Category Archives: Appetizers

Nothing against my favorite, pumpkin pie…but there’s so much more!

Published 10/3/2017 in Bob’s Fresh and Local CSA Newsletter

I always make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, and I like to make them “from scratch,” with real pumpkin, not canned. It’s so easy — why not? All it requires is to slice the pumpkin in two, scoop and scrape out seeds and pulp (and set aside for roasted pumpkin seeds), oil, and place face side down on a roasting pan in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. At the end of the cooking time, remove from the oven, cool, and easily scoop out the pumpkin flesh.

And of course there are the seeds, which I’m munching as I write. You don’t get those with canned pumpkin! I put them in a colander with the pulp, run cold water over them, rubbing the seeds and pulp together. The seeds easily pull away, and I discard the pulp. Usually I dry the seeds briefly, then oil and salt them and oven roast in a shallow pan. This time, for some reason, I decided to pan roast them in a cast iron pan. I had just made some sweet pita in that pan using maple syrup, and I was too lazy to wash the pan, so I just threw in the seeds over the bits of darkened maple syrup and stirred constantly until they browned slightly and voila! Done. Delicious.

There are so many ways to use pumpkin that I can’t even count them. I get my inspiration from Morocco most of the time. Those folks love pumpkin and are so creative with it! Pumpkin soups, kibbee, stews, stuffed.

This week I’m going to share two pumpkin hummus recipes, the first with a slightly sweet profile, the second a savory Lebanese version. The Lebanese version didn’t have chickpeas in it, and it was lovely, but I confess to having an aversion to calling things hummus that don’t have chickpeas since in both Hebrew and Arabic, “hummus” means chickpeas as well as the “dip” in which they are used. When I finished the slightly sweet hummus, I had a few extra chickpeas, so I threw them into the Lebanese hummus mix, and it was delicious. I could have used more and will next time.

PUMPKIN HUMMUS

Blend the following until as smooth as you like it:

  • Chickpeas, 2 cups cooked (I always make my own from dried beans, but if you used canned, rinse and drain)
  • Pumpkin, 2 cups prepared as above
  • Cinnamon, 2 tsp.
  • Ginger root, peeled and minced, 2 tsp.
  • Salt, 1/8-1/4 tsp.
  • Nutmeg, 1/8-1/4 tsp.
  • Cloves, 2-4
  • Hot paprika, 1/8-1/4 tsp.
  • Sugar, 1 TB slightly rounded

For the “chips” on this one, I use whole wheat Lebanese pita, available in the Middle Eastern section of many stores. Cut it into chips and oven-crisp at 200 degrees until lightly toasted. Remove, cool and bag up for use later.

For this slightly sweet hummus, I stirred the chips in a hot pan for a few minutes with a bit of olive oil, maple syrup and cinnamon. Yum.

LEBANESE PUMPKIN HUMMUS

Blend the following until as smooth as you like it:

  • Pumpkin, prepared as above, 600-700 grams
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed, 2 TB
  • Garlic, 1 clove, minced
  • Tahini, 5 TB
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1/4 tsp.
  • Extra virgin olive oil for garnish
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Serve this one with the regular pita chips from the Lebanese pita, not sweetened. Enjoy these delicious variations on a classic Middle Eastern favorite.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

CSA Veggie Yummies This Week

Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.
Hummus with radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini & red bell peppers.

I had two social occasions last week so took Hummus with CSA veggies to one (greens, radishes, kohlrabi, zucchini and red bell peppers) and pasta salad to the other. This Hummus recipe, btw, is excellent. Be sure to check it out on this site.

For this pasta salad, I used (as always) whole wheat rotini, zucchini, tomatoes, chopped greens, Kalamata olives, capers, green onions, quartered artichoke hearts, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, hot paprika and salt to taste.

Pasta salad with CSA veggies.
Pasta salad with CSA veggies.

And then we enjoyed this wonderful Stir Fry for an at-home meal. I like to make a big bag of chopped greens for Fatoush early in the week when everything is beautifully fresh. I used some each day, and later in the week, I can start using what remains for a quick and easy stir fry. I also use up lots of greens — tops of radishes or kohlrabi in these dishes.

Stir Fry with Kohlrabi greens, Bok choy, green onions, radishes, lots of sliced onion, garlic, a bit of red bell pepper, sauteed tofu squares, brown Basmati rice, salt, hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil, a bit of soy sauce...mmm hmmm, can't beat that.
Stir Fry with Kohlrabi greens, Bok choy, green onions, radishes, lots of sliced onion, garlic, a bit of red bell pepper, sauteed tofu squares, brown Basmati rice, salt, hot paprika, extra virgin olive oil, a bit of soy sauce…mmm hmmm, can’t beat that.

Addendum: Ah – forgot all about this one. At the end of the week, I use up any leftover greens or other veggies in a soup. I used potatoes in this one as well and topped it off with quinoa, making it a nice, substantial dinner. This soup included a large onion, minced and sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with a little fresh minced garlic, about 4 cups of potatoes and 8-10 cups of chopped greens (I’m pretty sure the greens included kohlrabi tops as well as others), 6 cups of water and seasoning to taste. I typically use salt (2 tsp.), hot paprika (1/2 tsp.) and freshly squeezed lemon (1/4-1/2 cup or the juice of 1-2 lemons. And now I know what they mean by “pot liquor.” Mmmm…mmmm…good.

Soup with greens and quinoa.
Soup with greens and quinoa.

If you’d like more information about the CSA, please visit Bob’s Fresh and Local (produce) and All Grass Farms (livestock, chickens, milk and cheese).

