Roasted Red Pepper Dip

October 16, 2014

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A few years ago, I was invited over to a friend’s house for dinner in Paris. He and his wife were from Syria, and they had one of the sweetest love stories I’d ever heard. Sasha was working in Paris as a handyman, and she had come to visit friends. The families knew each other, but she and Sasha had never met. Her parents, who were not so discreetly trying to play matchmaker, gave her his number so she could get in touch with him while she was in town. But she lost the number.

The day before she was leaving to return home, already packed, she went to mass, and as she was walking out of the church, she bumped into –literally– Sasha. They had coffee, which lasted all afternoon. She cancelled her flight, and stayed in Paris with him, in one of the teensiest apartments I’ve ever seen, probably not even 200 square feet. They soon married.

That night for dinner, in their tiny apartment in the upper Marais, she served a red pepper dip as an appetizer with crusty pieces of a French baguette. We told stories to each other in French, our second language in our adopted home, which became easier with each glass of wine.

I tried to recreate this dip for years, but it never tasted the same. I remember when I asked her about it, she told me that it was just red peppers, garlic and oil. Not long ago, I thought about this dip again, did some research and found the secret ingredient - pomegranate molasses, which is more tart than sweet. Like love sometimes.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip/Muhammara

Makes about 2 cups

  •          a 7-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  •          1 clove of garlic
  •          1 stale or toasted pita, torn into pieces
  •          ½ cup of walnuts, toasted then roughly chopped
  •          juice of half of 1 lemon
  •          2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses
  •          1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  •          ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  •          ½ teaspoon of Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
  •          ¼ cup of olive oil
  •           pita bread, for serving

Put everything except the olive oil in your baby food processor and pulse until well mixed. Drizzle in the olive oil, and taste for seasonings. This is best if you let it rest for an hour or so before serving.

 

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Speedy Spanakopita

September 9, 2014

DSC_0654This is what I made as a clean-out-your-fridge dinner the other night.

I know. I sort of couldn’t believe it, either.

But filo dough is one of those things I always have on hand when I’m in the U.S., because it’s impossible to find in France (instead, there’s a much thicker pastry called “brick”), and I love making filo triangles stuffed with whatever I can think of for parties…

But, sadly, with no party on the horizon and an extra roll of filo in my freezer that needed to be eaten up – plus a sack of frozen spinach and a bunch of kale that was about to go south — I figured a spanikopita-like something was in my future.

Onward with the Mediterranean theme. I hope y’all don’t mind.

I used to make the little triangle spanikopitas all the time and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never made it grande — so I googled and saw a Martha Stewart recipe that scrunched the tops like I’ve done here. I looks tricky, but it’s not — this recipe came together in less than 15 minutes.

Pretty enough for a party, easy enough for every single damn day. Big love.

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Speedy Spanakopita

Makes 6 servings

  •            1 pound of frozen spinach, thawed
  •             2 tablespoons of olive oil
  •             1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  •             2 garlic cloves, minced
  •             1 bunch of kale, removed from the ribs and finely chopped*
  •             sea salt and pepper
  •             2 eggs, lightly beaten
  •             16 ounces of ricotta
  •             zest of 1 lemon
  •             6 ounces of feta, crumbled
  •             ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  •             1 roll of filo dough (1/2 of 1 package)
  •             ⅓ cup of olive oil, plus a bit more for the top

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Put your thawed, frozen spinach in a colander and let it drain.

3. Add the olive oil, chopped onion, and garlic to a skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes, then add the kale, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until it wilts. Be sure and taste as you go. Put the cooked kale mixture in a large bowl to cool.

4. Squeeze out any remaining water in the spinach with your hands (it’s the easiest way to do this) and add this to the bowl, too.

5. Whisk the eggs with the ricotta and lemon zest and pour this into the bowl. Add the feta and nutmeg and mix everything together. Set this aside.

6. Now it’s time to work quickly — and carefully. Have your olive oil in a little bowl, along with a brush, your spinach mixture, and the filo dough ready. These are the three parts you’ll be working with. This is easy to do, but you must work fast so the filo doesn’t dry out. Unroll your filo dough and peel off two sheets and lay these onto the parchment. Brush with some olive oil. Repeat with 2 more sheets, more oil, then 2 more sheets, and a bit more oil, for 6 total. Put the spinach mixture in the middle, spreading it out a bit so it’s even, but leaving 2 inches around the sides so you can fold the filo dough straight up. If your filo sides fall a bit, just brush some oil on top — it acts like glue. Now, taking one sheet of filo dough at a time, gently crumple it and press it onto the top. Keep doing this until you’ve filled up the top with filo — I used 8 to 10 sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and if there are any bits of filo on the sides falling down, just glue it back together with a brushstroke of olive oil. Slide into the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until it’s browned and crispy. Serve right away.

Note: This also reheats beautifully. Preheat the oven to 350°F, put your pieces of spanakopita on a cookie sheet and bake until it’s warmed through and once again crispy, for about 20 minutes.

*I realize adding kale is a departure for this traditional Greek dish, but I had some on hand and didn’t want to toss it out — if you’d rather omit the kale, just double the amount of spinach instead.

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Zucchini Oatmeal Bread

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No Recipe: Peach-Basil Popsicles

August 11, 2014

  What do you do with a big ‘ol box of scratch-and-dent peaches (for just $20!) from Ham’s Orchard in Terrell? Make peach popsicles, that’s what. Those slightly overripe, still perfectly good peaches are perfect for popsicles, and there’s absolutely nothing to it. You peel and pit as many peaches as you’d like (in my […]

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Two Great Asian Dipping Sauces

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Making Asian food at home is really quite easy, but like any other cuisine, you just need to stock up on all of the staples (in this case, fish and soy sauce, sesame oil, etc.). Then once the craving strikes, you’re ready to go. These two sauces are fantastic for spring rolls, cold noodles, or […]

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