh of one ripe avocado (avocado weighing about 6 oz. (170g)

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1.5 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Optional)

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste

Directions

Place 2 T EVOO in a med. large saucepan and heat on medium. Add the onion and fry until brown (about 8 to 10 minutes.)

Add the drained chickpeas and water to the pot. Bring to a rapid simmer. Then reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chickpeas begin to breakdown.

Add the baby spinach and stir through until wilted. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool somewhat.

Spinach Avocado Hummus

Place everything (including any liquid) in a food processor along with the flesh of the avocado, lemon juice, tahini and spices. Process for about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. The hummus should be creamy and fluffy. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but is even better the next day.

When ready to serve, spread out the hummus on a plate. Garnish with finely chopped pepper, chives, scallion or cilantro and drizzle all over with a good quality olive oil.

The hummus can be refrigerated for several days.

Salads for Every Meal

Due to the unprovoked, merciless war on Ukraine and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore, there is a salad here for you. Every Shabbat I make at least four salads and dips, several of which we will enjoy throughout the week. It’s a delicious habit that I adopted after spending time in Israel where salads are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Aside from being delicious, they add so much color to any meal. And don’t we eat with all of our senses?

There are fresh salads, roasted vegetable salads and salads with a profusion of herbs and grains. Some of the salads are made with beans which add protein and heartiness. Almost any veg and many fruits, legumes and grains can be made into cold or warm salads. And when I want to make a light meal of salads I simply add some feta cheese or a piquant provolone and delicious bread, like the flaky flatbread or focaccia. The more I make these flatbreads the better I get at it. My last batch were nice and poufy and round! I simply refrigerate leftover breads and warm them in the toaster. They also freeze well. Yummmmmmmmmm!

Over the years, I have posted a number of salads and will link to some of them below. But here are three new ones (for me) that hopefully you will enjoy as well. They are guaranteed to brighten up just about any meal. The inspiration for this post comes from Sonya’s Prep. She is lovely young Orthodox Jewish vlogger that I have recently begun following. Her energy, charm and creativity make watching her a delight. And if anyone is looking to be more organized, she is someone to watch.

The three new salads are: Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad; Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad; and Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

When you are feeding a crowd these salads can be doubled or tripled. And most people will enjoy these salads so much that you can go easy on the meat, if serving. Better for us and better for the planet.

I will give suggested measurements, but please don’t get too bogged down with being exact. When preparing these, I almost never truly measure, especially when it comes to adding fresh herbs. Taste as you go along, especially with the salt and dried spices. You can always add more but it is difficult to impossible to remove them once added.

For those interested in other delicious salad ideas here are just some of the ones available through my blog:

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Green Fattoush Salad with Mint Vinaigrette

Farro Salad

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Spiced Butternut Squash and Farro Salad

Red Cabbage, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad

Armenian Lentil Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Sunshine Kale Salad

Roasted Tomato and Olive Pearl Couscous Salad

Lentil Salad with Raisins, Tomatoes and Tarragon

Get your Freekeh on – with this lemony, herbed salad

Apple, Goat Cheese and Pecan Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Horta Salata: Fancy Salad

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Easy Feta and Roasted Tomato Salad

Herbed Farro Salad

Orange and Radish Salad

Recipes

Roasted Eggplant Peppers and Red Onion Salad

1 medium eggplant – about 1.25 pounds

2 smallish bell peppers in different colors

1 medium red onion

kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup EVOO

About 1/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

3 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced including dark green stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

Chop the eggplant, onions and peppers into a large dice of approximately equal size. Place on a baking sheet and toss together with the EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the veggies across the baking sheet in a single layer. (If you want to use foil for easier clean-up, go ahead. But it does end up in a landfill….)

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, turning the pan once. They should be golden and tender but not mushy. Ovens vary so check after 25 minutes or it could go as along as 35.

When cool enough to handle, transfer everything to a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Shredded Carrot and Red Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

About 6 ounces pre-packaged shredded carrots OR about 4 cups carrots that are trimmed and julienned

About 1 cup of shredded red cabbage

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into pieces about the size of the carrot shreds

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

1.5 teaspoons granulated or Demerara sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 to 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Juice from 1 lemon

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1.5 Tablespoons dried dill

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place everything in bowl large enough to comfortably hold the ingredients. Mix everything well, preferably with your hands. You want to massage the carrots to soften them a bit. Taste to adjust seasonings. Yup, that’s it!

