Category Archives: Appetizers

passover seder

i hosted a passover seder for 17 people in my apartment this past tuesday and it was amazing! great food, friends and a great seder. for many who attended, it was their first seder, and they loved learning about the various symbols and traditions of the holiday. The meal was generously funded through Birthright NEXT, an organization that supports alumni of Birthright.

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i spent a long time planning the menu, and used a pinterest board to gather ideas. this is what i landed on:IMG_6204

this was the first year i’ve done passover away from home, so i didn’t have all of the necessary equipment, such as a seder plate. copying an idea i found on pinterest, i made my chalkboard cheeseboard into a seder plate!IMG_6206IMG_0007

the highlight of the menu for me was the homemade matzo. i’ve spent my entire life eating prepackaged matzo which tastes like cardboard. this homemade matzo is quick and easy to make, and tastes delicious! my roommates want me to make it year round. IMG_6065IMG_6066IMG_6078IMG_6081IMG_6106IMG_6082

i also started the meal with a haroset recipe from wolfgang puck and matzo ball soup from smitten kitchen, both of which were delicious. IMG_0014

 

and now for the main course…

 

 

 

IMG_0015the fan favorite main dish was the chicken marbella. i debated whether i needed to make a chicken in addition to the brisket, but i decided to go for it and i’m so glad i did! this may be the best chicken i’ve ever had. the prunes and apricots went well with the dried fruit in many of the other dishes. IMG_0006

for the brisket i went with the classic smitten kitchen recipe. my 12 lb brisket was so massive that i had to do half in the slow cooker and the other half in the oven. the slow cooker definitely won. the meat was tender and juicy and fell apart more easily. i was torn between doing brisket or short ribs, and i think i would do short ribs if i could do it again because they’re a bit easier to make and the recipe is more foolproof, meaning you can slightly over/under cook them and noboby will know.

for sides i went with a quinoa risotto recipes i’ve been making for years and tzimmes, a classic jewish dish of sweet potato and carrots with prunes. IMG_0020

for dessert, i made three of my flourless favorites:

pavlova, which is a gorgeous light and fluffy meringue with a crunchy exterior and soft marshmallow like interior topped with fresh whipped cream and berries. IMG_6207haroset truffles, which are an alternative version to the classic haroset with apples posted above. these are a mix of dates, apricots, pistachios and almonds, and rolled in coconut.  I ate all of these before i had a chance to take a picture :(

and last but certainly not least, chocolate toffee matzo, an ungodly mix of butter and sugar, chocolate and toppings. I did toasted almonds, sea salt and cystallized ginger. IMG_0001 IMG_0002 IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0005

passover is one of my favorite jewish holidays, and as you can tell, i went all out this year! even if you’re not jewish you will still enjoy these recipes (especially the chocolate matzo above).

bon appetit!

turkish bride soup

While I was home for the holidays my mom and I made turkish bride soup, a combination of red lentils, bulgar wheat, vegetable broth, lemon and mint that is delicious, comforting and very healthy to boot!

I’ve made it at least four times since then because it makes a great dinner when there’s nothing in the fridge. If you keep a well stocked pantry, you should always have lentils, bulgar (i use it to make tabbouli all the time) and broth, and can make this soup on a whim! IMG_4848

turkish bride soup

1/4 cup butter
2 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves (no worries if you don’t have it)
4 slices lemon
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook the onions in the hot butter until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir the paprika, lentils, and bulgur into the onions and coat with the butter.
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Add the tomato paste, vegetable stock, and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil and cook until soft and creamy, about 1 hour. Crumble the dried mint leaves into the soup; stir the soup and remove from heat.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint to serve.

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I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

bon appetit,

E

 

baked chicken meatballs

since this is a blog of all of my favorite foods, i couldn’t believe it when i realized that i had never posted these chicken meatballs. i can’t get enough of these, and i’m not surprised, considering the recipe came from Smitten Kitchen. these are the perfect “i don’t know what to make for dinner” or “i want to impress my dinner guests with minimal effort” meal. if i haven’t convinced you yet, i’m going to stop trying, but please for the love of g-d, just make these, okay?!

Beauty, right?

Beauty, right?

baked chicken meatballs

while you could certainly serve these with pasta, as is tradition, i prefer a simple side of sautéed spinach or a big salad.

Serves 4

3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped (you can swap in Canadian Bacon if you can’t find pancetta, which i have done many times, or leave the extra meat out altogether)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided (i like tomato paste so i usually use more)
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper third of the oven. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, about four minutes.

