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.

Back to School Basics: Easy Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Everyone needs a good granola recipe up their sleeve. Homemade granola is a healthy pantry staple, great for quick breakfasts and wholesome snacks. It’s also very easy to make, requiring only 30 minutes. I follow a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have on hand.  Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Granola:

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

This recipe also appears in my Food and Drink column at Marin Magazine.

Jerk Chicken

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Carribean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

Marinade:
6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

Method:
1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce tf

If you are like me and enjoy homemade tomato sauce year round, this recipe will do the trick. While summer tomatoes are ideal for any tomato sauce, you can still manage a decent sauce with your supermarket variety. Start by roasting the tomatoes to coax out and concentrate their flavor – and don’t hold back on the seasoning. In this recipe I roasted an armful of plum tomatoes and added a roasted red pepper for extra sweetness and bold color. If decent plum tomatoes are nowhere to be found (it is March, after all), you can make the sauce with the ubiquitous grape tomatoes readily found in most shops. The key is to taste, taste, taste. Add a spoonful of sugar for the extra sweetness you miss.  Crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper add dimension to the sauce with a nice kick. And don’t be bashful when it comes to the salt. Keep on tasting, then let the sauce rest for a few moments to allow the flavors to meld. You will be pleased with the results: This no nonsense, faux summer sauce is a bright and fresh condiment to splash on pasta, smear on pizza, or layer into gratins any time of year.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Grape tomatoes may be substituted for the plum tomatoes. Note that you will not be able to remove their skins, which will yield a more chunky sauce.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds plum (roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush the tomatoes and peppers with oil and season with salt. Arrange in a rimmed baking pan, cut side down. Roast until  softened, beginning to shrivel and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch, then remove the skins. Combine the red bell pepper and tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent without coloring, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Havarti Cheese Fonduta

Castello Fonduta TasteFood

Roasted Potatoes and Broccolini with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

No, this is not about fondue…or not quite. Fonduta, is an Italian specialty hailing from the Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta regions. Like its French and Swiss alpine cousins, fonduta consists of melted cheese. Where it differs is in its preparation. While fondue is made in a pot with wine and simmered table-side over a flame, requiring constant stirring to prevent curdling, fonduta is a melty blend of cheese, milk, and often egg yolk, with a creamy yet stable consistency, allowing for more versatility, such as dipping or pouring.

Fonduta CruditeVegetable Cruditées with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

This recipe is an easy variation of fonduta, which takes advantage of the robust flavors of havarti cheese. The egg is omitted and the milk is partly replaced with cream, creating a rich canvas to allow the cheese to shine through. Served warm on a plate with roasted vegetables, it provides a comforting “soup” or drizzle. Served warm in a cup, it’s a lovely complement to crisp fresh cruditées.

Havarti Cheese Fonduta
Makes about 1/2 cup

4 ounces melting cheese, such as Havarti, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, toss the cheese and cornstarch to coat. Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese in 2 batches, stirring constantly to melt the cheese before adding the next batch. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat. Season with black pepper. Serve immediately as a bed for hearty roasted vegetables or with cruditées for dipping.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Lime shrimp tostadas

This post is tricky. For my East coast readers, I want to offer you a rich and meaty stew, guaranteed to bring warmth and comfort amidst teetering snowdrifts. For my West coast friends, I am tempted to make happy south-of-the-border food in honor of the ridiculous summer weather outside. So here is a compromise: These tostadas are warming and bright, satisfying and fresh. They go equally well in front of a crackling fire with a bracing shot of tequila, or eaten grill-side with a festive shot of tequila. Each of the components are stand-alone good, and when heaped onto a crispy corn tostada shell, it’s a winter (or summer) party on a plate.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Serves 4 to 6

For the black bean salsa:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn kernels from one ear of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful cilantro sprigs, chopped

For the rice:
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1 teaspoon salt

For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

Tostada shells
Lettuce leaves
Tomato salsa or hot sauce
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients, except the cilantro, in a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Before serving, add the cilantro.

2. Prepare the rice: Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, to lightly toast and thoroughly coat, about 1 minute. Add the stock and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

3. Prepare the shrimp. Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat). Remove the shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess liquid, and transfer to the skillet 0r grill. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides and just cooked through, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

5. To assemble the tostadas, lay a lettuce leaf over a tostada (corn) shell. Spoon some of the rice over the lettuce, then some of the black bean salsa over the rice. Top with 2 to 3 shrimp. Drizzle with a little tomato salsa or hot sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

Seasonal Crudites with your favorite dip

I am a diehard playoffs fan. Which is to say I am pretty oblivious to any sports season – until it gets to the playoffs. My last minute interest is amplified when it’s a Boston or a San Francisco team, due to history and my current zip code. As you can imagine, this can pose a dilemma. I have found myself at times the lone cheerleader for the other team, the guest-non-grata, risking loss of friends or getting pelted with tortilla chips. I can’t help it. Birthright rules, and so does Boston.  This year, once again, I am gearing up for the Superbowl, where the Patriots are on their way, and fortunately this year I have absolutely no conflict of interest. I may even be invited to a party.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

I get the chips, but if I am going to nosh for 3 hours while I watch a football game, I crave vegetables too. Here are a few of my favorite dips that go well with chopped veggies and chips alike – including this recipe for Guacamole

carrot hummus tastefoodCarrot Harissa Hummus

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Dip 

tsatsikiGarlicky Greek Yogurt Dip (Tsatsiki)

green olive tapenade tastefoodOlive and Almond Tapenade