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Wheatberry and Barberry Salad

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked hard winter wheatberries (You could use farro or barley if wheatberry isn’t available; however, they will not have that unique chewy nuttiness that a properly cooked wheatberry has.)

1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and chopped

4 to 5 thinly sliced red radishes

2 Persian cucumbers cut in to quarters and diced

1/2 cup dried barberries (You could use currants instead but they won’t be as flavorful.)

2 generous cups, finely chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, cilantro and parsley, but mint would also be good)

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed or grated

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon or more to taste

1 teaspoon of kosher salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 to 3 Tablespoons flavorful EVOO

Directions

Soak the wheatberries for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring 3 cups of water or broth with a glug of olive oil to a boil in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. If using water or unsalted broth, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Drained the wheatberries and add to the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. This can be done a few days ahead. Just refrigerate the cooked wheatberries in their liquid.

You want the wheatberries to be cold or no warmer than room temperature. Place them, drained of any accumulated liquid, in a bowl and add all of the other ingredients. Gently but thoroughly toss well. Now enjoy!

Pomegranate Molasses Chicken

Pomegranate Molasses Chicken

Sticky, tart, sweet, fiery Pomegranate Molasses Chicken! That’s what’s for dinner tonight. I came across a recipe for chicken wings that was meant as a snack to be munched during the Super Bowl. However, neither my husband nor I is a sport’s fan and we rarely eat such a filling appetizer. We are far more likely to have salads or a cup of soup – maybe a dip – if we have anything at all. But I thought that if I serve these with dilled basmati rice and some side salads, it could be our dinner. And wow! was I right.

I made a few changes both in ingredients and method from the original recipe and realized that this marvelous glaze would work with any cut of chicken. Wings are shown here, and we thought they made a satisfying, relatively inexpensive dinner for us. But we also no longer eat a great deal of meat. If you have teenagers, you definitely will need to choose another cut of chicken!

More meat bang would come from chicken drumsticks or thighs. Breast meat could be used but it tends to dry out and isn’t as flavorful as the darker meat. When choosing your chicken pieces, you definitely want meat on the bone and with the skin.

Depending on the cut of chicken that you use and your individual oven, the cooking time may vary. But you’ll know when it’s done. The original recipe called for 2 pounds of wings, which is what I used. My wings were on the bigger size so it turned out to be 8 wings. My husband and I were satisfied with three wings each for dinner and I ate leftovers for lunch the following day. However, the glaze easily could have worked with 3 pounds of chicken, in my opinion. Since the chicken is cooked before applying the glaze, any excess can be saved in the fridge for up to a week if you go with the lesser amount.

Pomegranate Molasses is not really a molasses at all. It is pomegranate juice that has been reduced down to a syrup. These days, it can often be found in regular supermarkets, but it is also readily available online and in Middle Eastern Grocery stores. I can’t get enough of its fruity, tartness and use it drizzled over salads and roasted veggies. Try it the next time you roast carrots or sweet potatoes! It’s also great over pound cake with berries. I’m just sayin’.

The chicken in Pomegranate Molasses Chicken first gets a dry rub and rests in the fridge. This can be quickly thrown together in the morning or the night before. Just pull your chicken out of the fridge an hour before cooking. Serve it with dilled basmati rice as I did or with any grain of your choice. Couscous, freekeh, farro, bulghur or millet would also be great choices. However, you decide to serve this yummy chicken, get ready to get sticky!

And please use fresh spices for this. If you are going with 3 pounds of chicken, use rounded or generous measurements for the dry rub. The sauce should be fine as is.

Pomegranate Molasses Chicken

Recipe

Yield: 4 as part of a dinner or 8 as a nosh

Ingredients

For the dry rub:

2 to 3 pounds of chicken wings, drumsticks or thighs – bone-in, skin on

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

For the glaze:

a generous 1/3 cup of pomegranate molasses

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

4 tablespoons agave or maple syrup

2 rounded Tablespoons of red harissa

1 Tablespoon of canola, safflower or coconut oil

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or good quality vegan “butter”

Pomegranate Molasses Chicken

Directions

Mix your dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. It will look like a lot of spice, but trust me, it’s the right amount.