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Muhammara: Spicy Walnut & Pomegranate “Salad”

Muhammara is a spicy walnut and pomegranate "salad," about the consistency of Hummus.
Muhammara is a spicy walnut and pomegranate “salad,” about the consistency of Hummus.

Muhammara (Arabic for “reddened”) wasn’t one of my original group of salads. I have a customer to thank for this delicious suggestion. Although it’s a classic Middle Eastern combination of ingredients, I hadn’t heard of it until someone asked for it when we catered their wedding. I tried a few different versions and finally settled on this one. Muhammara became a great favorite in my Cafe!

Muhammara is originally from Syria but is enjoyed throughout the Middle East and Turkey.

MUHAMMARA (makes about 2 cups)
Ingredients

  • Walnuts, 2 cups
  • Pomegranate molasses, 4 TB
  • Red Bell Peppers, 4 large, roasted
  • Garlic, 2 cloves
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
  • Pita crumbs, dried/toasted, 1/2 cup
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.
  • Crushed red pepper, 2 tsp.
  • Tomato paste, 2 TB
  • Salt, 1 tsp.

Procedure

  1. Roast the peppers under a broiler until the skin is dark brown/blackish all the way around. Set aside to cool.
  2. Bread crumbs will work for this. I prefer to use my whole wheat Lebanese pita croutons (that I make for Fatoush). Sometimes I just put a whole piece of Lebanese pita into a low oven until it is thoroughly dry, then break off what I need for the Muhammara and save the rest for when I make Fatoush.
  3. Add all ingredients except the peppers to a food processor.
  4. When the peppers are sufficiently cooled, peel and remove the stems. The skins should slip off easily if they are well-roasted.
  5. Grind until smooth, or at least just slightly grainy from the walnuts.
  6. Garnish with additional pomegranate molasses/syrup and walnuts.

Enjoy as a dip with Pita or veggies. This unusual (although classic in the Middle East) blend of flavors will delight you, your family and your friends.

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Buffalo Cauliflower with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

Buffalo Cauliflower with Avocado Cilantro Sauce
Buffalo Cauliflower with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

Cauliflower is considered a super-veggie these days, and that’s good because I love it in any shape or form.

This Buffalo Cauliflower made a fun, light dinner for us one evening along with salads. I put some of the Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce into the batter for the cauliflower, but it didn’t really spice it up all that much. No problem! We just dipped the cauliflower into it at the table – alternating with the Avocado Cilantro Sauce.

Avocado Cilantro Sauce Ingredients

  • Avocado, one ripe
  • Cilantro, 1-1/2 cups roughly cut (probably about a bunch once any brown stems are removed)
  • Lime, juice of 2
  • Unfiltered sugar, 1 tsp. (opt.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp.

Buffalo Cauliflower Batter Ingredients

  • Almond or Coconut Milk, 1 cup
  • Whole wheat flour or spelt flour, 3/4 – 1 cup
  • Garlic powder, 1 TB
  • Frank’s hot sauce, 1/2 cup, opt.
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. First of all, most of the recipes I found didn’t involve frying. I wanted to fry my Buffalo Cauliflower because I had a new Waring Pro Deep Fryer that I wanted to try out. Since I wanted to fry the wings, I couldn’t add the Frank’s Wing Sauce after the wings were baked some and the batter sealed them. I added it into the batter that I dipped them in. It didn’t come through that strongly, but we just dipped the cauliflower directly into the Frank’s alternately with the Avocado Cilantro Sauce. It worked well for us that way, because I have people around me who are heat sensitive.
  2. I prepared the Avocado Cilantro Sauce first. I put the rough cut cilantro into the food processor and pulsed it until it was fairly fine. Then I added the seasonings and lime along with chunked avocado and pulsed a few more times. I usually leave the sugar out of recipes. Don’t need it.
  3. Set the sauce aside.
  4. Prepare the batter. I added the Frank’s Wing Sauce to the batter. It gave it a little zip but not much, really. You can skip this and just serve the sauce with the Buffalo Cauliflower. I did need to add more flour than the recipe I started with so the batter would cling well for frying. Replacing part of the flour with flaxseed would work well for this purpose also.
  5. Deep fry the florets at 375 degrees for 3 or 4 minutes.
  6. Serve with Avocado Cilantro Sauce and Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce.

Mmmm…mmm…good!

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Matboukha (Moroccan Salsa)

matboukha01

I often serve Matboukha as a salad in the typical Middle Eastern style with pita (or Challah) for dipping. It is a delicious and versatile cooked tomato salad.  I have also used it for Shakshouka, a Middle Eastern dish in which eggs are poached in saucy tomatoes and peppers. Whenever I make something that calls for a tomato sauce, I like to use this one for a unique flavor.

MATBOUKHA
This recipe makes 2 quarts

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
  • Garlic, 4-6 lg. cloves
  • Green pepper, 1 large
  • Tomato paste, 3 oz. (half a small can) – opt.
  • Plum tomatoes, 15 large
  • Cilantro, 1/2 cup chopped, packed
  • Salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1 TB.
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1.5 tsp.

Directions

  1. Petite dice the tomatoes, and place in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and allow the liquid to be released. This won’t take long. Drain with a colander (you can reserve the liquid that drains and use it as a soup base).
  2. Petite dice the green pepper and set aside.
  3. Finely chop the garlic, and saute it briefly in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the petite diced pepper, continuing to saute until pepper softens.
  4. Add the other seasonings (salt, cumin, hot paprika) and saute briefly.
  5. Add the thoroughly drained tomatoes and turn off the heat.
  6. Add the tomato paste to thicken, up to half of a six oz. can.
  7. Add the finely chopped cilantro.
  8. Serve with bread for “dipping” or use in another dish.