Yesterday, someone asked me how in the world I hosted a party on Saturday night after such a crazy week of work. The truth is, the menu couldn’t have been easier. Especially considering I cheated with the guacamole dip! I purchased ready-made guacamole from The Fresh Market, added olive-bar roasted red peppers and cooked crispy turkey bacon. Done and Done. With blue corn chips and Ginger-Raspberry Margaritas – I looked like a pro. Highly recommended!
The best thing about our Spanish Tapas Night was the ease of preparation! When you aren’t worrying about getting food out at the right temperature – you can really enjoy yourself! These dishes don’t even need recipes. Here are some ideas for an simple menu for noshing over good Spanish wine!
- Spanish Marcona Almonds with Fresh Thyme
- Spanish Don Julian Manchego and Fiorucci Pre-Sliced Serrano Ham
- Dates Pitted and Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Almonds
- Blanched Asparagus dressed with Lemon Vinaigrette and Hardboiled Eggs
- Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with a Mixture of Goat Cheese, Fresh Mint, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice and Piquillo Pepper Vinegar
With several vegetarians coming to our Spanish Tapas Night we wanted to make sure we had plenty of meat-free dishes. These tomato and goat cheese tarts are perfect for a snack, starter or light entree. We used Ina Garten’s recipe and made a few adjustments. Depending on the occasion, you can make these as small as you’d like. Enjoy them while tomatoes begin coming into season!
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts
- 1 box puff pastry sheets
- Parmesan cheese
- 1 large onion
- 1 3.5 ounce log of herb goat cheese
- 1 large tomato
- fresh thyme
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice onion thinly and saute in olive oil for about 20 minutes on low. Once cooked down and translucent – add 2 teaspoons thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until brown and caramelized. Meanwhile, defrost puff pastry sheets and cut rounds. Using a pairing knife, score (don’t cut all the way through) a circle inside the pastry shells about a half inch from the edge. Prick the inside of the circle with a fork to prevent from rising in the oven. Put about 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese inside the pastry. Top with 2 tablespoons of onions, a forth of the cheese and one large slice of tomato. Top with shredded Parmesan. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until brown.
I discovered Ed Winslow’s blog, Mid Law and Divers Items, last August when his daughter, Margaret, shared his post with me about a breakthrough in homemade hummus making. The blog post was sandwiched between entries on 21st Century Skill Sets and Benchmarks of 19th Century African American Attorneys. It shortly summarized a tip about microwaving chickpeas before processing in order to break down starchy crystals for smoother hummus consistency. He concluded the post stating that “This discovery is thought by some to explain the presence of certain microwave-like structures found at archaeological sites throughout the Middle East.”
The post piqued my interest. A well-respected attorney, civic leader and veteran is blogging about law and hummus in Greensboro? Go figure. Naturally, I set up a time to meet with him and get a better understanding of his interest and history with hummus.
Over a bowl of warm family-farm grown peanuts from Edgecombe County, I chatted with Winslow. While he comes across stern in person, he is just as humorous and witty as his writing.
Winslow’s first memory of hummus is somewhere between the Mediterranean and North Africa around 1966 when he was studying “everything other than growing up in Eastern North Carolina” in the South of France. Years later he began making homemade hummus after reading a recipe in Cooks Illustrated Magazine on restaurant quality hummus. And today, he is a proud owner of his second 40 pound bucket of tahini – the sesame paste that is an essential ingredient in hummus. He makes that much hummus!
I asked, “but why?” He gave me a deposition on the essentials.
“Hummus goes back 3,000 years and is contemporary only because of food processors. Hummus is a great equalizer in the world of cuisine. A child of the Middle East but speaks to all people. Hummus is a metaphor for the universality of the truth. And the next great leap forward is understanding the possibilities of tahini…”
“Tahini is a collaborative ingredient. It has its own voice yet joins in creating harmony with its fellows.”
Winslow purchases his tahini in bulk from Annah Awartani, the owner of Zaytoon Restaurant in Downtown Greensboro. Tahini should be stored in a cool dark space and has an extremely long shelf life. He credits Zaytoon for the best restaurant hummus in Greensboro.
