Ottolenghi’s Zucchini “Baba Ghanoush”

I knew that I had to make this as a special appetizer after seeing it on Chef Mimi’s blog. It sounded so interesting- a baba ghanoush without eggplant or tahini, but with zucchini, yogurt, and Roquefort cheese. The charred zucchini resembled bananas when they were peeled; cooking it this way gave it smokiness.

It may not be absolutely beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. Ottolenghi describes its appearance as “rather like a volcanic eruption.” 🙂 It was a little bit time-consuming to prepare, but was worth every bit of time and effort.

This recipe was adapted from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used French whole milk plain yogurt instead of goat’s milk yogurt and used regular chile flakes instead of Urfa chile flakes. I also crumbled the cheese rather than grating it. I definitely plan to make it again- we loved it. Incredible.

Yield: Serves 6 as a starter or as part of a mezze selection

  • 5 large zucchini (about 2.75 pounds/1.2 kg)
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 T (15 g) coarsely crumbled Roquefort cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 T (20 g) pine nuts
  • pinch of chile flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp za’atar, to finish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • warm naan, for serving
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely.
  3. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin, discard it, and set the flesh aside in a colander to drain. The zucchini can be served warm or at room temperature.
  4. Put the yogurt in a small saucepan with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You want the yogurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Melt the butter in a small sauté pan with the pine nuts over low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.
  6. Put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 tsp coarse salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a large serving platter.
  7. Spoon the warm yogurt sauce on top, followed by a drizzle of the warm chile butter and the pine nuts.
  8. Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve at once with warm naan.

One Year Ago: Vegetarian Harira

Two Years Ago: Mushroom Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

Three Years Ago: Orecchiette with Carrot-Hazelnut Pesto

Four Years Ago: Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce and  Clams Casino

Five Years Ago: Israeli Couscous with Spinach & Onions

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Savory Smoky & Cheesy Cookies

Making these savory cookies was more of a risky endeavor than trying a new type of soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day. I was happy with the results! They were flaky, cheesy, and biscuit-like.  Lovely served as an appetizer with a glass of wine or beer.

A friend commented that they shouldn’t be called “cookies.” I absolutely agree, but it’s hard to argue with Dorie Greenspan. I’m also not sure what to call them instead. They were too cookie-like to call them crackers and too cookie-like to call them biscuits… too savory to be “cookies” though!

This recipe was adapted from Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan. I refroze the cut shapes prior to baking. I weighed all of the ingredients and the texture was perfect. The shape could be adapted for any holiday or cut into simple circles for any occasion. Nice!

Yield: about 22 shamrock cookies

  1. Combine cold butter, Gouda, cheddar, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a food processor; pulse until butter is in bits and the mixture forms small curds.
  2. Add flour; pulse until dough looks moist and forms large popcorn-sized curds.
  3. Turn dough out onto a flat surface; knead gently just until it comes together and you can shape it into a ball. Divide into 2 pieces. Pat each piece into a disk.
  4. Place 1 disk between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Repeat with second disk.
  5. Stack sheets of dough on a baking sheet. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. (I froze the dough overnight.)
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  8. Peel parchment paper/plastic wrap off 1 sheet of frozen dough. Cut into cookies using a 1 1/2-inch-diameter cutter, or cookie cutter of choice (my shamrock cookie cutter was larger). Stack the cut shapes with plastic wrap between each. Refreeze for 15 minutes prior to baking.
  9. Arrange 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of dough.
  10. Bake cookies in the preheated oven until lightly golden on the bottom, about 15 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Cookies are done when bottoms are golden brown and tops are lightly golden.
  11. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes.
  12. Gather dough scraps, roll to a thickness of 1/4-inch, and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Cut into cookies, refreeze cut shapes, and bake on a cooled baking sheet.

Note: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; cut and bake directly from the freezer.

The baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for about 4 days at room temperature, or wrapped airtight for up to 2 months in the freezer.

One Year Ago: Easy Churros

Two Years Ago: Samoa Brownies

Three Years Ago: Apple Biscoff Crumble

Four Years Ago: Asparagus Mimosa and Rutabaga Oven Fries

Five Years Ago:

Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinée and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Chilled Corn Soup with Tomato-Bacon Toasts

This is a bowl of fresh and creamy heaven. Easy to prepare too. I topped it with a splash of color from my absolute summer favorite, basil. The toasts made it a filling meal as well.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. We ate it slightly chilled instead of cold because we enjoyed it on a cool and rainy summer night. My husband gobbled up the chilled leftovers and would recommend this soup served cold as well. 🙂 I think it would also be delicious served warm!

