Tag Archives: appetizer

Recipe: Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

31 Jan

In the world of dips, hummus reigns supreme–but there is another Middle Eastern dip that also has lots of protein and lots of tang, and is equally easy to make. Although, now that I think of it, I realize it’s been a while since I made my own hummus; my local grocery store now devotes entire refrigerator sections to it and I have gotten lazy. This is a sad state of affairs–because hummus is really incredibly easy to make…. But back to the Muhammara. It gets its protein from the walnuts and its tang from pomegranate molasses, which you can find in Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stories and at a certain national, upscale grocery-store chain that shall not be named. Roasted red peppers also add to the slightly sweet undertones of this dip, which deserves a spot on any appetizer palette. This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine.

Walnut-Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

1 c. walnuts
½ c. roasted red bell peppers from a jar, drained (reserve the liquid)
1/3 c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

1. Blend/process all ingredients until coarsely ground. (Add a bit more panko or walnuts if too thin, or roasted red pepper liquid or molasses if too thick.)

Food processor
2. Place the dip in a serving bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the top–or for extra tang, mix together a bit of olive oil and pomegranate molasses and drizzle that instead.

Note: This is what pomegranate molasses looks like, if helpful.


Recipe: Crackers with Cheddar and Fig

24 Sep

The pairing of sharp cheddar and sweet fig is another match made in gastronomic heaven. This recipe–though it hardly deserves to be called that–is an embarrassingly simple way to bring the two together. Take out a few crackers or crispy flatbreads (or cut a few slices off a baguette), top with a small wedge of cheddar, and add a dollop of fig spread or jam* for a delicious snack. Or, put some of the fig spread in a tiny bowl and place it on a larger cheese board, along with the cheddar.

For a Spanish variation on the theme, pair Manchego cheese with membrillo, a lovely fruit paste made with quince.

*  I can get fig spread at my local store, and now always keep a jar in the fridge; if you make your own spread or jam, even better!

Recipe: Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

27 Apr

Fantastic on its own, this dip is even better as the basis for many delectable creations, from mini appetizer stacks to a range of sandwiches (try it on some crusty bread or a cracker, topped with Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers). The cheese, yogurt, and walnuts provide a protein boost, but that’s not why you’ll want to eat this. You’ll want it for the nice tang and the endless possibilities. You can adapt it any way you like: more or less garlic or chili flakes, mint instead of parsley, walnuts or no walnuts, etc. Now that I think of it, this dip would probably be nice with some chopped Kalamata olives mixed in, too.

Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
sprinkle red chilli flakes (crushed red pepper)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried mint)


1. Place the feta in a medium bowl and mask with a fork. Sprinkle with paprika and mix in garlic.
2. Toast the walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and crush finely with a mortar and pestle (or in a bag using a rolling pin), then add to feta mixture in bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If dip appears too thick, add a bit more yogurt.
4. Optional: drizzle with olive oil before serving.
5. Serve with crusty bread, pita bread, pita chips, toasted pita with zaatar, or any other cracker.

Recipe: Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs

6 Mar

Puff pastry is a magical ingredient. If you have some in the freezer, you will be able to pull together a savory meal or a sweet dessert in barely more time than it takes to cook the pastry once it has thawed. If you are someone who makes puff pastry from scratch, my hat is off to you. I may get there one day, but for now I am happy to rely on the prepared kind. In this recipe, the onion and fennel almost melt together, adding a subtle layer of flavor to the sausage and mushroom. And crisp, flaky pastry makes everything better.

Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom Pastry Puffs
Yield: 12 puffs

1 pkg. puff pastry (about 17.5 oz. = 2 sheets), almost thawed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, and finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
sprinkle red chili flakes
salt & pepper
6 links sweet Italian turkey sausage (1.5 lb.), casings removed
6 tbsp. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
chopped parsley (optional)


1. Let puff pastry thaw while you make the filling — but before the pastry comes to room temperature, unfold it and slice each sheet vertically into three sections along the fold lines (each sheet is folded like a letter), then cut each section in half. After cutting up both sheets, you will have 12 small rectangles of pastry. It is easier to cut the pastry, and to maintain the rectangular shapes, when the dough is still a tiny bit frozen. Set the pastry rectangles to one side in a single layer (if they are touching each other, they may stick together).

