E and I had guests this weekend, the first we’ve had since we moved in together (except my mom, but she helped me move so I was too tired to entertain, thanks mom, I love you, next time you come I can make this for you) and I really wanted to do something special but not too difficult. I put out these appetizer dishes inspired Spanish tapas and Mediterranean flavors. It was so easy to throw together it should be illegal. Everyone was impressed, though, and I got way more credit than I deserved.
I recommend you start with the chickpeas, stuff the figs while the chickpeas are cooking, and place the olives in a bowl while both the chickpeas and figs are cooking. And there you have it, an easy and impressive spread that you can prepare, cook, and clean up in less than 2 hours. All of these dishes can be served cold and prepared a day or two ahead of time.
Note: The book in the background of the featured image is Birds of Paradise, and if you only own one coffee table book, I recommend this one. And if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for it, you can watch this video about the project of studying and documenting these birds.*
*I am not being paid or encouraged by National Geographic or anyone to promote this, the book just happened to be in the background of the picture, and since I think it’s a really great project I wanted to share it.
This dish was inspired by my time working in catering. They had these delicious goat-cheese stuffed figs (or dates? I can’t remember) that I thought were vegetarian. However, after working there for a few months and stuffing my face with more than a few leftovers, I found out they had prosciutto in them. Ahhhhh… Anyway, this vegetarian version is just as good.
Cook time: about 25 minutes
- Goat cheese
- Pecan or walnut pieces (optional)
- Honey (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil.
- Cut the stems off of the figs and then cut figs in half
- Put goat cheese on the open half of the figs . I recommend rolling the figs between your fingers to reduce the volume of the seeds inside the figs so the goat cheese can sink in a little more.
- Place figs, goat cheese side up, on a baking sheet and bake until the goat cheese is hot but not brown (about 10 minutes).
- Top each fig with a pecan or walnut piece.
- Plate the figs.
- Drizzle with honey if desired.
This recipe was inspired by a blog post I read over a year ago, I’m honestly not sure which one, and now I can’t seem to find it. Oh well, such are the ways of the internet. Anyway, since then this has been my go-to pot-luck recipe, and my friends often request that I bring some when they throw a soiree.
Total time to prepare: about 50 minutes + soaking overnight if using dried chickpeas
- 3 cups chickpeas (cooked or canned)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
- Prepare chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas use this method to cook them (note that it requires soaking overnight and about one hour of cook time). If using canned chickpeas, just rinse the them.
- In a bowl, toss chickpeas in olive oil, rosemary, lemon, and salt. Note that canned chickpeas are already salted so they will require very little, if any, extra salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil (optional, but makes cleanup waaaaay easier).
- Spread chickpeas evenly over the baking sheet in A SINGLE LAYER. If all of the chickpeas do not fit in a single layer, use another baking sheet. I recommend that the chickpeas touch each other, as this will make it easier to tell when they are done.
- Place baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake. After about 20 minutes, toss the chickpeas. When the chickpeas have shrunk and are no longer touching (about 45 minutes), they should be done.
- Allow to cool before serving.
Note: like the quick chickpea dinner recipe, these chickpeas can be seasoned however you like. There are lots of creative options on in the blogosphere, I encourage you to do a quick google search for inspiration.
Okay, so maybe I was having a little fun with the reflection here
Yeah, I’m back to blogging. Yay!
So, it’s spring in California. But not here. What does that mean? Um, sweet potato arugula salad, the perfect mix of winter-y root veggies and tender spring greens. The sweet potato and homemade honey mustard dressing (inspired by an old coworker who used to use condiments in the dining hall to make her salad dressings) cut the peppery bitterness of the arugula. This recipe doesn’t use exact measures, just add ingredients as you see fit.
- Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Sweet potato
- Hard cooked eggs (Martha Stewart has the best directions for cooking eggs, see them here)
- Goat cheese
- 3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 part balsamic vinaigrette
- 1 part honey
- 1 part mustard of your choice (I recommend spicy brown or Dijon to add a little kick)
- 1 pinch black pepper
- Cook eggs according to these directions from Martha Stewart, or whatever method you prefer.
- Cook the sweet potato in the oven or microwave. I prefer the microwave, it cooks faster and I find that oven-baked sweet potatoes are too sweet for my taste.
- While sweet potatoes and/or eggs are cooking, combine other ingredients.
- To get the goat cheese into the salad from a chevre log, you have to crumble it. I’ve found that the best method is to cut off a piece of the log and break it into smaller pieces with my fingers. It’s kind of messy, so if you have a better way, let me know.
- Allow potatoes to cool enough for you to chop them. Chop the potatoes, add them to the salad.
- Add the eggs.
- Toss. The goat cheese will spread out over the salad, especially if the eggs or sweet potatoes are still warm. If not, no problem, you’ll have delicious chunks of goat cheese in your salad.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together with a fork.
- Using a small piece of arugula, taste test the dressing and adjust as needed.
- Drizzle dressing over salad.
Sweet potato carnage!
Tossing the salad, whoo!
Doesn’t the dressing just look so appetizing? I promise, it tastes better than it looks.