Yield: Serves 4 to 5

  • 4 slices bacon (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 6 ears of corn)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 to 8 slices crusty bread (I used a sourdough baguette)
  • 4 ounces manchego or other hard, sharp cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (I halved them again to fit on my bread slices)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • basil, chiffonade, for serving
  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, turning once, until crisp, 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt to skillet; cook stirring, 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in 4 cups corn, then 2 cups water; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in 1 1/2 cups ice water and the sour cream.
  6. Blend mixture with an immersion blender, or in a blender (in two batches, if necessary), until smooth.
  7. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 45 minutes. (I skipped this step and served it slightly chilled.)
  8. While the soup is chilling, season the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Toast the bread slices.
  9. Top the bread with cheese slices, tomatoes, and bacon.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with remaining 1/2 cup corn kernels, more pepper, drizzles of oil, and basil, as desired.

I’m sharing my summer soup at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #181 this week co-hosted by CH @Cooking From My Heart and Nimmi @Adorable Life. Angie featured my post from last week’s Fiesta- Yay! Check it out! 🙂

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Corn & Lobster Tart

What a lovely summer meal! After having sourdough baguette slices slathered with brie as an appetizer, we ate this flavorful tart and a green salad dressed with buttermilk-herb dressing for dinner. It could also be served as a special appetizer- perfect with a glass of rosé or white wine. We had fresh strawberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Eating pie for dinner and dessert was incredibly indulgent and fabulous… I would recommend it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Florence Fabricant. I used a Trader Joe’s pie crust as a shortcut. I also substituted 2 lobster tails for a whole lobster and used a Vidalia onion and parsley in the filling. Delicious.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • pastry for a 9-inch tart
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
  • pinch cayenne
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 1 1/4-pound lobster boiled or steamed, shucked and diced (I used 2 lobster tails (1 pound total weight)
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roll out pastry between layers of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch straight-sided tart pan or a pie pan.
  3. Prick bottom, line with parchment and foil and add pastry weights.
  4. Bake 10 minutes, until pastry starts to look dry. Remove foil and weights and bake 5 or so minutes more, until pastry is lightly colored. Remove from oven but leave oven on.
  5. While the crust is par-baking, cook the lobster meat. I cooked the lobster tails in boiling, salted water for 8 minutes. (1 minute per ounce- each tail was about 1/2 pound.) When cool enough to handle, cut off the shell and coarsely dice the meat.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and cook on low until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in corn, tarragon or parsley and cayenne.
  8. Stir in milk. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  9. In a bowl, beat eggs and cream together and slowly stir into the pan.
  10. Add lobster. Stir in lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Ladle mixture into prepared tart shell. Bake 10 minutes.
  12. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes more, until top is firm to the touch and very lightly browned, and a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean.
  13. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Fresh Ricotta

My husband and I have a favorite local restaurant where we like to go and have a special lunch together. Even though it is quite indulgent, we cannot go without ordering the fresh ricotta cheese appetizer. It is seasoned with lemon and served with warm bread. Irresistible.

I knew that making homemade ricotta was an easy task but had never tried to make it. I’m a little bit worried that now that I’ve finally done it because I’ll be making it all of the time! 🙂 I brought it to serve as an appetizer at a party to spread on slices of sourdough baguette… but- wow- it would also be amazing over pasta with a little drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by J.J. Goode. I added lemon zest (like at my restaurant!) and coarse salt, to taste. I found the consistency was perfect after straining for just twenty minutes. It was beyond creamy, rich, and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 cup

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon, or more, to taste
  1. Bring milk, cream, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice; stir gently until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into a fine-mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth set over a medium bowl.
  4. Chill until cheese is spreadable, at least 20 minutes and up to 12 hours (the longer it strains, the thicker it will be). (I recommend the consistency after about 20 minutes.)
  5. Cover and chill cheese up to 3 days. (If it lasts that long!)

Note/Update: This ricotta was absolutely delicious in Spinach & Ricotta Pappardelle. Wonderful!!

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated Comté cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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