Dips can be mega-easy to make and can usually be prepared a day or so ahead of when they are served…and be all the better for being prepared ahead since it gives time for the flavors to meld and develop. I am all for not going completely crazy on the day of an event. (even though despite all my prep work ahead of time I do still tend to veer towards the loony bin in the hour leading up to a party…someday I will learn to calm down, really!)
I found the original version of this recipe on Epicurious.com but altered it since at the time I didn’t have whole cumin or caraway seeds on hand. This Roasted Pepper and Garlic dip takes a little more work than some other dips, that are basically one step of throwing everything in a bowl and mixing it. For this dip you first oven roast a red pepper and garlic cloves. These roasted veggies are then blended with the remaining dip ingredient to create a lovely orange dip with a ton of flavor.
Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Dip
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 small head garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne/red pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 450 F
- Quarter bell pepper lengthwise and discard stem, seeds, and ribs. In a shallow baking pan arrange quarters skin sides up.
- Separate garlic cloves, leaving skins intact. Wrap together in foil. Add garlic package to pan with bell pepper and bake in upper third of oven 20 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, peel pepper and transfer to a blender. Remove garlic from foil and squeeze pulp into blender.
- Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth.
- Serve with veggies such as carrot sticks, zucchini spears, fennel crudites, or celery sticks.
Dip can be made 5 days ahead and chilled, covered.
I was looking for a starter that was super easy, festive looking and didn’t take up excessive amounts of space in the fridge (fridge space is precious during the holidays!!). I found it in this Mexican layered dip. We’ve all have layered dips and they come in varying degrees of difficulty. This one was pretty simple using some prepped items but letting you feel like you were kind of making it from scratch. (I love to prepare things from scratch but occasionally like tho be able to take a few shortcuts.)
I altered a recipe from Bon Apetit’s Outdoor Entertaining cookbook by subbing veggie refried beans for the kind with bacon, upping the spices, and tweaking other ingredient amounts. The assembled dip looked bright and festive on the buffet table and received lots of comments from guests.
Mexican Layered Dip
(altered from recipe in Bon Appetit Outdoor Entertaining)
- 2 cans of vegetarian refried beans
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 1/2 cups guacamole
- 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)
- 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes with jalapenos, well-drained
- 3/4 cup chopped green onions
- 1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
- 2/3 cups chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small can sliced black olives, drained
- Tortilla chips
- Mix beans and chili powder in a medium bowl to blend.
- Mix guacamole, tomatillo salsa, and garlic in another medium bowl.
- Spread half of bean mixture in bottom of 8 – 10 cup glass bowl. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.
- Spread guacamole mixture over. Spoon half of drained tomatoes over the guacamole.
- Sprinkle with green onions.
- Spread remaining bean mixture over.
- Stir sour cream in container to loosen. Spread over bean mixture, covering completely.
- Arrange cilantro, remaining cheese, olives, and remaining drained tomatoes in concentric circles on top of the sour cream.
- Cover; Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Serve dip with chips.
NOTE: Dip can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.
There aren’t too many vegetables, in my opinion, that are more refreshing than a cucumber. We eat cucumbers in some form with dinner at least twice a week, usually in a chopped salad…sometimes grated and mixed in yogurt for a nice raita. Cucumbers pair nicely with the spicy cuisine of Pakistan that we eat so often in our little house.
I love leafing through Indian cook books looking for inspiration. I took out the beautiful cookbook Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid from the library because I had heard such great things about the book. It is loaded with fantastic photography and tempting recipes from the Indian sub-continent. If you never heard of or seen this book and are at all into cooking or learning more about Indian food, then you should track down this book!
A recipe in the book for a spiced cucumber salad immediately jumped out at me as something I had to try. It is a salad made of chopped cucumbers tossed in a spiced mustard oil and yogurt dressing. I altered the recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand instead of running out and buying some additional spices. The end result is still very impressive.
Spiced Cucumber Salad
(adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves)
- 1/2 pound English cucumbers
- 2 Tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard oil
- 1 green chili cut lengthwise
- pinch of cayenne powder
- pinch of tumeric
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons minced cilantro
- Cut cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and then cut again into 1.5 inch long pieces.