Place the chicken (pat it dry if it seems to have a lot of moisture) in a glass or stainless bowl or freezer bag. (I chose to cut off the the tip of the wing. There is no meat there and it didn’t seem necessary to me. That was a personal choice.) Pour the dry rub mix over the chicken pieces and move the chicken around to coat them well. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or up to overnight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge one hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

You can prepare the glaze while you wait for the chicken to come to room temperature. The glaze can also be made ahead and warmed up when you are ready to use it.

To make the glaze, place all of the ingredients, except for the butter, in a small pot. Heat on medium until the sauce begins to simmer. Allow it to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it has thickened, add the butter and turn off the heat. Stir through and taste the glaze. Add salt and pepper to your taste (I did not use more than 1/2 teaspoon of salt in total in the glaze since the dry rub is salty enough for me). You can also adjust the heat or sweetness by adding more harissa or agave. The amounts given were perfect for us. Set the glaze aside.

Place a wire cooling rack on top of a half sheet pan with rimmed sides. Spray the rack with a vegetable spray like PAM or lightly coat with canola or safflower oil. Place the chicken wings on top of the rack leaving about an inch or two in between pieces. It doesn’t really matter which side is facing down at this point because you will be turning the chicken a couple of times.

Place the chicken in the oven on a middle/upper rack. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the chicken pieces over. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Now brush some of the glaze to coat over one side of the chicken. Place it back in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and glaze this side. Return it to the oven. Repeat the coating steps one more time. When your chicken looks gorgeously glazed and smells amazing, it’s done.

Pomegranate Molasses Chicken

Now enjoy!

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté makes a delicious addition to your holiday table. Once upon a time I used to make a vegetarian mushroom pâté. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was delicious. Frankly, it was a bit of a pain to make in the pre-food processor days. However, it went very well with roast turkey or chicken and was worth the extra effort for holidays and special occasions. And it was especially yummy in sandwiches the following day. But those of you who follow my blog know that I am trying to prepare more vegan dishes. I initially got interested in vegan cooking because my godson was deathly allergic to eggs AND his family keeps kosher, which means they won’t mix milk and meat – among other things. So finding – or developing – great vegan recipes became an imperative.

Now, though, I try to cook vegetarian and vegan meals for me and my husband several times a week. While my reasons are for better health as well as the welfare of the planet, I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t make meals that were delicious and satisfying. It doesn’t hurt that my favorite cuisines are Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and South Asian, both of which have a rich heritage of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

You certainly don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté. It’s a wonderful make-ahead side or appetizer that can be enjoyed by anyone – unless allergic to mushrooms or walnuts that is. So if you are looking for something a bit different to try for the holidays, give this Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté a go. It still isn’t pretty (but what pâté is?) and it still is delicious! Spread it on crackers or some Melba toast and enjoy it with a Crackling Vermentino or other sparkling wine. Mmmmmmmmm!

For an alternative Vegan Mushroom Pâté that is not baked try:

Mushroom Walnut Pâté

You can’t go wrong with either one.

Recipe

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 pound of mushrooms, white, cremini or baby bellas, quartered

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped fresh fennel or celery

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.25 cups fine, dried bread crumbs – plain or seasoned

1 pound silken tofu

1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon each: dried thyme, basil and oregano

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

generous pinch of cayenne (Optional)

Directions

Oil or use a cooking spray to coat an 8 X 4-inch loaf pan. Line the pan with cooking parchment and oil that as well. Cut a piece of parchment large enough to sit on the top of the pâté mixture in the pan. Set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the EVOO in a large sauté pan and add the chopped shallot and fennel or celery. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté until the mixture begins to soften. Then add the chopped parsley and bread crumbs. Stir through to moisten everything. Turn off the heat.

While the vegetables were sautéing, place the mushrooms and silken tofu in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until everything begins to break down. Add in the nutritional yeast, dried herbs and the veggie/breadcrumb mixture. Pulse until smooth.

Add in the walnuts and just pulse 3 or 4 times quickly. If you prefer not to have bits of walnut in the finished product, you can pulse the mixture a few more times, until it is smooth throughout.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Add the oiled parchment on top of the mixture so that it is right against it. Give the pan a tap on the counter to make sure that everything is even and there are no air bubbles. Place in the hot oven and bake for 1.5 hours. Allow to cool completely.

Vegan Mushroom Walnut Pâté

If you are not going to serve it as soon as it is cool, refrigerate it in the pan. Remove the pan from the fridge about an hour before you are ready to serve. Carefully remove the piece of parchment that is on top and invert the pan onto your serving plate or board. Peel off the remaining parchment paper. Garnish as desired.

