Cranberry Salsa

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Years ago I was visiting with my favorite florist Dan, who is quite a foodie, and he asked me if I’d ever had cranberry salsa.

Cranberry salsa? I’ve never heard of such a thing! Where have I been? This just made me absolutely giddy. It’s always so exciting to come across something new and different.

Dan printed the recipe, and gave me a few suggestions on adaptations he’d made to it. But he promised me I’d absolutely love it with the turkey I’d be serving on Thanksgiving.

And I did. Here is that recipe. Thanks, Dan!

Cranberry Salsa

1- 12 ounce package cranberries
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup super-fine white sugar
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place the cranberries in a colander. Remove any bad ones and give the rest a good rinse.

Then place the cranberries on a towel to dry.

Place the jalapenos, garlic and sugar in the food processor and pulse until you can’t see any large pieces.

Add the cranberries, cilantro, oil and lime juice and pulse all of the ingredients, without over-processing.

Pour the salsa into a bowl and fold in the sliced green onions. I’ve found that this is easier than using the food processor to chop up green onion.

Cranberry salsa is really good, and I serve it with tortilla chips or pita crisps.


You can refrigerate the salsa overnight, but serve it at room temperature.

And as a condiment, it’s spectacular with turkey.


I make turkey cutlets often, and the pairing is fabulous.

Whether served as an appetizer or as a condiment, you’ll enjoy the zing of the cranberries and jalapeño.

The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I can’t fathom adding more than the 1 cup of sugar I used. It’s perfect to me just the way it is.

Next time I might consider adding some toasted walnuts or pecans to the salsa at the last minute.

Also, ginger could be used along with the garlic. Or, crystallized ginger…

Zucchini “Baba Ghanoush”

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“This looks rather like a volcanic eruption, in the best possible sense,” states Yotam Ottolenghi about this zucchini baba ghanoush recipe in his cookbook, Plenty More.

Indeed, it’s not the prettiest dip, but it caught my attention for a few reasons. Firstly, my husband won’t eat eggplant, so I thought that the zucchini substitute could work.

Secondly, I had a hummus years ago that had butter-sautéed pine nuts on it, as does this dip, and it was exquisite.

Thirdly, this “baba ghanoush” so resembled nothing I’ve ever made, that i just had to try it!

I was mostly excited that there are no garbanzo beans or tahini in this dip!

Here’s the recipe from the cookbook.

Zucchini “Baba Ghanoush”

5 large zucchini, about 2 3/4 pounds
1/3 cup goat’s milk yogurt
2 tablespoons grated Roquefort
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon Urfa chile flakes, I used Aleppo flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon za’atar, to finish
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the broiler. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking, until the skin crisps and browns nicely.

Remove from the oven and, once cool enough to handle, peel off the zucchini skin, discard it, and set the flesh aside in a colander to drain; you can also scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

Put the yogurt in a small saucepan with the Roquefort and egg. Heat very gently for about 3 minutes, stirring often. You want the yogurt to heat through but not quite reach the simmering point. Set aside and keep warm.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan with the pine nuts over low heat and cook, stirring often, for 3 – 4 minutes, until the nuts turn golden brown. Stir in the chile flakes and lemon juice and set aside.

To serve, put the zucchini in a bowl and add the garlic, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of black pepper.

Gently mash everything together with a fork and then spread the mixture out on a large serving platter.

Spoon the warm yogurt sauce on top, followed by a drizzle of the warm chile butter and pine nuts.

Finish with a sprinkle of za’atar and serve at once.

This dip is better than incredible.

I served it with flatbread triangles.

The zucchini makes a nice base for the toppings.

It won’t be long until I make this again!

Full disclosure: I used goat cheese in this recipe instead of blue, only because there was blue cheese in another dish I served to friends the evening I served a variety of hors d’oeuvres.

 

 

 

 

Pesto Ranch Dip

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I’ve written before about what a purist I am in the way that I make most everything from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it’s barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, you name it. I just can’t do it any other way.

Sure, a lot of those products are real time savers. But they’re also horrible. Or, should I say, that home-made is always better. Plus you don’t have to include the uncessary salt, sugar, fake colors and preservatives.

During the summer months especially, I eat a salad every day. I typically use a good vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil on them – that’s it. Or, I use a vinaigrette that I’ve made ahead of time.

A few years ago, we were at a local restaurant with our daughter and son-in-law. I ordered a Cobb salad for my meal, and with it Ranch dressing. If you haven’t heard of Ranch dressing, then you’ve probably never lived in the U.S.
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My son-in-law kidded me about ordering such an “American” dressing. So I threatened him. Nicely. Something like, “If you tell anyone I ordered Ranch dressing I’ll have you killed.”