Nommy, nommy lentils
Spinach is one of my favorite greens. I will eat it in pretty much any form, but I really love it raw. This particular dish was inspired by my dining hall days– I would try to eat healthy by using spinach as base for my tomato sauce rather than pasta. The heat from the tomato sauce actually cooks the spinach slightly, so the spinach is “al-dante.” Now that I am a big girl or whatever I decided to make my old stand-by-side a meal by adding protein and fiber packed lentils. I’ve found that the best way to cook red lentils is to follow the instructions on the back of the bag from Trader Joe’s.
Time to Prepare: about 30-45 min
- 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2.5 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- Heat oil in a pan with tall sides.
- Add lentils, toast for 2-3 min
- Add broth and wine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 min or until the lentils are tender but not soup-y.
- When the lentils are almost done (after about 8 min) add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
- Cook tomato sauce on the stove for about 5 min., or until it’s hot
- Divide Spinach onto two serving dishes
- Top with lentils and then tomato sauce
Passover has been over for a while now, and if you’re like me, you need to figure out what to do with all that extra matzoh, because goodness knows it’s pretty much inedible at this point, but I hate throwing out good food. So try whipping up this gourmet matzoh pizza (I call it gourmet because involves goat cheese, not because it actually involves any hard work). For those of you who don’t have extra matzoh lying around, I’m sure this recipe would work great on a regular pizza crust. This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the goat cheese. I apologize, I was really hungry when I made this, so I didn’t manage to get any great pictures before chowing down.
Prep time: about 10-15 min.
Cook time: about 10 min.
Serves: 1 (recipe can be easily doubled, tripled etc. to serve many)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (depending on our garlic tolerance)
- 2.5 cups kale, not packed down, stems removed
- 1 piece whole-wheat matzoh
- Tomato sauce of your choice
- 2 tablespoons goat cheese
- medium handful of canned and pitted black olives, halved
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add garlic. Put on low.
- While the garlic is heating, place the kale in a bowl and message it. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT! Often, people only massage kale if they’re eating it raw, but I find that it really improves the taste when you cook it. To massage the kale: place it in a bowl, and push it, just as if you were giving it a back massage. After about 2 min., the kale should be a darker green, fragrant, and a bit less tough.
- Once the garlic has just started to brown (about 2-3 min.) add the kale
- Cook kale until it wilts (about 5 min.)
- While the kale is cooking, lay out the matzoh on a cookie sheet. Spread tomato sauce evenly over the matzoh.
- Use your fingers to break up goat-cheese into clumps, and spread semi-evenly around the pizza.
- Add cooked kale to the matzoh.
- Top the pizza with olives.
11. Bake for 10 min., or until the kale becomes dark and crispy
Note: the goat cheese will not really melt, it will just get nice and warm. I think the heterogeneity of the spread of goat cheese adds to the charm of this dish.
Happy Belated Passover :).
I am currently visiting my wonderful boyfriend E on spring break (don’t get any ideas, burglars, my roommates are still around). As great as our relationship is, I often have difficulty cooking healthy food that we both like. I’m a fruit and veggie lean vegetable protein whole grain kinda gal (well, I’m trying to be, the whole cheese/pasta addiction thing gets in my way sometimes), and he’s definitely a starch and meat kind of guy. He will, of course, eat pretty much anything that I put in front of him (as long as it’s not fruit, I really don’t understand his aversion to fruit) but I do try to cook food that he likes.
So for those of you in meaty/veggie (or kinda veggie trying to be healthy) relationship (and for my reference), I’ve compiled a list of recipes from around the internet and my head that work for everyone. I have tried every single one on my meaty, and he approves. These recipes are also just good recipes in general, you can cook them for anyone who isn’t on a low sodium diet.
- Spicy black bean burgers (I didn’t feel like buying flax, so I substituted egg. It didn’t cook up quite right but still tasted great)
- Butternut squash quesadilla
- Sweet potato quesadilla
- Pretty much any vegetarian chili recipe, I usually make this one from allrecipes
- The chickpea recipe I posted a few weeks ago, but I used Perfect Pinch “Southwest” seasoning instead of lemon and rosemary.
- Quick “creamy” salad dressing- a recipe that was inspired by a Rachel Ray (I think) article that I read in a magazine in, of all places, a car repair shop: peel and pit a ripe avocado, place avocado in a bowl, mash, add some lime juice and salt. Add olive oil if desired. Mix into salad. Eat.
- Cold peanut noodles (also great for potlucks and picnics) (I usually use peanut oil instead of sesame, sesame oil is like $10 for a tiny bottle).
- Instant miso soup packets–available in more grocery stores than you would think (I’m not actually sure how healthy these are, but they’re probably a healthier appetizer than a slab of pepper jack cheese).
Wow, I just realized how short that list is. Before I tried to go all healthy and stuff, I used to make spicy mac n’ cheese and various other high-calorie very-cheese delicious things (corn chowder with heavy cream, extra cheesy quiche, more mac n’ cheese). This list is still a work-in-progress. Please comment below if you have any recipes that veggies and meaties alike can enjoy, I’m always looking for new ideas.