Category Archives: Appetizers

Roasted Barbecue-Spiced Potato Wedges with Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

 

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I was trying to squeeze the last bits of daylight into my photos, taking pictures on the back patio.  It was close to sunset, and the dusky blue light sat cool and muted on my (finally) ready to photograph potato wedges.  I briefly glanced up and looked toward the back of the yard, near my garden.  The choir in my mind sang a glorious major chord as I saw honey-colored beams peeking over the fence, bathing the far half of the yard in a deliciously warm glow.  Oh brother.  I knew what I had to do.  One large wooden photo background, a cutting board filled with herbs in progress, bowls, measuring spoons, and the like, all needed to make it, stat, to the other side of the yard.  The neighbors probably question my sanity.  In my twenties, I cared about this a bit, but not so much anymore.  I’m beginning to understand the reason for the sequined hats and carefree attitudes of those twice as old as me–at a certain point, one just can’t take as much time to care about appearing foolish when it is magic is happening on the other side of the yard!  I balanced all my props, food and accoutrements on my photo background and carried them topsy turvy style to the prime location. 

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Liz Gilbert, although I was already well on my way to the deep end, this is partly your fault.  You wrote a little book about creativity and inspiration called Big Magic that has only served to amplify my spontaneous and wild creative urges.  I heard your voice in my head saying,  “If inspiration is calling from the other side of the yard, get thee to the other side of the yard!”  When seduced by inspiration, I create big messes, almost unknowingly and frenetically.  When I wake up from my altered state, I see my creation, and all the creative shrapnel, and almost don’t know what happened.

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In my last post, I shared a recipe for the Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip I’m utterly addicted to.  I love to dollop this dip on everything– breakfast hashes, crackers, veggies, and even eat it by the spoonful (don’t judge me!).  I must make a confession.  I’ve been withholding the recipe that this dip was created for–these Roasted Barbecue potato wedges.  I love this dip so much on its own that I thought it deserved its very own post.  

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These spiced potato wedges come together very easily, and make a great side or party appetizer.  I love the combination garlicky, smoky wedges with the cool herby dip.  Do you have smoked paprika in your spice cabinet?  I love to add it into my spice mixture for anything I want to add a savory smokiness to–veggie crumbles for taco meat, corn on the cob, pan fried tempeh, and many other things.

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It might be inconvenient at times, but I believe it’s infinitely worth it to say yes to the magically golden light on the other side of the yard, yes to the frenetic messes that appear as a side effect of creative reverie, yes to deciding to photograph a recipe at 6 pm when daylight hours are melting away, yes, yes, yes to the cheap little thrills that make life more colorful and exciting, and by all means, yes to roasty potato wedges with dip!

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Roasted Barbecue-Spiced Potato Wedges with Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

  • 2 pounds medium yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip for serving (optional), recipe here

Preheat oven to 425˚.

On a baking sheet, toss the potatoes with the olive oil, spices, salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the bottoms of the potatoes are golden and crispy.  Use a stiff spatula to pop the potatoes off the pan using a firm scraping motion.  Serve while hot with the dip.

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Filed under Appetizers, Sauces, Side Dishes, Snacks, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip (v, gf)

 

 

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Lactose intolerants and L.I sympathizers, gather round!  This is the holy grail of creaminess for all who can’t eat dairy yet still crave dip.  Sour cream, oh, how I’ve missed you these past few years!  I came across this recipe for the “best damn vegan sour cream” on Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry, and I thought to myself, we’ll see about that. I felt like I was anticipating a blind date (which is how the Mister and I met, by the way).  Don’t get your hopes up too high.  This could be really good, but it could also end up like all those other train wrecks.  I’ve been holding out hope for a sour cream substitute that a) doesn’t taste like cashews, b) doesn’t taste like plastic, c) has the texture of sour cream, and most importantly, d) Is made with real, whole ingredients, not chemicals.  Is that asking too much?  To say the least, I was very pleasantly surprised (both by the sour cream and the man)!  The Mister and I are celebrating our 9 year wedding anniversary on Thursday, and I’ve got my 9th batch of vegan sour cream in the fridge.  I’d say things are going quite well!  

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When cashews are soaked, something magical and ethereal happens.  See their halo?   Soaking the cashews softens their flavor, and most importantly, makes them blendable and transformable.  If you read my last post, you know the name of the game for me right now is to eat, eat, eat.   My strategy is to devour as many nutritious, calorie-dense whole foods as possible.  Whether you’re trying to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain, I am convinced that there is no fad diet or quick fix better than just eating real food.  Enter, delicious herby dip.  

