Beet Hummus

beet-hummus

You may have seen beet hummus before – that dip that transcends all dips, the upstager on the party table, flamboyantly fuscia in color, with FIESTA written all over it. Yep, that would be the beet hummus. Sure, the name is rather frumpy, but it makes up for any nomenclatural dowdiness with its captivating vibrance and subtle sweetness tinged with citrus and spice. In this recipe, I match the powerful visuals with bold flavors, and spike the hummus with Sriracha and lime, which stand up well to the earthy backdrop of the beets and round out the flavors.

beet-hummus-tastefood

Beet Hummus

This dip is a looker, it tastes great, and it’s healthy, too. Serve it with a kaleidoscope of cruditees for dipping, such as carrots, watermelon radishes, and cucumber wedges. Eating your daily dose of veggies never tasted this good.

Makes about 2 cups

2 to 3 medium red beets, about 12 ounces, roasted until tender, skin removed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or half lemon/half lime)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add more oil to your desired consistency (it should not be soupy) and taste for seasoning.
2. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with finely grated lemon zest, chopped mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita and cruditees.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad

avocado shrimp salad

It may sound cliche, but “less is more” and “what you see is what you get” are perfectly descriptive of this clean and refreshing salad. Layered with citrus, briny shrimp, sweet onion, and creamy avocado, each ingredient hits the right spot and unites in a light and lovely summer lunch or salad course.

Shrimp, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad
Serves 2 to 4

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt
Fresh lime juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
12 large (16/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large avocado, halved, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 ruby grapefruit, sectioned, membranes removed
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

1. Salt the onion slices and place in a colander in the sink or over a plate for 20 minutes. Rinse with cold water and blot dry, then toss the slices with 1 tablespoon lime juice.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, and cook until colored on both sides and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to a plate.
3. Halve and pit the avocado, then cut into 1/4-inch slices
4. Cut away the skin and pith of the grapefruit, then cut away the membranes and seed the segments.
5. On individual serving plates, layer the avocado, grapefruit, onion, and shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

 

Homemade Country Pâté (Pâté de Campagne) with Cranberries and Pistachios

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios ~

I always make homemade pâté for the holidays. It’s a great appetizer to serve at a party with charcuterie, as well as a delicious savory addition to a fireside dinner. Homemade pâté is surprisingly easy to make and can be prepared well in advance of any festivities. Its method incorporates “packing” – which, in charcuterie terms, involves jamming a terrine mold with ground spiced meat, spirits, eggs, and cream and baking it in a water bath. The resulting baked brick of spiced and fortified meat is weighted down and banished to the refrigerator to sit for a day or two to become comfortable with it’s brash flavorings while anticipation builds –  just as it would the day before Christmas as you eye unopened presents placed beneath the tree. When the time is right (2 days at least) the terrine is retrieved from the refrigerator and its wrapping discarded, uncovering a rich, meaty country pâté, chunky with nuts and fruit.

I have fiddled with this recipe over the years, and lately become enamored of wild boar. Boar reminds me of Europe, where it’s a frequent ingredient in charcuterie. It may be purchased in specialty stores, through a butcher or mail order. Since it’s so lean, it’s important to combine the boar meat with a fattier cut such as pork shoulder. Alternatively, you can substitute veal for the boar meat.

Country Pâté with Boar, Pork, Cranberries, and Pistachios

Begin at least two days before serving to allow the flavors to develop. You can either grind your own meat, or simply have your butcher grind the meat for you.

Serves 20

1 pound ground boar shoulder (or veal)
1 pound ground pork shoulder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing terrine
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Calvados
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Coarsely ground peppercorns for garnish

1. If you are grinding your own meat, then cut the boar and pork in 3/4-inch cubes. Place the meat in a large bowl and add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Grind with a meat grinder before proceeding.
2. If you are using ground meat, combine the boar and pork in a large bowl. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander, and cloves. Mix to thoroughly combine, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) Add the bacon to the meat and return the meat to the refrigerator while you prepare the onions.
4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add to the meat.
5. Combine the eggs, cream and calvados in a small bowl. Add to the meat and mix well.
6. Butter a loaf pan or terrine. Press one third of the meat into the terrine. Sprinkle half of the pistachios and half of the cranberries evenly over the surface. Press another third of the meat into the terrine. Top with the remaining pistachios and cranberries and cover with the remaining meat. Cover the terrine tightly with foil and prick 2 to 3 holes in the foil. Place the terrine in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the baking pan halfway up the sides of the terrine.
7. Bake in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 155°F, about 1 1/2 hours.Remove from the oven and remove the terrine from the water bath. Place a terrine press over the pate (or a cutting board with cans on top) and cool completely. Transfer the weighted terrine to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before serving.
8. To serve, un-mold the pate and scrape off any congealed fat. Cut into slices, about ½-inch thick. Garnish with the peppercorns. Serve with cornichons, Dijon-style mustard, and fresh French baguette or country bread.