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread is as pretty as it is delicious – and it’s riffable! Since my husband retired he has gotten into doing some cooking, much to my delight. He now bakes the best challah, using my recipe, and is branching out to pita, pizzas and other flatbreads, with the occasional curry or stir-fry. The Festive Flatbread is named for the myriad grilled vegetables with all of their beautiful rich colors and flavors. It makes full use of summer’s bounty.

This recipe evolved because I was trying to clean out my vegetable drawer, and has become a favorite dinner for the two of us. We use just a shmear of homemade pesto sauce on the base, but you could also just brush it with a flavored olive oil. There is just a dusting of cheese, which could be left off if you wanted to keep this vegan. However you choose to make this wonderful flatbread just remember that sometimes less is more. Make sure that each element has the best flavors and don’t overdo it.

The shaping is kind of freeform so don’t fret if it isn’t a perfect circle or rectangle. And while we eat this as a dinner for two, if cut into smaller squares, this flatbread would also be a lovely appetizer with a beer or nice glass of wine. The version shown uses zucchini, red pepper, Portobello mushroom, corn and grape tomatoes topped with arugula. It’s a great combination and the Portobello mushrooms give off less liquid than some other mushrooms. But if you have eggplant or other kinds of peppers, use them. Caramelized onion – yummmmm! Even thinly sliced potato would be great. Let your imagination and vegetable drawer rule the results!

We did use the same basic flatbread recipe with a red sauce, pepperoni and cheese for a very thin crust pizza. And while it was delicious, the veggie version remains our favorite.

For other thin crust pizza/flatbreads:

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza

I’m going to turn the blog over to my husband now since this is really his handiwork.

Festive Flatbread

In Andrew’s words

Hi! It’s me again, Lisa’s husband, the guy who just recently started learning how to bake and cook. The recipe I’m sharing with you I adapted from Laura Vitale’s Grilled Veggie Flatbread, and it’s a wonderful summer dish, fresh, light, and flavorful.

Interested in my thoughts about learning to cook? Then keep reading.

Not so much? Then skip to the next section. My feelings won’t be hurt.

But I also want to share with you how my attitude about recipes and cooking changed over time. Here’s the thing: I started out knowing almost nothing about cooking, so when I’d watch a YouTube video where the presenter talked about “options” or was vague about some of the details, I’d get really nervous. How exactly am I supposed to cook this dish? What’s being left out that everyone else apparently already knows how to do?

This flatbread recipe is a good example. After I made it a few times I started to understand that you could make it slightly differently, or with different ingredients, and it would still be good. Or the next time I made it I could adjust it to what Lisa and I liked better (e.g. less pesto). So I’ll do things both ways: I’ll highlight how the basic idea of the recipe is simple, allowing you to make changes based on what you like or what vegetables you have on hand that night. But in the photos and descriptions I’ll also describe exactly how I made it, trying to be as simple and specific as possible. OK, on to the recipe!

Recipe

Yield: Dinner for 2 or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

Festive Flatbread

For Flatbread dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    ½ tsp active dry yeast

    ½ tsp granulated sugar

    1 tsp kosher salt

    ½ cup warm water

    ½ tbsp olive oil

For the topping

    1 zucchini or 1/2 of a green and 1/2 of a yellow

    1 red/orange pepper

    1 ear of lightly-cooked corn

    1 large portobello mushroom

    7 cherry or grape tomatoes

    Parmigiano cheese, grated

    Mozzarella cheese, shredded

    baby arugula

    fresh basil leaves

Instructions for those who are more experienced cooks

1. You grill some summer vegetables you have on hand

(You slice them up, toss them in a bowl with some oil, salt, pepper and some thyme or oregano, then put them on a grill and cook them until they start showing some char marks. Then take them off the grill and set them aside.)

2. You partially bake a simple flatbread. The instructions are below.

3. You put some basil pesto (or maybe some flavored olive oil) on top and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano. You put on those delicious vegetables, some oil, some Mozzarella and then pop it back into the oven.

4. After about 5 minutes you take it out, top it with baby arugula and basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. You put it back in the oven for a minute, then take it out, cut it into pieces and serve.

Step by Step Instructions

Place the yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Mix, cover, then let sit for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast should look slightly foamy, showing that it is working. (If you instead used instant yeast you don’t need to proof the yeast.)

Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together. Add the yeast/water mixture and the oil, attach the dough hook and run at medium speed for about 4 minutes. The result should be a smooth, supple dough.

Take out the dough, knead it slightly into a ball. Place it into an oiled bowl and cover. Leave the bowl in a draft-free spot in the kitchen. I like to use the microwave. Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled. How quickly it rises will depend on how warm your kitchen is.

Now (or even earlier) prepare the vegetables: slice the zucchini into rounds about ¼” thick; slice open the pepper, discard the seeds and stem, chop into 1” pieces; slice the Portobello into strips about ½” thick; leave the corn on the cob; slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

Put all the vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, dried thyme or oregano, toss all together. Place the vegetables on a hot grill, or on a stove-top grill pan, one layer at a time. Turn them when you see char marks. (Alternatively the vegetables could be cooked in a skillet or even in a 425 degree F oven.)

Place your pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) into the oven.

Preheat oven to 485°F

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 3/8 to ¼” thick.

Transfer it to a parchment-covered pizza peel or upside-down baking sheet. Slide it onto the heated pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) and let it bake. Use a sharp knife to pop any large bubbles you see forming.

After 5 minutes take it out. It is partially baked.

Lightly brush the flatbread with pesto sauce or flavored EVOO, then sprinkle some grated Parmigiano cheese on top, if using.

Layer the grilled vegetables on top, but leave the cherry tomatoes for later. (Slice the corn kernels off of the cob first!)

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt, then top with shredded Mozzarella (see photos).

Put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, add the halved cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, fresh basil leaves, and fresh oregano.

Turn off the oven and put the flatbread back in just to warm up the topping. Keep an eye on it – the baby arugula wilts very fast. Then take it out and serve.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad is sweet, smoky, savory and utterly addictive. Personally I have never understood someone who says they won’t eat eggplant (aubergine). There must be literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to prepare it. And it comes in many shapes, colors and varieties. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and sensuous of vegetables. Although technically a fruit, in everyday usage we refer to it as a vegetable. I haven’t discovered a way yet that I don’t simply love it.

However, if you are one of those people – and you know who you are – this recipe just might make a convert out of even you. This salad is beloved in Israel and is a star at the restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia. Zahav (meaning “gold” in Hebrew) is the brainchild of award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov, who has a cookbook of the same name.

As I have mentioned many times in my blog, Mediterranean food in general and Middle Eastern food specifically, is my very favorite of cuisines. I could, and often do, eat it every day. This cuisine is very veg-forward and makes liberal use of fresh herbs and spices. Whenever possible, I try to grind my spices fresh for both this cuisine and when I make Indian food. The difference is incredible. And with an inexpensive spice or coffee grinder, you can have fresh spices in seconds.

Chef Solomonov is an exciting chef and a charming raconteur. His cookbook is a great read and has some wonderful and vivid food photos, but the recipes or at least the directions are inexact. They don’t always even correspond to the accompanying photos. So it was good when I was thinking of making this recipe that I happened to watch him on YouTube first.

Below is Michael Solomonov’s recipe with my clarifications. It’s a wonderful salad that would be just one of many at any Israeli meal. Salatim is a hallmark of Israeli cuisine and are eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I make a meal simply of salatim and a good pita or laffa.

Salatim

The eggplant salad will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, although I think is most flavorful at room temperature. So take it out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to serve it.

You won’t need a lot of ingredients for this recipe. I would use either “Italian” Eggplant or a “Graffiti” Eggplant. Italian is the standard one that most grocery stores carry. You want to choose eggplants that are firm, weigh about 1 pound and have unblemished skins.

While the Zahav recipe calls for sherry vinegar, almost any vinegar can be used. And while I love sherry vinegar, it can be pricey. So feel free to swap it out for a white vinegar or decent red wine vinegar.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

For some other eggplant dishes (‘Cuz I know that I’m gonna make a fan out of you yet!):

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Eggplant and Beef Albondigas

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Recipe

Yield: About 5 cups

Ingredients

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

2 Medium eggplants, peeled and cut into thick rounds

2 Tablespoons kosher salt

About 6 Tablespoons Canola Oil (You can use Olive Oil but it has a lower smoke-point and will burn more easily)

1 cup chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper

1 cup chopped onion

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

1/4 cup vinegar (Sherry is ideal but any decent vinegar will do)