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What is the history of dip?  Is it an american thing?  Or did we just create a blanket term for any kind of thick sauce scooped up by a vehicle such as a veggie or a cracker?  David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria  exhaustively researched the subject, and I can sum it up with the following: the 50’s, the invention of potato chips, the emerging American couch potato class, and the need to deliver food to one’s mouth while watching the glowing box…  Another proud example of American ingenuity.  Americans loved dipping so much that we changed the word from a verb to a noun.  The emergence of the first recipe for crudité also emerged in France around the same time.  Crudité sounds so much more sophisticated than dip, but it’s a means to the same end: Use something delicious and crispy to deliver something saucy and flavorful into your mouth. Repeat if needed. 

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Luckily, dip doesn’t have to be that packet of processed powder that we have probably all stirred into sour cream and devoured at some point or another.  Although admittedly addictive and tasty, the first three ingredients are maltodextrin, salt and monosodium glutamate.  That doesn’t sound like food to me! I like to whip up a batch of this real food dip to snack on throughout the week (or, let’s be honest–over the course of a few days).  It’s cool and herby with hints of garlic and onion, creamy, and smooth.  The hardest part is remembering to get those cashews soaking.  The rest comes together quite quickly!  I’m looking forward to the tenth year sharing life’s crazy adventures with the Mister, and I’m sure my 10th batch of vegan sour cream will be close to follow!  Enjoy your maiden vegan sour cream voyage!  

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Lemon-Herb Cashew Sour Cream Dip

This cashew sour cream has become a staple in my house.  One of my cookbooks has a rule:  Always be soaking.  I agree, it’s best to be ready to whip up this dip when the craving strikes!  I use my high-powered (Vitamix) blender to achieve an extra- smooth texture.  Any blender will do, but just make sure to scrape down the edges as you go, and add a little extra water if needed.   This dip can be made a day or two ahead of time, and the flavor improves when chilled overnight.  If you would like to make plain sour cream, which has an infinite number of uses, just omit the dip ingredients!  

For the sour cream:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB fresh lemon juice (finely grate and reserve 1/2 tsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup water (plus additional if needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dip:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced dill leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Additional minced herbs to garnish

Make the cashew sour cream:

Drain the soaked cashews, and put them in a blender with the lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast and salt.  If it is too thick and won’t blend, add additional water, a tablespoon at a time.  Blend for about 3-5 minutes until very smooth, stopping to scrape down the edges if needed.  Chill for 2 hours or more (or, in a pinch, put in the freezer for 20 minutes until cold and slightly thickened.

In a medium bowl, mix the cashew sour cream with all of the dip ingredients.  Season with salt to taste and garnish with the herbs.

 

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Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Sauces, Snacks, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Lemony Steam-Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

 

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I first saw an artichoke plant while wandering through a botanical garden in Spain.  Have you ever seen one?  Quite a prickly beast, and I do mean beast!  Since then, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of growing my own, even though Colorado isn’t exactly known for artichokes.  I’m cornering off a little–okay–sizable corner of my garden for the beast to expand.  I dream of little shop of horrors style plants, arms reaching out, prickly mouths open wide.

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Eating an artichoke is a religious experience.  Don’t talk to me, and don’t give me a napkin.  Just let me pluck and dip and scrape and savor.  They make me so food-protective that I have to make more than anyone in my household could ever eat in a night.  Here’s your artichoke (if you don’t eat it all, I’ll finish it off), and here are my artichokes.  You may have all the aioli you would like (I made an inhuman amount so that you would not eat my share.

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Back in the day, I started making artichokes the way most do, by boiling them in salted water (play disappointing music here).  Why would I want to infuse my artichoke with nothing?  Then, I steamed them in water with lemons and garlic.  Meh.  The first time I roasted an artichoke, I thought, Now we’re talking!.  

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My newest method involves roasting the artichokes face down with a garlicky olive oil mixture, and then pouring enough white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan to steam the artichokes at the same time.  The artichokes become more tender, and in the end, that means more artichoke to eat!  I hope you enjoy luxuriously plucking, dipping, scraping, and savoring as much as I do.