Caramelized Onion Tart with Gruyere

onion tart tastefood

This tart is a vehicle for two of my favorite things – caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese. Caramelized onions are super sweet, thanks to the cooking process which takes the time to allow the natural juices and sugars to release and reduce, resulting in a squidgy caramelized heap of onion. Gruyere cheese is a wonderful Swiss melting cheese (and a key ingredient in fondue) which is nutty and piquant and tames the sweetness of the onions. Serve this tart as a light meal, or cut into thin slivers and pass around as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart
Serves 8

Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter,  cut in 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Filing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Calvados
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Prepare the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter visible. Add the water and pulse once or twice – just until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Dump the dough onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onions and salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, about 30 minutes. Add the Calvados and black pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
4. Roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round tart tin. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spread the onions in the shell and sprinkle the thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is firm and golden and the onions are deeply colored. without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with additional thyme.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Rosemary


Certain food combinations are not meant to be messed with – and this is a classic example: Plump seductive figs, salty supple prosciutto, and fresh creamy goat cheese are a holy triumvirate. Teamed up with rosemary (does that make it a quadrumvirate?) and roasted in the oven until crispy, bubbling, and luscious, you have a sensational appetizer – period; forget the Latin lesson.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese (and Rosemary)

The rosemary sprigs do double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the cheese and figs with woodsy aroma while they bake in the oven. The trick is to discard the roasted sprigs and replace them with fresh leaves as a decorative garnish for serving.

Makes 16

8 ripe figs
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
16 (3/4-inch) rosemary sprigs with stem
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary leaves
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut each fig in half lengthwise and place on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix the goat cheese and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Fill the indentation with goat cheese. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around the fig, like a belt. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves.

Place the figs in a baking dish and lightly brush the prosciutto strips with olive oil. Bake in the oven until the prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and transfer the figs to a platter. Gently remove and discard the baked rosemary sprigs; fill the incision with a few fresh rosemary leaves. Lightly drizzle the figs with honey and garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Mint, and Pistachios

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
The secret ingredient in this recipe is pomegranate molasses, a viscous syrup made from the juice of pomegranates. Sweet, tart and sticky, it adds a unique flavor to marinades and sauces. I like to use it with chicken breast meat, because it gives a welcome flavor boost to the mild white meat, and the sugars help to caramelize the chicken while grilling. Pomegranate molasses is a popular Middle Eastern condiment, and can be purchased in the international section of your supermarket or at specialty stores.

I made these skewers for a cocktail party I catered a few weeks ago and posted a photo without a recipe on Facebook and Instagram. They were a huge hit with the guests – and my followers – and a number of you asked for the recipe. At last here it is.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Pistachios and Mint
Serves 4 to 6

Marinade:
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

Sauce:
1 cup whole milk Greek style yogurt
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted pistachios
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and set aside about 1/4 cup for basting. Place the chicken in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and stir to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Grill the skewers over direct heat, basting once, then turn and continue to cook until the chicken is lightly charred and thoroughly cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning again as needed.
4. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Lightly drizzle with oil and sprinkle the pistachios and mint over the skewers. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini

crostini peppers

Late summer reaps brimming bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl where they do double-duty as a decorative centerpiece. Gnarly basques, pristine cherries, sturdy pimentos, and pert jalapeños vie for my attention, and I slowly pick away at my psychedelic pile of peppers as I cook throughout the week, adding them to salads, stews, pasta, and pizzas.

This simple recipe showcases a colorful assortment peppers on crostini and makes a great starter to a meal. I like to use a mix of sweet and hot for more complex flavor. When using hot peppers, such as poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños, remember that they can vary in heat, so take a small bite to test their strength. The heat is concentrated in the ribs and seeds of the pepper, so remove as much as desired with kitchen gloves or the tip of a paring knife to protect your fingers from the oils.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini with Mozzarella

Choose a variety of peppers to your taste – for this recipe I used poblanos, hungarian pimentos, and gypsy peppers. Makes 12 large crostini.

Crostini:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
12 slices baguette, cut on the diagonal, ½-inch thick

Peppers:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet summer peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Make the crostini:
Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Saute the peppers:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Arrange a slice of mozzarella over each crostini. Top with some of the peppers. Broil in the oven until the cheese begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and  garnish with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.