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

A few cracks of black pepper

Directions

Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant rounds with the kosher salt. Place them on a rack over a tray or on top of paper towels to absorb the bitter liquid as it drains. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes but up to overnight.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Add oil to film the bottom of a large, heavy skillet. I didn’t have non-stick, which is preferable, but you can use well-seasoned cast iron. Set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, add the eggplant rounds. (Blot off any liquid first!) Avoid over-crowding the pan and work in batches if necessary. Cook until almost black on the first side, about 10 minutes. Turn and repeat on the second side, adding more oil if necessary. Remove the eggplant to a plate. As you can see, mine aren’t perfect, but you are going for the round in the bottom right foreground. Yep, that one!

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Either in the same pan or in a largish saucepan, add 2 Tablespoons of oil. You could use Canola here as well, but olive oil would be the better choice. You are no longer frying anything so the high smoke point isn’t essential and the olive oil lends a better flavor.

Add the bell pepper, onion and spices and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown – about 10 minutes.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Now add the eggplant back to the pan along with the vinegar. Using a wooden spoon, mash up the eggplant coarsely as it cooks until everything combines. Continue to cook until the vinegar has evaporated. This takes about 8 minutes.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice and parsley and mix through. You shouldn’t need any additional salt since we never rinsed the salt off of the eggplants in the beginning. But a few cracks of black pepper never went amiss.

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Like many people, I can be seduced by fried foods. And I love nothing more than a slice of eggplant, well seasoned, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. But the truth is that I hate actually frying anything. Aside from the oil spatter (which I have to clean up – yuck!) the house always smells for days and then I am stuck with oil to discard safely. And the extra calories. Don’t even get me started on greasy fried foods cooked in oil that wasn’t quite hot enough or was burned because the oil was too hot. But this Oven “Fried” Eggplant is everything that I love and nothing that I hate about fried food.

What is really great about this Oven “Fried Eggplant” – aside from the results – is that it teaches you a method which you can almost endlessly riff on to please your palate. The seasonings I used are Italian-leaning, but you could just as easily sub in Indian or even Asian spices. And my husband and I ate this as a light supper with a delicious salad and a simple tomato sauce to dab on top. However, let your imagination be your guide rather than your limit. Layer the slices in a stack with slices of fresh mozzarella and thick slices of tomato and serve with arugula tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.

These wonderful Oven “Fried” Eggplant slices would make a great layer stuffed into a pita with slices of hard-boiled egg, hummus and Israeli salad or pickle for a delicious take on a Sabich sandwich.

Are you a fan of chutney or raita or tzatziki? Think how amazing this Oven “Fried” Eggplant would be with these instead of a tomato sauce? You could even make this as an appetizer with a variety of sauces and allow your guests (remember them?) to choose their favorite.

Eggplant
Oven “Fried” Eggplant

The key to making this work is two-fold – well maybe three-fold: 1) You have to slice your eggplant just the right thickness. Too thin and the eggplant will burn. Too thick and it won’t cook through before the breading burns. 2) You need to have a broiler and a shallow, heavy aluminum pan. 3) You have to watch it. If you have a convection oven, which I don’t, there is no need to turn the pan – only the eggplant needs to be turned over once. But without a convection oven, I rotated my pan halfway through each side. This really wasn’t difficult or even a big deal and the total cooking time is only about 16 minutes. But it’s not a great time to get busy with something else.

So enough chatter. Let’s cook up some Oven “Fried” Eggplant! This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene. Frances and I have made many recipes from here, and they are always accurate. ANd it’s an interesting read.

Well, okay, a word first on choosing your eggplant. The eggplant should weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds and be firm. If you want to double the recipe, that’s fine, but don’t choose a larger eggplant. Choose two instead. The larger the eggplant, the more the more likely you are to have bitter seeds. And you do NOT want that.

With an eggplant weighing one to 1.5 pounds, you should not need to salt your eggplant first to draw out the bitterness. This would work with almost any type of eggplant that comes in at around this weight. I just wouldn’t use really small ones. And while I did not make mine vegan, you can make this using an egg substitute. To make life easy for yourself, use a good store-bought brand of tomato sauce. You can doctor it with seasonings you like or buy it pre-seasoned. It doesn’t have to be hard to be good!