But to this day, at most restaurants, and for basic salads, I ask for Ranch dressing. I’ll tell you why. (And I still threaten folks if they tease me about it.)

1. Italian dressing, which is supposed to be oil and vinegar, is disgusting at restaurants. It’s not typically made in the restaurant kitchen. It’s a Kraft product, somewhat gloppy, overly sweet, with little unidentifiable bits in it.
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2. If you ask for oil and vinegar for your salad you will simply get stared at by nincompoop waiters.

3. If a “specialty” salad, say an Asian salad, is offered with a dressing, it is usually so disgustingly sweet that I can hardly eat the salad. I’ve learned that if the menu states “sweet chili lime dressing,” it basically means simple syrup. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

So, that’s why I order Ranch dressing. At least I know what I’m getting. It’s not healthy, but it has its merits in the taste department.

Last week while grocery shopping, I happened to spot Ranch dressing. I quickly checked to see if I knew anyone near me, then I stuck the bottle of dressing under bags of produce. I actually purchased Ranch dressing for the first time in my life.

Flash forward to a recent impromptu evening with friends. I got out my usual hors d’oeuvres – cheeses, crackers and fruit.

Then I spotted a slab of bread cheese that I hadn’t needed for salad I’d made the week before and decided to grill the bread cheese at the last minute for a fun change.

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For a quick dip, I used freshly-made pesto, along with, yes, some Ranch dressing. The dip turned out so good I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s what I did.

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Pesto Ranch Dip

2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup Ranch dressing
Olive oil
Approximately 10 ounces Halloumi or bread cheese, cut into 16 or so pieces
Fresh pepper

Place the pesto and lime juice in a small blender and process until smooth. Then add the Ranch dressing; set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the pieces of cheese and cook until browned on both sides. Place them on a serving platter and sprinkle them with pepper. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Pour the pesto ranch dip into a small bowl and serve with the warm cheese.

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Dip away!

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I realize that this isn’t much of a recipe, nor is it that creative, but this dip is so good with the bread cheese. See what you think!

And if you’re even more stubborn than I am, substitute sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche for the Ranch dressing!

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Crab Dip

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As much as I don’t want to admit this factoid, the crab dip I prepared for the blog is a Martha Stewart recipe.

What she calls “Hot Crab Dip” is out of the cookbook “Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook,” which was published in 1999.

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She might not have been a convict at the time the book was published, but my reluctance to ever buy any of her cookbooks was based on her attitude that I’ve witnessed on tv, not because she was a jailbird. I’m all for confidence and knowledge, which she definitely exudes, but it’s her haughtiness that turns me off. Something us Americans might call snottiness.

But somehow this hors d’oeuvres cookbook appealed to me and I purchased it. At the time I was doing a lot of catering, and most of my parties were of the “finger food” variety, not sit-down dinner parties. And honestly, the cookbook was inspirational to me, as much as I don’t want to admit it.

I think Ms. Stewart may have been the first to use serious food styling in cookbooks; food magazines had been doing it for a while. The photos in this book are stunning. And they’re a little misleading.

I remember talking to a bride-to-be about her wedding reception food, and she opened up bookmarked pages from this same cookbook. She showed me photos of little cucumber cups, carefully carved out with a melon baller, hollowed out cherry tomatoes, and my favorite – glasses filled with equal-length celery, asparagus, cucumbers, yellow runner beans, jicama, carrots, and green onions.
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It was certainly pretty in the photographs, but for 250 people I had to explain to the young lady that all of the prep work would take hours and hours. And hours. Wouldn’t she rather spend money on actual food than my time spent carving vegetables?

In any case, I’d never made a crab dip until I saw the one in this cookbook, so I guess I must thank Martha Stewart. Because it’s served warm, it’s a great dip in the winter time, and has always been a crowd pleaser.

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So here is the original recipe.

Hot Crab Dip
Makes 3 1/2 cups

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
4 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
10 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for cartilage*
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Have your crab meat prepared. I had to use frozen crab legs, thaw them, remove the meat from the shells, and then pat them dry with paper towels. Chop finely.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the rack in the center.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
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Add 1 tablespoon of water and simmer for 30 seconds. (I don’t remember ever doing this!)

Stir in the cayenne, Old Bay, and dry mustard until well combined. Pour the 1/2 and 1/2 into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.
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Slowly whisk in the cream cheese, a few pieces at a time. When the cream cheese is fully incorporated, whisk in the Cheddar cheese a bit at a time.