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and add onions and fennel. Cook until onion is soft; add chili flakes (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to the onion/fennel mixture and cook until liquid is released and mixture is relatively dry. Add the sausage, and cook until all liquid has evaporated, breaking up sausage as much as possible. Check seasonings, then let mixture cool for a few minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Place one pastry rectangle into each muffin cup; the edges will drape over, which is fine–the end result will be somewhat free form. Distribute the filling among the muffin cups, sprinkle parsley (if using) and about 1/2 tbsp. Parmesan/Romano on top of each puff, and bring the pastry edges over the filling to loosely cover.

4. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce

20 Aug

This is the dish I was beginning to prepare yesterday when I got side-tracked by my daughter’s lovely Mediterranean Wrap.

I first tasted these satays at a friend’s house when we were living in Australia. I could not get enough of the peanut sauce and I could not get over that fact that our friend had made it from scratch. Even now, I’m happy to just have the sauce on rice after the satays have all disappeared, which they will do soon after making their initial appearance. I usually serve the satays with some diced cucumber sprinkled with seasoned rice vinegar and crushed red pepper.

If  threading satays and making sauce seems like too much, just marinate boneless chicken breasts (or thighs) in the marinade and throw on the grill for a delectable dinner; the chicken by itself is also fantastic.

This recipe is originally from an Australian Women’s  Weekly cookbook. Note the time needed to marinate the chicken.

Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce
Makes about 20+ satays

2 lb. (or about 1 kg.) chicken breast, cut in half horizontally, then cut into thin strips

4 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
4 tbsp. canola oil
1.5 tsp. curry powder

Peanut Sauce
1-2 tbsp. canola oil
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
4 oz. low-sodium roasted peanuts, very finely chopped (or crushed with a mortar and pestle)
1/4-1/2 cup (60-120 ml.) cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt or soy sauce
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup fruit chutney (Major Grey, mango)
¾ cup (177 ml.) lite coconut milk
1/8 cup (25 gr.) sugar; you can use brown sugar if preferred**

Marinade: Combine marinade ingredients in large bowl with lid. Add chicken, coat well, cover, and marinate in refrigerator overnight (or at least for a few hours). If you will be using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking the chicken.

Sauce: Cook onion and garlic in oil until onion begins to turn golden. Add spices and peanuts, and cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer slowly for 30 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Cover and keep warm.

After the chicken has marinated, thread the  strips onto skewers. Grill or broil chicken. Serve satays with peanut sauce (and cucumber salad if desired) as an appetizer, or add rice to make into a meal.

** [Note Feb. 2013: I recently made the sauce and forgot to add the sugar — and discovered it tasted great without it; use the sugar if you like the sauce to be a bit sweeter.]

Recipe: Red Lentil Dip

30 Jun

If you love hummus but would like something a little different, here’s a recipe that is equally nutritious and great with pita chips, pita bread, or crackers. Adapted from Cooking Light, this dip has a light curry flavor. Red lentils turn yellow when cooked; the turmeric brings out the golden color.

Red Lentil Dip
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 c. dried small red lentils
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. chilli flakes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Place lentils and bay leaf in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover saucepan, and simmer about 10 minutes or until tender, adding water if needed. If any water remains after lentils are fully cooked, drain well. Discard bay leaf.

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent; add pine nuts and garlic and cook 5 minutes or until nuts are lightly browned. Stir in spices and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold in tomato paste and lemon juice.

Add onion mixture to lentils in saucepan and puree with an immersion blender, or use a food processor and process until smooth.