For other wonderful eggplant recipes:

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Moussaka

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Eggplant and Beef Albondigas

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Recipe

Yield: About 6 servings as a appetizer or 3 to 4 as a dinner with salad or pasta

Ingredients

Seasoned Breadcrumb Mixture (You can skip this and used purchased Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs if you are feeling lazy. The herbs and measurements are a suggestion.)

2.5 cups dried bread crumbs (Panko or regular)

1.5 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1.5 teaspoons dried onion powder

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper (or Aleppo pepper)

Eggplant

1 medium eggplant, about 1 to 1.5 pounds

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

2 Tablespoons Canola oil

Garnish

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

About 4 ounces of tomato sauce

Directions

Mix all of the ingredients together for the seasoned bread crumbs and place in a dish that will be large enough to hold the largest slice of eggplant.

Lightly oil or coat with non-stick spray (I used EVOO) one large, heavy metal baking sheet. (You could use two but why clean up more than necessary). Set a cooling rack over a second baking sheet or over paper towels or parchment. Set aside.

Cut off and discard the ends of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into circles that are 3/8-inches thick. Size matters here. Use a ruler for the first one.

Preheat your oven to broil and place your baking rack 5 to 6 inches from the heat source.

Beat the eggs (or egg substitute) with the Canola oil in a dish that is deep enough and large enough around to fit the largest slice of eggplant. (I used a pie plate.)

Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg mixture and allow the excess to drip back into the dish. Immediately coat both sides of the eggplant with the breadcrumb mixture by laying it in flat, applying a small amount of pressure and then turning it over to repeat. Lay out the coated eggplant slices onto the prepared pan.

Broil the eggplant slices for a total of about 12 to 16 minutes. Turn the pan halfway for each side unless you have a convection oven so that you get even browning. Flip the slices halfway through. As soon as the slices are done, place them on the cooling rack to keep them crispy while you continue cooking any remaining slices. I did 2 batches.

When you are finished with all of the slices, arrange them on a platter. Sprinkle chopped parsley, basil or cilantro over the top. I grated a bit of parmesan as well, but honestly, it isn’t necessary.

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Garlicky Beet Spread

This Garlicky Beet Spread has attitude! The small amount of horseradish lends a delightful piquancy without punching you in the face. Great as a dip and perfect with vegetable fritters or latkes (a crispy oniony potato pancake eaten on Hanukkah). And it’s sooooo pretty! You can whip this up in minutes, especially if you use prepared beets. And let’s face it, why make more work for yourself when there are perfectly good time-savers available?

I LOVE beets in just about any form. In fact, when I was pregnant the only craving I had in nine months was for pickled beets. So when I saw this recipe by Melissa Clark, I knew that I was going to try it. Since I happened to be cooking salmon for my Shabbat dinner, I was able to use this dip as an accompaniment. It did not disappoint. I made a few minor tweaks, both to clarify and suit it to our tastes. With Hanukkah almost here, I just might use this as an alternative to sour cream and applesauce with my latkes. Then again, why mess with tradition!

For other great beet recipes, check these out:

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Beet and Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Beet Caviar

And for a dessert option with beets

Fudgy Brownies with Beets and Walnuts

Recipe

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

About 8 to 9 ounces of prepared beets (roasted and peeled)

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1/2 cup of lightly toasted walnuts (See note on toasting)

1 very large clove of garlic or its equivalent

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup of Greek-style yogurt (Use one that is at least 2% fat)

2 Tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (1/2 of a juicy lemon)

1 Tablespoon of fresh dill plus more for garnish

1.5 teaspoons of prepared fresh horseradish (I happened to use beet horseradish which only enhanced the color of the dip)

Directions

Using a food processor, grind the walnuts, garlic and salt until very fine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients. Pulse until mostly smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon or salt, if needed.

Note on toasting nuts

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the nuts on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 12 minutes or until you just begin to smell the nuts. You can shake the pan once during the cooking. Alternatively, you can toast nuts in a dry pan on your stove. Watch them carefully, jiggling every few minutes. Nothing will happen until it does. The second you smell the nuts, remove them from the heat. These methods work with just about any nut. I always toast more than I need and use up extras in salads or for munching.

Gefilte Fish Loaf

It is traditional in Ashkenazi Jewish homes to eat gefilte fish as a first course for Shabbat and most other holidays, including Passover. While it may be heresy, I never was a huge fan of this dish, even when I had it homemade rather than from a jar.