“Chickpeas are the most popular legume in the world. High in protein and fiber. Low in calories and inexpensive. They rival sardines and bananas as the world’s wonder food.
Chickpeas don’t get the respect of bananas…but are higher in social status than sardines.”
“The key to great hummus is controlling the amount of lemon juice. The right amount of lemon juice is problematic; I do not like too much, but there must be enough.”
“Pine nuts are the champagne of nuts.” Slivered almonds or pine nuts are a great garnish. Also parsley. Drizzle oil on top and add paprika or cayenne.
Nazareth Bread Company makes great whole wheat pita and Turkish flatbread.”
When concluding my chat with Winslow I asked if he had a closing statement on hummus. He replied, “We need a good pun on hummus. Come back during pesto season.“
Winslow’s Straight Ahead hummus recipe has been public since he prepared it for the Canterbury Teachers Picnic years ago and they demanded the recipe.
Ed Winslow’s Straight Ahead Hummus
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed – reserve 2 tablespoons chickpeas
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
- ¼ teaspoon, salt
- ½ teaspoon, cumin
- 6 tablespoons, tahini
- 2 or 3 tablespoons, olive oil
- 1 or 2 lemons, juiced
- Cayenne, to taste
- Slivered almonds (if desired)
- Microwave chickpeas for 5 minutes to breakdown starches.
- Process chickpeas (except reserved ones) & garlic, pretty thoroughly in a food processor, push down sides.
- Add salt, cumin, dash cayenne & process
- Combine juice of 1 or 2 lemons with hot water.
- Combine about 6 TBS tahini with about 2 TBS olive oil, whisk to smooth consistency.
- Drizzle lemon juice & water through tube into running food processor and combine thoroughly
- Repeat with tahini/oil mixture
- Add water as desired to achieve consistency desired; add water/juice/oil if needed for taste; more water makes it more creamy; keep trying more and more water until you see what you prefer.
- Toast almonds
- Put hummus in bowl; sprinkle on top reserved chickpeas, almonds, some olive oil, some cayenne
Saturday night, at the Off Mendenhall Greensboro Symphony Cooking Class, we needed plenty of Italian sips and starters to get us through all the cooking! We made a variety of recipes together – including some rouge men stealing the anchovies for a snack! All of these recipes are really simple but impressive for guests. They are go-to recipes for any time of the year and can be made with ingredients from the pantry and garden.
I’m not sure what recipe was the biggest hit but they were all raved about. I recommend putting this as stand-by appetizer and cocktails for your everyday entertaining!
- 1 1/3 ounces frozen gin
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2/3 ounce Campari
- 1 orange wheel, for garnish
Homemade Rosemary Focaccia
For the Dough:
- 1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 6 tablespoons really good extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Really good extra virgin olive oil
- Leaves of 2-4 branches fresh rosemary, chopped
- Coarse sea salt
For the dough, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a medium bowl. Stir in 1-1/4 cups water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and process until a rough ball of dough forms, 1 minute. Briefly knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Shape dough into a ball. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large bowl. Roll dough around in bowl until coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Pour a thin film of oil into each of four 8-inch round cake pans. Quarter the dough and put one piece into each pan. Using your fingertips, spread dough out in each pan. The dough is elastic and will resist stretching. Let it relax for 5 minutes or so after you’ve stretched it as far as it will go. Eventually, it will cooperate and fill the pan.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Cover the pans with damp dishcloths and let the dough rest until it has swollen in the pans a bit, 30-60 minutes.
Uncover the pans. Sprinkle the dough with the rosemary. Using your fingertips, poke dimples into the dough in each pan, then liberally drizzle with oil so it pools in the hollows. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, 20-30 minutes. Serve cut into wedges.
Crudites with Sundried Tomato and Olive Tapenade
- 3 (8-ounce) cans of pitted black olives, drained
- 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 1 tablespoon, Dijon
- 4 Anchovies
- 1 teaspoon, capers
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor. Serve with bread, endive, fresh fennel, carrot and red peppers.
Melon and Prosciutto – buy great melon and prosciutto - display on a beautiful platter!