- Put cucumbers in a strainer/colander in the sink (or over a bowl) and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds until golden.
- In a small bowl, mix sesame seeds, cumin, and yogurt to make paste. Set aside.
- Rinse cucumbers with cold water. Squeeze them gently to get out any excess water. Put cucumbers in a bowl.
- Add spice paste to cucumbers and rub all over to coat them. Set aside.
- Heat mustard oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the green chili and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the cayenne and tumeric and stir.
- Pour the flavored oil over the cucumbers and toss gently.
- Add the lemon juice and toss.
- Set aside for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors blend.
- Just before serving add the cilantro leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Toss gently to mix.
I am not sure if there is anything that much easier to make than cous cous. Basically it involves boiling water, stirring in some cous cous and removing from heat…waiting a few minutes and then fluffing the cous cous. That being said, plain old cous cous can be kind of…well…plain. But it is so simple to add some flavor to cous cous. One way, is to add some ingredients to the water you cook the cous cous in. For this recipe chicken broth, lemon zest and fresh thyme are added. This cous cous makes a good accompaniment for a chicken stew.
Lemon & Thyme Couscous
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 3/4 cups cous cous (about a 3/4 pound box)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- In a 2 to 2 1/2 quart heavy saucepan bring water, broth, thyme and zest to a boil.
- Stir in couscous.
- Cover pan and immediately remove from heat.
- Let couscous stand covered, 5 minutes.
- Fluff couscous with a fork and stir in oil and salt and pepper to taste.
I am always on the lookout for tasty salads to serve alongside our meals. We eat a lot of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern fare, so when I spotted a recipe on Epicurious for a Greek salad with orzo, I had to try it out.
Technically, this salad is not a true “Greek Salad” since authentic Greek salads don’t contain lettuce or vinegar. But, this is definitely a tasty spin on a Greek salad. So, if you are having a Greek Salad purist over for dinner, you may want to call this something else…how about Mediterranean Orzo Salad??
I altered this recipe from one on Epicurious.com since theirs actually had you assemble the recipe in mason jars. I didn’t see the point of me making it in mason jars just to dump it out immediately onto the plate… The salad is fairly simple to make and looks so colorful on the dinner table.
My husband really enjoys this salad but ends up pushing most of the orzo to the side of his plate, since he is not a big orzo fan (what is there NOT to like about orzo???…odd duck).
This recipe makes enough to serve 4 as a main course or a crowd as a side dish.
Greek Orzo Salad
- 3/4 cup orzo
- 1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
- 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
- 2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped romaine
- 1/2 pound feta, crumbled (1 cup)
- 4 to 8 peperoncini
- Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
- Toss black-eyed peas, tomato, and parsley with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss together orzo, remaining tablespoon oil, cucumber, olives, onion, lemon zest and juice, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
- Combine orzo mixture and black-eyed pea mixture in a large bowl
- Make a bed of romaine lettuce on a serving plate. Spoon the orzo-black-eyed pea mixture on top of lettuce. Top with feta crumbles and peperoncini.
She cooks you sweet potato, you don’t like aubergine
She knows to boil the kettle when you hum bars from Grease
She senses you are lonely but still she can’t be sure
And so she stands and waits, stands anticipating
– “Sweet Potato” by Sia
Sia is one of the most played artists on my iTunes. So, yes, I listen to quite a bit of her music. Whenever I see sweet potatoes I always start singing this song in my head.
I am a sweet potato fan, just like I am a Sia fan. MrMango thinks sweet potatoes are okay…not his favorite, but prepared the right way…he will eat them. I tried these oven roasted herbed sweet potatoes from a recipe I tore out of Gourmet. The thickly sliced sweet potatoes are tossed with olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic, coarse salt, and red pepper flakes. They were super easy to prepare and had a nice flavor profile with the sweetness of the potato, the saltiness, the savoriness of the herbs, and the kick of spice from the red pepper flakes.
Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes
(from Gourmet magazine)
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves, plus 6 thyme sprigs for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss.
- Arrange potato slices in single layer on heavyweight rimmed baking sheet or in 13×9-inch baking dish.
- Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with thyme sprigs.