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 White Wine Steam-Roasted Artichokes With Garlic and Cherry Tomatoes

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (about a cup), halved if large
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine (or dry vermouth, or broth)
  • 1/3 cup additional water or broth
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Prepare the artichokes:

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of one of the lemons, about 2 tablespoons.  Cut off the top inch of one artichoke, and the bottom of the stem, leaving an inch or so of the stem intact.  Using kitchen scissors, cut off the tips of the leaves.  Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.  Place one half in the acidulated water while you work with the remaining artichoke.

On a cutting board, smash the garlic and  one teaspoon of the salt into a paste using the side of a chefs knife.  Put the garlic paste into a small bowl.  Juice one of the remaining lemons into the bowl.  Cut off the peel of the remaining lemon (top and bottom first, then cut off the sides in sheets, making sure to remove the white pith).  Chop the peeled lemon, discarding the seeds, and add to the bowl.  Add the olive oil, dried herbs, crushed red pepper, and a few grindings of black pepper.  Whisk everything together.

Rub every surface of each artichoke half with the garlic oil mixture, making sure to push some of it in between the leaves.  Arrange the artichokes face down in a dutch oven (a roasting pan or casserole dish will work too).  Scatter the cherry tomatoes over top, and use your fingers to toss them around, trying to coat them with some of the oil mixture that has settled in the pan.  Pour the white wine or vermouth into the bottom of the pan along with the additional 1/3 cup broth or water.

Roast, covered, in the oven at 375˚F for 35-45 minutes, or until the outside leaves easily pull away from the artichoke.

Serve with lemon-garlic aioli or your other favorite dipping sauce.

Lemon-Garlic (Cheater’s) Aioli

Sometimes (okay, rarely), I go through the extra effort to make real aioli.  Most of the time, I start with a good quality mayo and go from there.  This is just one of my go-to combinations for artichokes.  If you like spicy aioli,  chile-garlic paste.   If you just want a little spice, garnish the top with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (use vegan mayo if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced and smashed into a paste (or finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (chile garlic paste)*, or 1/8 tsp-1/2 tsp ground cayenne

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cayenne if desired.

*Sambal Oelek can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores

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Filed under Appetizers, Condiments, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Butternut Squashadillas with Frizzled Onions and Sage

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Here in the spooniverse, you may have noticed that I like to make up words.  In fact, today’s post contains no less than 4 made up words, including my newest tortilla-enveloped friend, the squashadilla.  Yes, it is a made up word.  No, I didn’t exactly make it up, but I so appreciated the clever lad or lady that first coined the concept that I immediately decided to adopt the term and adapt the recipe. Could roasted butternut squash really take the place of cheese in a quesadilla?  Be still my beating heart.

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I try not to pawn off my hare-brained recipes on dinner guests, unless I am sure that it’s a legitimately tasty recipe and not just filled with healthy things prepared in boring ways.  My lovely readers, I wouldn’t dream of giving you a recipe that hadn’t been fully vetted by a panel of skeptical but open-minded eaters.  I’m happy to say that this recipe has been fully tested and approved by a dinner party full of diverse eaters, and a teachers lounge chock full of hungry colleagues.  I knew I had found some unbiased test subjects when each of them raised an eyebrow upon hearing me say as maniacally as a mad scientist with hair all willy-nilly, “I made squashadillas!!!  Waaaaaaant one?”.  Ummmm, okay…? Sure!    How can you say no to a maniac who’s offering you a food with as fun of a name as this?

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So without further ado, I present you the squashadilla.  Roasted butternut squash, mashed with frizzled onions–now wait a minute!  What are frizzled onions?  I think “frizzled” is a more fitting term than sauteed when we’re talking thinly sliced onions that are cooked at a heat that is just slightly hotter than usual, and stirred slightly less than usual, resulting in some of that browned, roasty caramelized flavor.  If you slice ‘em thin, these little guys help the squash to mimic some of that melted cheese texture you want in a quesadilla.  As a nod to the traditional quesadilla flavor I love, I added an ample amount of chile powder.  In honor of the butternut squash,  I incorporated one of its best buds, flavor-affinity wise, fresh sage. Everything is mashed together and hugged between two tortillas, rubbed down with coconut oil, and baked until the edges are golden and crisp.

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In closing, I thought I’d round off this post with a review of lessons learned:

•squash (sometimes)=cheese

•made up words can be totally legit

•onions can be frizzly

•squashadillas are a perfectly reasonable substitute for quesadillas

•never say no to a maniac offering you a squashadilla

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Butternut “Squashadillas” with Frizzled Onions and Sage

makes 2 10-inch Squashadillas

These are the sort of appetizer or simple dinner that people will curiously try, then polish off in a hot minute.  Guac or a good salsa make good accompaniments.  Serve right out of the oven, crispy and hot.