Cook pancetta, onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes.

Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley.

ready to be mixed

ready to be mixed

Form 12 meatballs and arrange in a 4-sided sheet pan or roasting dish. Stir together remaining tablespoon or two of tomato paste and oil (i usually use less than a tablespoon) and brush over meatballs (i usually just spoon a drop over each and smoosh it down).

oven ready

pre oven

Finally, bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (though mine took a good 5-10 minutes longer).

Beauty, right?

fin.

i know what i’m having for dinner tonight.

bon appetit,
e

roasted eggplant with yogurt-tahini sauce and cumin-crisped chickpeas

One of my favorite finds in New Orleans so far has been the Hong Kong Market on the West Bank. It’s an awesome asian supermarket that fills my chinatown void and has some of the best produce in all of nola.

They have the most awesome selection of eggplants. Baby italian and indian eggplants and the long and slender asian ones. Whenever I make the trip over there, I always pick up an assortment of eggplants and run home to make this Smitten Kitchen cookbook recipe.IMG_3118

The combination of the roasted eggplant, thick and creamy yogurt tahini sauce, fresh parsley and crispy chickpeas is nothing short of perfection. It would be an awesome appetizer for a party, or a nice light dinner.

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1- 15.5 oz can of chickpeas, drained, patted dry on paper towels
5 tablespoons olive oil
Course or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 pounds small italian eggplants

yogurt-tahini sauce

1/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup thick plain greek yogurt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup cold water
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

crisp chickpeasIMG_3116

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and toss the chickpeas with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground cumin. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast them on the top rack for 30 to 40 minutes, shaking it every now and then until they are browned and crisp.

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Brush a large baking sheet with a generous tablespoon of oil. Halve the eggplants lengthwise, arrange them, cut side up, in one layer on oiled sheet. Brush the cut sides lightly with a little additional oil, and sprinkle them with generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes and then flip them over and roast them for another 15 minutes.

while those are roasting, make the yogurt-tahini sauce

Whisk together tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt. The mixture will become very thick, so add water a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is smooth but thick.

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Arrange the eggplant cut side up and dollop generously with yogurt-tahini sauce. Sprinkle with crisped chickpeas and parsley. Eat immediately. IMG_0013

bon appetit!

 

homemade hummus

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You’re probably starting to notice by now that I love making things at home that people typically buy, my favorites being granola, bread and now hummus.

I absolutely love hummus but it has gotten pretty expensive at the supermarket and is also pretty high in fat and calories, which can get dangerous since hummus is so addicting. It turns out, hummus is one of the easiest things to make and takes about five minutes at most, so there’s really no excuse. The hardest thing about this recipe is washing the bowl of the food processor at the end.

Once you’ve made it at home it will be hard to go back.

I’ve made hummus a few times before, but this time I decided to try something new. I made my own tahini, and I followed a recipe from Smitten Kitchen which says to remove the outer skin from each chickpea because it makes the hummus more smooth and creamy.

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I made this for a second time today and didn’t have the time to shell each chickpea. I think i’ll go back and forth, but definitely give it a try! I also added some chipotle peppers in adobo from the can to make it chipotle hummus, which was smoky and delicious. Hummus can be flavored in so many different ways: roasted red pepper, spinach, horseradish, harissa, the list goes on – get creative!

homemade hummus

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  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained but reserve the liquid for later
  • 1/2 cup tahini paste (either homemade or store bought)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
  • Approximately 1/4 cup water or reserved chickpea broth

To make homemade tahini, first preheat the oven to 350. Spread the sesame seeds on a shallow baking tray (I used about 2 cups worth that I bought in the bulk section) and bake, shaking frequently, until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor and process for a minute or so. IMG_2081IMG_2082

Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil for every cup of seeds, pulse until a thick paste forms, scrape down the sides, and add more olive oil if needed until it reaches a consistency you like. Store in glass jar or tupperware tightly covered in refrigerator.IMG_2084

Drain the chickpeas (saving the chickpea broth for soups or to thin the hummus, if desired).

Whether fresh or canned chickpeas: Peel your chickpeas. IMG_2075

Here are the methods I found from the post and comments on Smitten Kitchen:

“take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin.”

“lay them out on a papertowel and lay another towel on top. Roll your hands on top of the whole thing and the peels will kind of slide off under there.”

“fill a large bowl with water, dump in your cooked chickpeas, pick them up in handfuls and rub together, let the water settle and many of the skins will rise to the top where they can be drained off.”