(When you’re melting cheese like this, do it at the lowest temperature. It takes time, but you don’t want to “cook” the cheese, only melt it. And keep stirring.)

Stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and Worcestershire and stir to combine. Add the crabmeat and half of the parsley and stir.


Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with the bread pieces.

Dot the top of the bread pieces with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with the paprika. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the bread pieces are golden and the dip is hot.


Garnish with the remaining parsley. I served the dip warm with pita chips.
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As an alternative, use pre-made phyllo cups for a fancier presentation. Fill them up with the hot crab dip and serve!
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The phyllo crunch and the creamy dip is a lovely combination. And these are bite size! Just make sure to fill the cups at the last minute so they don’t get soggy.

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* Fresh crabmeat is difficult for me to get my hands on, and frozen crab is waterlogged, but what I won’t use is that nasty fake crab made from sweetened white fish, that is shaped in to rubbery pieces to mimic actual crab legs, shown below.

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note: Although the first time I made this I probably followed the recipe, I’ve never since included the bread topping. I used 3 tablespoons of butter, melted, mixed with about 1/3 cup of Panko bread crumbs and sprinkled the mixture on to the crab dip, followed by the paprika.

Black Bean and Feta Dip

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Okay, I promise this is the last post on what to do with leftover black beans! But this one is crucial to know. It is a to-die-for dip, with only 3 ingredients, and can be made a day ahead.

This dip is served warm, but even warm, it’s fabulous during the summer months, served up with fresh salsa, guacamole and good chips.

Just to re-iterate, I first made a pot of beans from 1 pound of Black Beans, and so far have made a black bean salad, and Refried Black Beans. See how versatile beans are?!!

To make this dip you need to use the same food processor method that I used to make faux refried beans, plus crumbled feta cheese and green onions. That’s it! And because of its simplicity, I’ll show you how to make the dip without a recipe. The ratios are fairly straight forward!


The only variable is the flavor of the beans. You can leave them plain, or season them with cumin, coriander, and dried oregano. That will make it more Southwestern in flavor, so the seasoning depends on the other appetizers. The dip is good either way.

Black Bean and Feta Dip

Cooked black beans
Feta cheese, crumbled
Green onions, sliced

Begin by placing drained black beans in a food processor. You can add liquid if necessary to process the beans to a refried texture. You don’t want them too pasty thick, but also not drippy wet.


Use a fairly tall and clear baking dish, because this dip is layered and pretty.  What I really need for this dip is a mini trifle dish that could go in the oven – or something with straight sides. But for now my Pyrex bowl will have to do!

Spray the baking dish lightly, and have the oven on 350 degrees.

Begin by placing a third of the bean mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.
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Then top the beans with a third of the feta and a third of the green onions.


Repeat.

Make sure there is a generous amount of feta cheese and green onions on the top.
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See the layers?
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Place in the oven and bake, uncovered, until the beans are heated through, and the feta slightly golden brown.
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Let cool to warm, then serve with tortilla chips.


note: The dip can easily be re-heated or warmed in the microwave. And if you have leftover dip, use the dip as refried beans in tortillas. They have built in cheese! I promise you none of your dip will go to waste!

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Acorn Squash Dip

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Of late, my schedule has been erratic for one lovely reason. A grand daughter. So I’m re-posting from last fall – one of my favorite autumnal dips.

Forget chicken wings and nachos! This is what you want to feast on during a football game! Polish sausage dipped into a curried acorn squash dip!!!

If curry scares you, don’t worry, because there are so many ways to flavor this dip. In fact, if you don’t have an acorn squash, you can always use a can of pumpkin or sweet potato!

So here’s my recipe for this dip:

Curried Acorn Squash Dip

1 acorn squash, halved, cleaned of seeds, or a small butternut squash
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon or so curry powder, or 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

First of all, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the acorn squash halves in a pan filled with a little water. Bake them uncovered for at least one hour; poke them to make sure they’re cooked through.

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Set them aside to cool. Once they’re cool, remove the squash from the peel and coarsely chop it.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook over fairly low heat until it’s practically translucent. Add the garlic and stir it in for a few seconds. Then add the squash. Beat it down with your wooden spoon to mix with the onion and garlic, and let it cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. We don’t want “wet” squash.

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Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and warm it up if necessary. Place a ricer over the bowl with the cream cheese, and rice the squash mixture using the disc with fairly small holes.

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When you’re done, whisk the cream cheese and squash together. Add the salt and curry powder. Taste and check for seasoning.

