Charred Eggplant Dip

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWith temperatures on the rise (finally!) in NYC, I'm looking forward to summery dinners–lots of salads and vegetables, fruit so juicy it doesn't need to be baked into a cake, dreaming of the day when I have a grill...you get the idea. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I made this eggplant dip the other day for my book club and it would make a perfect start to any spring or summer dinner party (whether or not you have a grill) and is an unexpected alternative to the same old hummus and carrot sticks.

Make sure to char the eggplant thoroughly, it gives it this amazing smoky flavor you don't get from just roasting.

IMG_3273platter c/o Katy Skelton / napkin from Birdkage

Charred Eggplant Dip (adapted from Food & Wine)

One 1 1/4-pound eggplant

2 large shallots, halved lengthwise

3 large garlic cloves

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 tablespoons minced mint

Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the eggplant over an open flame until softened and charred, 12 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish. Add the shallots and garlic to the eggplant, drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper; roast for 35 minutes, until very tender. Let cool completely. Scrape the eggplant flesh into a colander to drain for 15 minutes; discard the skin.

Mince the eggplant, garlic and shallots; transfer to a bowl. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice and herbs. Season the dip with salt and pepper and serve.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

_MG_6464I've been wanting to try my hand at making watermelon rind pickles since last summer, when I realized how much watermelon rind goes to waste when you eat the red part. I had also tried them at a great little restaurant in Williamsburg called Rye (get the duck confit), and I'm pretty happy with how well they turned out. _MG_6472 These are what you would call "quick pickles" - you don't seal the jars, but if you would prefer to use that method I'm sure it would work.  Serve with pulled pork sandwiches, chicken liver mousse, or as part of a cheese plate._MG_6474 Watermelon Rind Pickles (adapted from Epicurious)

1 4-pound piece watermelon, quartered

8 cups water

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar

8 whole cloves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)

8 whole black peppercorns

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 teaspoon pickling spice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Cut watermelon pulp from rind, leaving thin layer of pink on rind (reserve pulp for another use). Cut green outer skin from rind; discard. Cut enough rind into 1 x 1/2-inch pieces to measure 4 cups. Combine 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt in large pot; bring to boil. Add rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain. Transfer rinds to large metal bowl. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons salt, sugar and next 7 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over watermelon rinds in bowl. Place plate atop rinds to keep rinds submerged in pickling liquid. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Strain liquid from rinds into saucepan; bring to boil. Pour over rinds. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Repeat straining and boiling of liquid and pour over rinds 1 more time. Pour rind and liquid into jars and cover. (Will keep, refrigerated, for 2-3 weeks.)

Pea Pesto

_MG_6162This is one of my go-to spring recipes, especially for entertaining. The pea and basil together are super refreshing (you can also use mint), and since everything gets thrown in the food processor, it only takes minutes to prepare. My favorite way to eat is with toasted bread, but since I spent hours (literally) rolling out these flat breads one Saturday, I thought they would make a nice accent. (The flat bread is SO good, but very time-consuming due to all of the hand-rolling, and if you are going to make these, you should definitely not go to P90X that morning or you won't be able to lift your arms.)_MG_6172  

_MG_6167I also served with this amazing whipped feta (all credit goes to my friend Arie for introducing me to this recipe). Seriously, the next time you have people over (or not, if you want it all to yourself), you must make this. It's like whipped gold.

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Pea Pesto (makes about 1 cup)

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and defrosted

1/4 cup fresh basil

1/4 grated parmesan cheese

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until creamy, then season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately with bread or crackers of your choice, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days.

 

Iceberg Wedge Salad

_MG_5671 _MG_5675Most of the time, my preferred salads are either of the crunchy Asian variety, or some type of arugula-blue cheese-pear mash-up. But every now and then, all I really want is crisp iceberg lettuce, creamy blue cheese dressing, crispy bacon, and of course, avocado – yes, it might be old-fashioned, but sometimes you just can't beat a good iceberg wedge salad. I made these to go along with the wings while we were watching the Super Bowl, and I must say, it was pretty perfect. If you're anywhere on the East Coast, you're probably snowed in, or at least had a pretty bad commute this morning – and I think that this salad is the perfect antidote, hearty but crunchy, doused in a rich dressing and filled with salty delicious bits -- just how it should be for a snow day. _MG_5674

_MG_5686Iceberg Wedge Salad (adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 4)

4 oz. slab bacon (we used turkey bacon instead)

1/2 finely chopped shallot

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup crumbled mild blue cheese

1 small head of iceberg lettuce

1/4 thinly sliced small red onion

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Place a skillet over medium heat. Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces, and add to pan, cooking until crisp, 7-8 minutes. Place on a paper towel. Whisk shallot, sour cream, buttermilk, chives and vinegar in a small bowl, then slowly stir in blue cheese. Season well with salt and pepper.

Quarter the iceberg lettuce into wedges and place onto four plates. Drizzle with dressing, then sprinkle red onion, bacon, avocado and additional chives. Serve immediately.