•1 small butternut squash (halved and seeded)

•1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

•3 cloves garlic, minced

•2 teaspoons (packed) very thinly sliced sage leaves

•1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder

•salt to taste

•Olive oil (coconut oil works too)

•four 10-inch whole wheat tortillas

Preheat oven to 375˚F.  Rub the cut ends of the butternut squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Put face down on a nonstick baking sheet and roast for about 35 minutes, or until the flesh is tender.  Allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick frying pan.  When hot, add the onion slices and cook over medium high heat until soft.  Don’t stir too often–you want the edges to be “frizzled” and deeply golden.

Add the garlic and sage, and stir constantly for a minute until garlic softens.  Add the butternut squash flesh and mash it into the onion mixture with a wooden spoon.  Add the chile powder and kosher salt to taste.

Heat tortillas in oven until pliable.  Spread half of the butternut squash mixture onto a tortilla and top with another tortilla.  Repeat with the rest of the mixture.  Brush the tortillas with olive oil or coconut oil and bake at 350˚F on a sheet pan until golden and crispy on the edges, about 6 minutes on each side (flip halfway through).

Serve while hot.

Variations:  

•Substitute different herbs, such as cilantro or rosemary and thyme

•Use the butternut mixture as a filling for vegan enchiladas

•Play around with the spice mixture, adding coriander, cumin, etc…

•Let me know what other variations you come up with!

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Filed under Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes

Quick Bite: Pan con Tomate

You know those days where you forget to set your alarm clock, and when you get out of bed and hour late, your hair is sleep-sculpted into a style reminiscent to Flock of Seagulls?  Then, you can’t find your keys, and when you finally do, you’re running out the door wearing only one earring and stuffing a piece of raw toast (aka: bread) into your mouth?  Well, due to some fun reasons (Amsterdam, anyone?), and some frazzling reasons, this has been a month where I’ve felt like the treadmill is one speed too fast.  So, I’m happy to be back here, cooking and writing in one of my favorite places, with some of my favorite people (you!).

In order to get back into the swing of things, I wanted to share a quick bite with you. The Mister and I first discovered pan con tomate on our trip to Spain last year.  Our bus, from Madrid to Granada, had taken a pitstop in the countryside.  The service station there housed a long, diner-like counter.  The man behind the counter brewed espresso, and fixed quick bites for the travelers to eat.  I watched a girl, sitting at one of the rickety tables in the seating area, pour what looked like fresh crushed tomatoes from a syrup pitcher onto a piece of toasted crusty bread.  She drizzled olive oil over top and sprinkled it with salt.  I jabbed the Mister.  I want that.  That’s what I want!  We saw “Pan con Tomate” written in chalk on the menu board and ordered.

The Mister and I doctored up our bread like we saw the locals do, and crunched into our first bites. I couldn’t believe how simultaneously sweet, tangy and earthy the combination of the tomatoes were when drizzled with good olive oil.  In Spain, pan con tomate is served for breakfast, lunch and as an afternoon snack to hold you over until dinnertime, which is usually quite late by American standards.  Pan con tomate soon became my breakfast of choice.

Now’s the time of year when the tomatoes on my 16 massive plants are ready to harvest.  When I harvested a “Mortgage Lifter” tomato last week that weighed in at a pound, its destiny was already chosen.  I may be running around like the pigeon lady muttering to-do lists, with two unmatched socks, but at least I can rest assured that when I come home, during these early-autumn harvest days, simple soul-satisfying food is just steps away.

 Pan Con Tomate:

Makes 2 main course servings, or 4 side/snack size servings

  • 1 crusty baguette, halved lengthwise
  • 1 large, ripe beefsteak type tomato (about 1 pound), halved
  • good quality olive oil, for drizzling
  • sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Slice the tomato in half, and grate with the large holes of a box grater, discarding most of the skin.

Cut the baguette halves into serving-size pieces (2 or 3 pieces each half).  Bake the baguette slices in the oven for 4-6 minutes until lightly toasted.  Rub the cloves of garlic on the bread.  Drizzle olive oil onto the bread, then spoon the grated tomato onto the bread.  Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast and Brunch, Side Dishes