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The dip is delicious served with pieces of Polska Kielbasa, or with blue corn chips. Serve the dip warm.

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note: Like I said, this dip is also good made with pumpkin puree – add a pinch of allspice to it if you prefer it over the curry powder. If you prefer, keep the dip plain with salt and pepper, or add a little dried thyme to taste. Also, you could substitute a creamy goat cheese in this dip. And for my last suggestion, use my white bean dip recipe for a combination white beans and pumpkin dip. Another deliciously easy fall dip!

Queso Chile Verde

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According to my Spanish dictionary, queso means cheese in English. I checked just to make sure. Because for a while now I’ve noticed that a queso can imply a warm cheese dip that’s often served with salsa and chips at Mexican restaurants. It’s usually somewhat gelatinous, tasteless, and just plain awful. Why wouldn’t it be? They’re not going to put a lot of money into something that they’re giving away.

There is an American version of queso that’s popular, made with Velveeta. Now if you’ve followed my blog for any time now, you know that I abhor this cheese “food.” In fact, it’s what my mother and I used to use on our hooks when we went fishing. It wasn’t until I got married that I learned that people actually ate the stuff!

Velveeta “queso” is made from a giant block of Velveeta, plus some canned tomatoes that contains green chilies. And I think that’s it. The only positive with Velveeta is that it melts well, so the dip if smooth. I don’t care how smooth it is. I won’t touch it.

But Mexican quesos, if they’re not giving away the stuff, can be way more interesting. Those cheese dips can be really flavorful when they’re made with good cheese. If I come across a good queso at a Mexican restaurant, I always have my husband, who’s fluent in Spanish, ask the waiter what kind of cheese they use, out of curiosity. They invariably tell me queso blanco, which translates to white cheese. Now, I think they’re either pulling my chain, or they just don’t know. But there’s no Mexican cheese called queso blanco. But I’ll continue asking until I get a good answer!

So you might be wondering why I wrote a post on Southwestern-inspired food last week, and mentioned that I was going to be surprising everyone with exactly that – something inspired by Southwestern cuisine! Well this is it! I’m making a queso, but not an awful American one, nor a gloppy Mexican variation.

I give you queso, chili verde style. You might be familiar with hearty Pork Chile Verde, a version of which is on this blog. It’s what I used for inspiration!

This queso is Southwestern style, because I’m using a combination of jalapenos, poblanos, tomatillos, and cilantro, all of which are chile verde components. And for the queso part, I’m using Oaxaca cheese, which melts just as well as Velveeta. Plus I’m throwing in some chorizo.

So here’s my Southwestern version of a queso, chili verde style!

Queso Chile Verde

1 pound tomatillos
1 large onion
4 jalapenos
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, de-seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup crema, or sour cream
14 ounces Oaxaca cheese, coarsely chopped
Mexican chorizo, cooked and drained, optional
Chopped fresh cilantro, optional
Tortilla chips

Place the tomatillos in a skillet large enough to hold them in one layer. Mine were fairly large so a regular-sized skillet worked well. Turn on the heat to high, and roast the tomatillos a little, moving them around constantly. This will actually help remove the papery peels.

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Let them cool, then remove the peels. If you’d like, you can rinse the tomatillos in warm water to remove some of the natural stickiness. I didn’t.

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Turn on the roast setting on your oven for 425 degrees F, or turn on the broiler.

Get out a jelly-roll pan. Finely chop the onion and place the pieces on the pan. De-stem the tomatillos and place those along with the onion on the pan.

You need to remove the stems and seeds from the jalapenos. I always wear a glove on my left hand to avoid getting jalapeno juice in my eyes.

There are many ways to deal with jalapenos. I’ve even tried two different jalapeno de-seeders and neither worked. So here’s how I do it:

Slice off the stem and hold the jalapeno perpendicular to the cutting board. Slice along the outside of the jalapeno from top to bottom, again and again, until all you have left is the seedy core. This is very similar to avoiding the seeds in a green pepper, if you do it this way. You’re left with lovely strips of jalapeno flesh, which you can simply chop for your purposes.

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For this recipe, finely chop the jalapenos and add them to the onion and tomatillo.
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Drizzle on the olive oil and add a little salt and pepper. Only a little salt; the crema and the Oaxaca cheese are both salty to me.

Roast the vegetables in the oven, taking care to not over brown them. They should look like this:
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If you used a roasting setting, keep the oven on. If you used the broiler, turn it off.