- 1 pound asaigo cheese, shredded
- sage, chopped
- 1 cup pine nuts, chopped
Shred 1 pound cold asiago cheese. Place 6 tablespoon-size mounds of cheese about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet or silpad. Sprinkle each mound with 1/4 teaspoon each chopped pine nuts and sage. Bake at 425 degrees until the cheese is golden and the edges are slightly crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat to make about 24 crisps.
You know what’s hard to stomach? Eating nachos while watching Beyonce shake it at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Just kidding. Actually, despite the guilt – these Fresh Loaded are incredibly delicious! I made these loaded nachos in less than 30 minutes while in a rush to a Super Bowl Party this Sunday night.
I mixed together a quick fresh salsa, browned fresh chorizo and layered shredded sharp cheddar cheese and black beans in between falafel chips (you could use corn chips too!). Layer everything but the salsa, avocado and sour cream in a large casserole dish – bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven to melt the cheese and heat through – top with fresh toppings and they are ready to go!
These nachos were a great addition to the Super Bowl party with delicious turkey chili and dark chocolate for dessert.
So, back to the lighter fare (leftover salsa for salmon tacos!) this week – while everyone is trying to shake off the comfort food pounds and look like Beyonce! Save this one for a night by the TV with friends and cold beer!
Fresh Loaded Nachos!
- 1 bag, Falafel Chips
- 2 or 3 cups, freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 fresh chorizo links, cooked and crumbled
- 1 can, black beans drained
- fresh salsa, recipe below!
- 1 avocado, chopped
Fresh Salsa, mix it all together and taste for seasoning!
- 4 or 5 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, minced
- 2 scallions, sliced thinly
- 1 jalapeno, corred, seeded and minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- i handful cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon, olive oil
- 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce, from canned chipotles in adobo
- 1 lime, juiced
- salt and pepper to taste
February is finally here and I must say – I’m never sad to say goodbye to January. Seasonal depression is never charming. And, while many roll their eyes at the thought of February – a time for sweeties and sweet potatoes – I’m just happy to inch my way into Springtime. February can be a time to embrace any kind of love – the love of food (my Facebook cover photo!), love of city (today is Greensboro’s anniversary of the original sit-in movement up the street from my office) and love of friends. So, in the name of love, I’ll share this photo of my favorite foodie couple – Julia and Paul Child (hilariously enough this photo is a Valentine’s Day card they sent to friends in 1956 in response to FBI questioning of Paul’s sexuality.)
What is better way to celebrate love than with good cheese and wine? So, here are some suggestions for your cheesy love-fests this February. The recommendations were actually curated when I commissioned two love birds to help me with wine and cheese pairings at The Fresh Market. No, not Julia and Paul Child (those adventures are only in one’s dreams) but my friends Mark and Julie. I actually was part of a (not-so)covert operation this summer in setting them up and they’ve been inseparable since. Mark loves wine and Julie loves cheese – which makes them lovely advisors in selecting the best “For the Love of Cheese and Wine” recommendations.
Enjoy and spread the love.
- Sweet & Savory! Pair a pungent blue cheese, like a creamy gorgonzola or classic Maytag blue with a sweeter wine to contrast sweet and savory. Try a Reisling like the Trimbach Reisling from the Alsace region of France or an even a sweeter Moscato wine with a slight effervescence.
- Opposites Attract! Pair a creamy buttery triple cream, like the Saint Andre Triple Cream, with a crisp and acidic wine. Try a French Sancerre! Or, if you prefer a classic Chardonnay – pair buttery notes with each other – a Brie or Triple Cream with the classic Mer Soleil Chardonnay.
- Spicy and Robust! If you like robust flavors, pair a hard spicy cheese that will stand up to a rich red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon. Mt favorite combination is the Bellavitano Sartori Black Pepper with the Decoy Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
It’s that time again! For Puppy Bowl 2013! Or, the Super Bowl…and I must admit, I have no idea who is playing. The Ravens, right? I do know one thing – that the game is in Louisiana – which calls for some spicy creole crab dip! I put this dip together over the weekend to test before serving it to friends this weekend. It’s super spicy but you can certainly cool it off with less hot sauce and cayenne. It’s creamy but loaded with vegetables, crab and cheese. I served it with crackers, carrots and celery – which help cut the spice
As you can tell, I’m not big on football. But, I love a casual night with friends, cold beers, good food and funny commercials. And, forcing them to watch the Puppy Bowl for a couple seconds. Go terriers!