Gefilte literally means “stuffed.” The fish mixture was stuffed back into the skin of the whole fish. It was a great way for thrifty – and often poor – families to enjoy this delicacy. Because the fish was mixed with other inexpensive ingredients like onions and eggs, a little bit of fish could feed an entire family.

It later became popular to make the equivalent of individual fish quenelles. So although the fish was no longer stuffed, the name stuck.

For several years now, I have made Egyptian Fish Balls in a savory tomato sauce. This year, however, I am making both! The Sephardic fish balls for the first Seder and the gefilte fish loaf for the second Seder. My recipe comes from two wonderful cookbooks: The Gefilte Manifesto by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern and The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

As long as you start out with good quality, fresh fish, you can’t go wrong with either of these recipes. If you didn’t see this in time for the Seder, remember that there will always be Shabbat!

Recipe

Yield: One 8 x 4-inch loaf (About 8 slices)

Ingredients

1 smallish onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium carrot

1 pound (net) whitefish fillet, skin and large bones removed [Any light-colored fish such as cod, pike, carp or haddock can be used.]

1 Tablespoon vegetable or grapeseed oil

1 large egg

About 3 Tablespoons, coarsely chopped fresh watercress or baby spinach

2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 Tablespoons water

1/4 cup matza meal

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper or fresh cracked black pepper

1 Tablespoon granulated cane sugar

For Garnish

1/2 red, orange, yellow or green pepper (or a mix)

1 small carrot, peeled and cut crosswise into thin circles

Directions

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Oil an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a rectangle of waxed paper, cut to fit. Then oil the paper.

Using the pepper strips and the carrot circles, create a simple and attractive design on top of the waxed paper in the prepared pan. The design will be inverted when the loaf is turned out of the pan.

Use a food grinder or a food processor fitted with the steel blade to to chop the fish, onion and carrot until they are finely minced. Add the egg, oil, water, matza meal, watercress or baby spinach, dill, salt and pepper. Process until everything is very well combined.

Gently spoon some of the fish mixture around and over the decorative vegetables in the pan, being careful not to disturb the design. Using the back of a spoon or your hands, press the mixture into place, leaving no air spaces. Then add the remaining fish mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly.

Cover the fish mixture with another rectangle of waxed paper that has been oiled on the side that will touch the fish.

Bake the loaf for about 50 minutes or until firm. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Carefully peel off the waxed paper from the top of the loaf. Then run a knife around the sides of the loaf to loosen it. Invert the loaf onto a serving dish and lift off the pan. If the second piece of waxed paper is still attached to the loaf, carefully peel it off and throw it away.

The loaf can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. Cut into 1-inch thick slices. Serve with prepared horseradish or wasabi sauce.

Sriracha Cashews

Sriracha Cashews1The temperatures have peaked in the 90’s and even with air conditioning, I want EASY. I came across these nuts in an otherwise underwhelming recipe that used way too much soy sauce and was more effort than the result warranted. (I may make it again with some major changes, which I will post at a later date.) The nuts were to have been the garnish, but for me, they became the main attraction. And they are so ridiculously easy to make! Fair warning, though, they are addictive. Munch them with drinks – or anytime – and use them as a garnish over a simple stir-fry to take it to the next level. All you need are two ingredients, plus a sheet pan and an oven. The original recipe only made a half cup of nuts, but I have increased it to 2 cups because, let’s face it, a half cup will be gone before they are barely out of the oven. These nuts have just the right amount of spice – not so much that you will blow off the top of your head but just enough to wake up your taste buds.

Sriracha Cashews as part of a recipe for Grilled Soy-basted Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2 cups of nuts

Ingredients

2 cups of raw cashews

1/2 cup of Sriracha sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Mix the cashews with the Sriracha sauce in a bowl until all of the nuts are well coated. Pour onto the sheet pan, separating the nuts into a single layer with a little space in between. Don’t go crazy doing this. It’s simple, right?
  3. Bake in the oven, stirring once until the nuts are roasted and dry. The time will vary according to your oven, humidity etc. The original recipe suggested 20 minutes, but mine took about 1 hour to be the way I like them. The color when finished was almost mahogany. Roast them until the nuts are no longer sticky. Allow them to cool and then start munching. Sriracha Cashews

NOTE: If you are making these ahead and they get a little sticky, just pop them onto a sheet pan and put them back in a 300 degree F. oven for about 3-5 minutes to refresh them.