Roasted Eggplant Dip

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I often hear people describe their feelings about eggplant using only the strongest of terms. In fact, it seems there’s not much middle ground when it comes to this controversial vegetable. Belonging to the nightshade family, the eggplant is often crushed beneath the shadow of its siblings, the tomato and potato. Unfortunately, the only exposure that most Americans get to eggplant is eggplant parmesan — which in my opinion is a just a hot mess of a dish. Breading and frying a vegetable, covering it in cheese and tomato sauce, and serving it with enough pasta to feed a family of four doesn’t really give you enough perspective to judge whether or not you like it, much less if you hate it.

 

If I were teaching an advanced course on how to love eggplant, my first dish would be something like this: Slice eggplant. Roast eggplant. Eat eggplant. Roasting the vegetable brings out a lovely nutty and smokey flavor that’s as great on its own as it is added to other dishes.  However, I don’t really expect you to jump in and nosh on some plain eggplant (although props if you do!), so I figured that it might be better to start with something a little more palatable to someone who’s already a skeptic.

 

This recipe came about as most of mine do, by combining a craving with what ingredients I have available. Essentially, I wanted eggplant, and I also had a bag of pita chips that were about to go stale, so dip it was! This dip borrows heavily from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dish Baba Ganoush, and makes the most of the smoky flavor I was talking about. Whether paired with warm pita, pita chips, or raw vegetables, this dip is a great way to ease yourself into cooking with this misunderstood vegetable.

 

Ingredients

1 medium to large eggplant
2 Tbsp greek yogurt
2 tsp tahini
1 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt, generous pinch
1/2 tsp cumin
olive oil

Directions

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplant in half length-ways and place skin-side up on a baking tray.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the flesh and bake for 1 hour.

Allow the eggplant to cool. Remove the skin — it should peel off quite nicely. Put the pulp into your food processor, along with the garlic, tahini, yogurt, and lemon juice and pulse until it reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and cumin to taste.

To serve, pour dip into a lovely container (I chose a stemless martini glass), and drizzle with olive oil.

 

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Mint Tea: The cure for what ails you

mint tea

 

I don’t know what’s been blooming around here recently, but my body does not like it. My head aches, my eyes and throat itch, and I have a general feeling of “blah.” To make things even worse, I’m one of those special people who tend to have an increased sensitivity to medication, so I try to avoid taking any if I can help it.

Here’s where my obsession with tea comes in. I am a tea fanatic. Black, green, white, herbal… you name it, I love it. I find the ritual of drinking tea extremely calming and therapeutic. The preparation of hot water, the measuring of tea leaves — it all makes for a good time in my book.

With the warming temperatures, you might consider pushing your boxes of tea to the back of your pantry this time of year, but I find that tea very helpful for treating allergy symptoms — I especially love fresh mint tea for this purpose.

Making mint tea from scratch is easy and cheap (my favorite combination!). I have mint growing in a pot on my back porch, so whenever I’m feeling a bit pollinated, I just go outside and cut off a generous portion. Most grocery stores carry mint in the produce section, so even if you don’t have a live source, it isn’t hard to find.

 

[pe2-image src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/-YAmtwbFHIBU/UXR8nm8wZmI/AAAAAAAABV8/XI–G5qRALk/s144-o/20130421_145253.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/109051448306424823425/20130421#5869453234282718818″ caption=”My happy mint plant” type=”image” alt=”20130421_145253.jpg” ]

 

The preparation for my tea is as follows: Rinse the mint using whatever cleanser you normally use on your produce (I use a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water), and put the mint into your cup. Heat water to just before boiling, and pour over the mint. The hot water releases the oils in the mint on contact, so you will be able to breathe in the soothing vapors almost immediately. The tea is pale in color, but has a wonderfully strong spearmint flavor. I encourage the drinking of this tea on a daily basis during allergy season. Cheers!

 

[pe2-image src=”http://lh5.ggpht.com/–lj1D7-Ig2A/UXR85Lq8ktI/AAAAAAAABUo/OfiPTaeu1MI/s144-o/20130421_145648.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/109051448306424823425/20130421#5869453536197907154″ caption=”Outside = bad. Tea = good.” type=”image” alt=”20130421_145648.jpg” ]

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Blue Cheese and Plum Savories

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Never had savories before? You’ve been missing out. These are in my top ten favorite entertaining foods of all time. With just the right balance of salty and sweet, these tiny pastries are sure to impress the foodie and the pickiest toddler alike. I love to make these savories with an insanely good smoked blue cheese made at a nearby creamery, but a regular old blue will work just fine.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces smoked blue cheese (or regular, if you can’t find smoked), crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
About 3 tablespoons plum jam

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the flour, butter, blue cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together. Roll out to a 1/8-inch-thick circle with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch round cutter and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. You can reroll the scraps (no more than once) and cut more rounds.Using your knuckle, make an indentation in the center of each dough round.

Soften the plum jam by microwaving in a microwave-safe bowl for 10 seconds. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of the fig preserves into each indentation.

Bake the savouries until the pastry is light golden on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious  

 

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Beet-pickled Deviled Eggs

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What is it about deviled eggs that makes them so addictive? Just the mention of deviled eggs makes me hungry (and I don’t even eat eggs!). I made this recipe for my 20s themed New Years/Birthday Party, and everyone really seemed to love them. The addition of sriracha to the recipe was inspired by a spicy picked-beet salad I had at a sketchy bar in St. Paul, MN that I can’t even remember the name of. Sorry about the picture quality. I forgot to take pictures as I was cooking, so this one is from the party.

Ingredients 

3 cups water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 small beet, peeled and sliced
1 small shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
12 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon sriracha

Directions

Bring water, vinegar, beet, shallot, sugar, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan, then simmer, covered, until beet is tender, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, uncovered. Put beet mixture in a container with eggs and marinate in the refrigerator  gently stirring once or twice, for at least 2 hours.
Note: The longer you let the eggs sit, the more colored your eggs will turn out.

Remove eggs from beet mixture and pat dry (discard beet mixture). Cut in half lengthwise and remove yolks. Mash yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, and sriracha. Season with salt and pepper, then divide among egg whites.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

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Red Pepper Jelly

redpepperjelly

This red pepper jelly is a major crowd-pleaser, and it goes with absolutely everything — EVERYTHING!

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb red bell peppers (about 3), cut into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)

2 tsp dried hot red-pepper flakes

1 packet unflavored gelatin

3 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup white-wine vinegar

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 small shallot

3/4 tsp salt

Directions

Pulse bell peppers with red-pepper flakes and shallot in a food processor until finely chopped. (Mixture will measure about 2 1/2 cups.)

Whisk together gelatin and 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Stir together pepper mixture, vinegar, butter, salt, and remaining 3 cups sugar in a heavy pot. Bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, then continue to boil vigorously, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add pectin mixture and chopped thyme. Return jelly to a vigorous boil, stirring constantly, and boil, stirring constantly, 2 – 3 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly). Remove from heat.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2006

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