In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. IMG_2085

Add the tahini (pictured below is my homemade tahini which is darker than store bought), lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. IMG_2086

With the machine running, drizzle in water or reserved chickpea liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture. I find I need about 4 tablespoons for this volume, but you may need slightly more or less.IMG_2088

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed. Hold off on adding more garlic because Deb says the garlic flavor gets stronger as it sits in the fridge. This is also where you can add the additional flavors I talked about earlier. Click here if you need some flavor inspiration.

Bon Appetit!

 

stuffed artichokes

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Artichokes have been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid. My mom always stuffed them with breadcrumbs and I loved alternating between dipping the leaves in melted butter and red wine vinegar.

I know that artichokes can be intimidating, with their sharp prickly leaves and bitter choke, but I’m here to tell you that the effort is so worth it, and once you learn how, preparing artichokes can be quite therapeutic.

Just this week the New York Times published an article entitled the 9 Ways to Make the Most of an Artichoke, which explains how to prepare artichokes raw, stuffed or sautéed, and provides recipes for each.

Stuffed Artichokes

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  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole artichokes
  • 2-3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup EVOO

Squeeze the lemon halves into a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. To prepare them stuffed, first use scissors to cut off the prickly tops of the leaves and disgard any hard outer leaves. Then slowly tug the leaves outward to loosen them for the filling and dig out the sharp little leaves on the inside with a spoon until it’s nice and clean. Also be sure to trim off the stems so each artichoke can sit flat in the pot. I cut up the stem into little circles and steamed them along side the artichokes. As each one is completed, place it in the lemon water to prevent it from discoloring.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, and parsley and season with pepper. Mix well; slowly add the oil till the crumb mixture is moistened enough to stick together. You may need to adjust the amount of oil depending on the type and amount of bread crumbs used.

Stuff the filling into the middle and also pull each leaf open slightly and stuff a little filling into the opening. Place the artichokes snugly side by side in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 inch of water to the pot. Squeeze lemon juice over the top. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and steam until the bottoms of the artichokes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes; a knife should insert easily. Make sure the water doesn’t boil dry. Add more water if necessary.

Serve each artichoke hot, on an individual plate with melted butter and red wine vinegar in little ramekins to dip. Also be sure to put out big bowls on the table to deposit the leaves in once you’ve eaten them.

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simple spanakopita

I love small plates, family style dinners because they offer variety to suit all tastes, can easily be scaled up or down to accommodate unplanned dinner guests, and allow you to experiment with different recipes and cuisines. One of my favorite house dinners this past year was our Greek inspired night: spanakopita (spinach phyllo pie), avgolemono soup (greek chicken lemon soup), roasted eggplant dip, and toasted pita. The spanakopita looks super impressive but is simple to prepare with the help of olive oil spray, and I promise the phyllo dough isn’t as difficult to work with as everyone makes it out to be! It just takes a little bit of practice, like anything else. The spinach filling is jazzed up with the addition of feta and golden raisins, which give it a nice sweetness in contrast to the savory garlic and spinach. Other great additions to round out this meal include roasted eggplant dipmarinated peppers, celery and orange salad, spicy carrot salad and melon with honeyed yogurt, which all come from the June 2009 Everyday Food magazine!

simple spanakopita

Adapted from Martha Stewart

ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 packages (20 ounces each) baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 20 sheets frozen phyllo dough (from an 8-ounce package), thawed and cut to 8 by 12 inches

directions:

In a medium pan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Return pan to heat. Working in batches, cook spinach, tossing, until wilted, about 1 minute. Drain spinach and let cool. Press out excess moisture, then roughly chop. Add spinach, feta, and raisins to bowl with onion and season filling with salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll phyllo. Place 1 sheet on a work surface (keep remaining sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying); spray with oil. Lay another sheet on top and spray with oil. Repeat until you have 10 layers of phyllo.

Spread half of filling lengthwise down middle of phyllo stack.

Roll into a log, brushing the seam with oil before sealing.

Spray log with oil. Using a small sharp knife, make 8 diagonal cuts on top. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling.