Spicy Creole Crab Dip
- 2 tablespoons, butter
- 1/2 small onion chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 stalk celery chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1lb lump crab meat
- 16 ounces cream cheese – room temperature!
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 tablespoons (or to taste), Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
- salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Add chopped onion, pepper, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook down until slightly brown. Meanwhile mix in a large bowl, crab meat, cream cheese, mayo, parm, scallions, and the rest of sauces and seasonings. Once mixed well, add in the cooked vegetable mix. Add to a oven-proof dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with extra scallions and serve with crackers, carrots and celery!
This weekend was extremely warm, slightly humid and pretty darn slow. And, it was exactly what I’ve been looking for.
After two days of lounging on the sofa and seeing movies, my friend Jessica and I decided to take a trip north to Hanging Rock State Park for a hike and picnic with Winston. Some fresh air can sure do a girl some good.
Hanging Rock State Park is just an hour north of Greensboro. I recommend two trails – the Hanging Rock Trail for a good climb to breathtaking views and the Lower Cascades Trail (after lunch!) for a short step(s) to an amazing waterfall. We left early and beat the crowds – which I recommend. Special thanks to my trails expert pal, Maddie, for her advice!
For lunch between trails, I packed a clementine box full of goodies for a picnic break between hikes. It included:
- Turkey, hummus, sliced cucumber and baby spinach wrapped in a spinach tortillas.
- Pesto Pasta Salad with Le Grand Pesto (an awesome alternative to fresh summer pesto – available in the dairy section at The Fresh Market), toasted almonds, edamame, a bit of pecorino cheese and splash of fresh lemon! Really tasty and good green color!
- Lots and lots of clementines. I’m addicted right now – try sneaking them into movie theaters!
Add these ideas to your next picnic menu. I hope you also had a relaxing weekend and enjoyed the east coast warmth. Rainy days are ahead but I’ve got a light and tasty Steak Caesar Salad recipe to look forward to!
Last night, my friend Jessica and I ran in the Sunset Hills Neighborhood “Running of the Balls” 5k race. Despite the nasty weather (which resulted in us only running half the race!), it was a nice evening to raise dollars for Greensboro’s local food banks (they reported over 20K!) and gaze at the beautiful lighted Christmas Balls that have become a quintessential part of the holiday season in Greensboro. A shout out to my friends The Smiths for starting this trend – and my great friends Jamey and Phil for hanging over 180 of them throughout the neighborhood this year!!! See my friend Lynn Hey’s photos online here - and excuse my cell phone photos above!! The lighted Christmas Balls give us so much community pride.
After the run, my friends Jamey and Phil also opened their house on Rolling Road to friends and neighbors who participated in the race. After a half-5k, we surely deserved (ha!) a potato chip and brownie. To add to the potluck, I brought an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Lamb Sausage in Puff Pastry. To make it kosher for #happyeverything, I replaced pork sausage (which I usually use) with The Fresh Market’s Granny Smith Chicken Sausage and used their TFM Hot Honey Mustard. It was delicious. I also used DuFlour Puff Pastry that was recently ranked in Bon Appetit Magazine. It was worth the extra bucks and made the most delicious treat. With three ingredients and little time/effort – you should really save this recipe for your next gathering!
Apple & Chicken Sausage in Puff Pastry, adapted from Ina Garten “Lamb Sausage in Puff Pastry”
- 4, The Fresh Market, Granny Smith Apple and Chicken Sausages
- 1 package, DuFlour puff pastry, thawed
- 1 jar, The Fresh Market Hot Honey Mustard
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, bake the sausages for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. Allow them to cool.
Meanwhile, unfold the puff pastry sheets and cut into four quarters. Brush fairly moderately with mustard. Starting at the long end of the pastry, place 1 piece of the sausage on top of the mustard and roll it up tightly. Cut off the excess pastry. Repeat with other sausages. Place seam side down, back on the baking sheet lined with foil. Brush with the egg wash. Lightly score each roll diagonally. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned. Slice and serve hot with more mustard.