Mushroom-Gruyère Tart

Happy 2014! Knowing me, I'll continue to write 2013 for the next six months, then just as I'm getting used to the new date it will already be December. _MG_5507My apologies for the silence over the holidays  – I was in Minnesota for about 10 days (which felt so long! In the best way) and Ari came along to experience a real Minnesota Christmas (though he missed out on the lefse-making – photos coming soon). Being home is always wonderful, but this time was particularly lovely because in addition to all of the flurry of holiday parties, I was there for long enough to really relax and hang out with my family and friends. And of course, enjoy lots of good food. What did you do for the holidays?_MG_5509

I made this tart a few weeks ago to bring to my book club holiday party (yes, I'm in a book club. It's the best), and I think that it makes a great appetizer or main course served with salad. You could of course make the puff pastry by hand (or use a more traditional pastry crust), but I was in a bit of a rush, and honestly, the store-bought stuff works very well in a pinch. You might notice our little Christmas tree in the background – it's the first one I've ever had in my own apartment and I love it so much more than I thought I would. It may or may not still be sitting in the corner._MG_5515

Mushroom-Gruyère Tart

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped)

1 lb mushrooms, such as shiitake or baby bellas, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

1 cup shredded gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 12x14 inches. Place carefully on a baking sheet (covered with parchment paper, if desired) and prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, mushrooms & thyme and cook until browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in sour cream and gruyère.  Spread mixture over top of pastry shell, and bake until cheese is melted, about 7 minutes. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Maple-Balsamic Fig Crostini

_MG_4836This is one of my top-five appetizers. It was inspired by a lovely special at one of the best (and most underrated) restaurants in Minnesota, the New Scenic Café. A bright yet unassuming exterior with views of Lake Superior just across North Shore Drive hides wonderfully simple, local fare. Unfortunately, I don't get to make it there as often as I would like, but a version of this crostini was served as a special appetizer one of the last times I was there. Once I got home, I had to re-create it -- I love the contrast between the sweet balsamic-glazed figs and the salty gorgonzola cheese. You could also serve this as dinner with a salad (which I have definitely done)._MG_4813 _MG_4842

I'm actually in Minnesota this week (hooray for vacation!), and won't be making it up to Duluth, but I can't wait to check out some favorite restaurants, like The Bachelor Farmer (I wrote about it last summer here), Anchor Fish & Chips (best fish and chips I have EVER had), and hopefully a few more. But mostly, it's so lovely to hang out with my family, see some friends, and relax. Are you taking any trips this summer?_MG_4845

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Maple-Balsamic Fig Crostini (serves 6 as an appetizer, 2-3 as a main course)

1 baguette, thinly sliced on the bias

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

12 figs, cut in half lengthwise

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

Black pepper

1-2 oz gorgonzola or blue cheese

1/2 cup marcona almonds or walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Place figs in pan, cut side down and cook for 30 seconds. Pour maple syrup, vinegar, and wine over figs and cook until liquid is reduced slightly and becomes syrupy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper.

To serve: spoon 2-3 fig halves on a piece of bread, then sprinkle cheese and toasted nuts over. Serve immediately.

 

Pear, Blue Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Focaccia

I actually made this focaccia for a dinner party several weeks ago, but of course am just getting around to posting it now. It makes a great fall appetizer, and I love the contrast between the salty blue cheese and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and pears. If you are feeling indulgent, it would make a lovely first course for Thanksgiving dinner. I chose not to core the pears because I like the rustic look of it, but you can of course core them and then slice them.  This would also be great toasted with a  little prosciutto the next day.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Focaccia (adapted from Food & Wine)

1 cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon honey

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 Bosc pears, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 oz diced walnuts, lightly toasted

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until very soft and beginning to caramelize, for 30 minutes. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

Scatter the onions over the dough. Arrange the pear over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese and walnuts. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve.

Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

You know, I was finally ready to accept the fact that summer was over. Ready to embrace apples, crisp fall nights, colored leaves. And then of course, New York goes and throws a slew of 80 degree days at us, and I'm back to wearing shorts and eating the last of the summer tomatoes before months of squash and root vegetables. Not that I don't love squash -- I'm just not quite ready to let go just yet. I made these crostini a few days ago as a quick lunch, and I love how the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes is balanced by just a dash of fleur de sel and the creamy ricotta. In fact, the cherry tomatoes I got from the farmer's market were so sweet, I could have omitted the salt and drizzled a little bit of honey over them for another take on this easy appetizer. Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomato Crostini

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 baguette, thinly sliced

6 oz ricotta cheese, preferably homemade or good-quality

1/4 cup fresh basil or oregano, julinenned

Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and roast until skins begin to blister, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, toast baguette slices in oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Spread 2-3 tablespoons ricotta on each piece of bread, then add 2-3 tomatoes, a few pieces of basil, and sprinkle fleur de sel over. Serve immediately.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Guys, it's been a rough week. And it's only Tuesday! Actually, I'm just being a baby, but I haven't had coffee since Sunday and it's been really hard. I decided to give it up (at least for a little while) since I had been getting bad stomachaches. Anyways. Lack of caffeine aside, Ari and I have made these chicken lettuce wraps a few times -- particularly as we have been trying to eat less gluten. They are pretty much as easy as it gets, and make a great quick dinner during the week.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (adapted from Food & Wine)

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Sriracha (or less)

2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon mustard

1 avocado

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup peanuts

1 head butter or Boston bibb lettuce

Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. In a small bowl, combine mayo, Sriracha, honey, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with chicken in a large bowl. Set aside (can be made two days ahead and refrigerated).

Place a spoonful of chicken onto a lettuce leaf, and top with a slice of avocado, scallions, and peanuts. Serve immediately.