Place logs, seam side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cut into slices along slashes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served it with Avgolemono soup too: 

Bon Appetit!

light seven layer dip

I made this dip for the first time during the Superbowl this year and it was such a hit that I’ve been asked to make it again for almost every party I’ve had since. It looks really great in a clear glass bowl because you can see all of the layers, which I’ve tried to photograph for you to see. It’s really filling, and is a great way to put together the cheese, beans, guacamole, salsa, and cilantro that you would have already bought for any Mexican fiesta. This can be scooped up with chips or used as a topping or filling for tacos, quesadillas, burritos and more. I usually make the guacamole and salsa myself, but this can also be made in a pinch by buying premade guacamole, salsa and pre-shredded cheese. Enjoy!

seven layer dip

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Layer 1: Beans

  • 2, 16-oz cans black beans (or 1 can black beans and 1 can pinto beans), drained
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • pinch of salt

Combine the beans, chili powder and salt in a small bowl. Mash lightly with a fork, if you like. Transfer the beans to an 8-inch square dish or glass bowl of a similar size.

Layer 2: Sour Cream and Cheese

  • 1 cup light sour cream (or greek yogurt)
  • 2 cups freshly grated cheese (cheddar or pepper jack)

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and cheese. Spread the mixture evenly over the bean layer.

Layer 3: Guacamole

  • 2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced

Mash avocados, lime juice, garlic and salt. Stir in the red onion and tomatoes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Spread the guacamole over the sour cream mixture.

Layer 4: Simple Salsa

  • 3 large tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, jalapeños and fresh cilantro. Layer the salsa over the guacamole.

Layers 5, 6 & 7:

  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Up to 1/4 cup grated cheese (cheddar or pepper jack)

Sprinkle scallions over the salsa. Add as much cilantro confetti as you like. Top the scallions with the cheese of your choice.

Suggestion: Serve this with a big spoon so that people can scoop all the way down to the beans.

Now kick back and have a corona, it’s mexican fiesta time!

easy crab cakes

At school this past fall I took a class called Food for Contemporary Living in the nutrition department. It was my dream class. I got to spend 3 hours cooking in a food lab every Tuesday afternoon. Each class focused on a different food group: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, milk and egg foams, and many others. Each student was responsible for preparing a recipe, and then at the end of class we got to sample a bit of each dish and complete sensory evaluations. Our “textbook” was the red Betty Crocker cookbook, which had some surprisingly good recipes, including the one I am going to share with you today.

I was so amazed by these crab cakes in class because I had never tried canned crab before and didn’t know it could be so delicious. These are light and fluffy, and filled with flavor. They don’t taste fishy at all, have great spice from the ground mustard and a nice crunch from the scallion whites. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet these would be great with tuna or salmon as well. As you can see, I served them with my favorite roasted asparagus and a nice glass of white wine.

crab cakes 

Adapted from Betty Crocker, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ¼ cups soft bread crumbs (about 2 slices bread, I used whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 medium green onions, chopped- 2 Tbsp
  • 3 cans (6 oz) crabmeat, well drained, cartilage cartilage removed and flaked
  • ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Directions:
In medium bowl, mix mayo and egg with wire whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients except oil and dry bread crumbs.
Shape mixture into 6 patties, about 3 inches in diameter (mixture will be moist). Coat each patty with dry bread crumbs.
In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook patties in oil about 10 minutes, gently turning once, until golden brown and hot in center. Reduce heat if crab cakes become brown too quickly, as you can see one of mine did. 
Bon appetit!

walnut pesto and white bean roasted red pepper dip

I love a good cocktail party. Hor d’Oeurves, wine, good company- it’s the perfect social gathering. I have people over all the time and I like to have easy appetizer recipes on hand if I need to put something together at the last minute. I’ve already featured the Artichoke-Olive Crostini, which is one of my all time favorite dips, but today I’m going to share with you two others which were a big hit when I made them for a dinner party at my house a few months ago.

Walnut Pesto

This is surprisingly delicious. Walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan all blend together to create a savory spread with a nice crunch from the toasted nuts.  This is definitely NOT your average pesto.

From Smitten Kitchen (where else?)

Makes a dozen or so toasts

1 cup shelled walnuts, even better if you toast and cool them first
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
3 sprigs of thyme, cleaned
Salt
Very small splash of sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced sun-dried tomatoes (oil or dry-packed will both work)
1 loaf country bread, or a baguette, sliced

In food processor, coarsely grind walnuts, cheese, garlic, thyme, salt and vinegar. Stir in oil and tomatoes.

Grill or toast bread. While hot, top each slice with a heaping teaspoon of pesto.

White-Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This is a easy and delicious dip that you can throw together with things you probably already have in the pantry!

Also from Smitten Kitchen

1 15-ounce can of white cannelini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 small jar roasted red peppers, or about 1 cup, drained
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Puree everything in a food processor (or blender) until smooth.

My friend Peter digging in

Bon appetit!