Meanwhile, add the tablespoon of oil to a skillet on the stove. This skillet is also going to be my serving vessel, but it doesn’t have to be.

Saute garlic in the oil for just a few seconds over low heat, then stir in the chopped Poblano peppers.
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Then add the roasted onion, tomatillo and jalapeno to the skillet and stir everything together.

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Add the crema and stir it in well.

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Reduce the mixture for about 5 minutes.

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Then stir in the oregano and cumin.

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Add about half of the chopped cheese to this mixture and stir it in.
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Then top the mixture with the remaining cheese.
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If you’re using the broiler setting on your oven, turn the broiler back on. When it’s ready, place the skillet under the broiler. It should just take a few minutes for the cheese to melt and brown.
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Alternatively, if you want the dip in a nicer serving dish, place everything in it first. Just make sure the dish can withstand heat from the broiler.

For the chorizo, I cooked up the crumbled sausage first, and let it drain on paper towels before starting on the queso.
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To serve, I put the chorizo in the middle of the queso; it also could have been stirred in to the dip as well.

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And at the last minute I sprinkled chopped cilantro over everything.

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Make sure to serve this queso hot, or the cheese will get a little rubbery if it cools. In fact, using a Sterno set-up with this queso would work really well, so it stays hot over time.

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I’m a cheese lover, but I don’t like rubbery, cold cheese!

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I served the chili verde queso with Pacifico, one of my favorite Mexican beers. It went really well. My husband stuck with Guinness.

verdict: I am very proud of this queso, which utilizes many of my favorite Southwestern flavors and ingredients. Although there are Mexican chile verdes, I was influenced by the very popular pork chile verde from New Mexico, utilizing their famous Hatch chile peppers. It was delicious!!!

My Marinara

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I have to apologize. Seriously. To all of the people who followed me at the beginning when I was first writing this blog. I mean, I thought I was a good photographer. I really did. I had spent years taking pictures of my kids and my dogs. And I took lots of pictures on vacations. So that made me experienced, right?

Then came food photography, which comes along with having a cooking blog. I thought it would be fairly straight forward. Mostly because I was one of those who’d always taken photos of my food at restaurants, and photos at farmers’ markets. I certainly didn’t think I was a pro. But I didn’t realize how bad I was.

Maybe it’s for the best, because otherwise I maybe wouldn’t have pursued this blog. Because unfortunately, to have a cooking blog means you have to know how to cook, you need to be able to write, you must be a food stylist, and you have to take really good photographs. I had 2 out of 4 going for me. But like I said, ignorance is bliss.

I didn’t realize any of this until recently when I decided to look at some old posts of mine. And I nearly fell off my chair. I’m not kidding. I deleted at least 10 immediately, and then thought about perhaps saving some as future, upgraded posts. It wasn’t the subject matter, or the writing. It was those awful photos. What little there were of them.

But my marinara really is so good, and so easy to make, that I decided to offer up a new post on my marinara, but with better photos. So here it is. Hopefully you never saw the old one.

Marinara sauce is basically an Italian name for a red sauce that can contain quite a few ingredients, although never meat. Of course tomatoes are the base for the sauce, but other ingredients can include onions, garlic, celery, carrots, wine, and so forth.

My marinara sauce contains three ingredients. There might be some dead Italians rolling in their graves when I make my marinara sauce, but that’s ok. No two living Italians can agree on what a marinara sauce is comprised of, so I’m off the hook. And I can talk about Italians, dead or alive, because I’m half Italian. Sicilian, actually, but I’m throwing them in the same proverbial Italian pot.

Here’s my recipe:

My Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces high quality tomato sauce
Pinch of salt

First, heat up the oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the garlic.

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Stir gently and wait just until the oil warms the garlic and you can smell it, then immediately pour in the tomato sauce. This should only take about 30 seconds. This is my technique for sautéing garlic because I do not like the taste of burnt garlic, and garlic can burn quickly.

Stirring gently, heat the sauce and let it cook for about 10 minutes. It will thicken a little. (An inferior, more watery tomato sauce will take longer to thicken. If it’s too watery, try adding a little tomato paste.) Add the salt and stir.
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And so, that’s it ! This sauce is fabulous for a chicken or veal Parmesan, simply with pasta, as a dip, or even as a pizza sauce.
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But it’s my favorite with any kind of pasta.

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And with chianti, because the San Genovese grape is perfectly with red sauce. Especially with this garlic-spicy one.
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If you don’t want to call it marinara, don’t. Just call it the best red sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’ll thank me!
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* Don’t be scared about the amount of olive oil in this sauce. It’s good for you and it adds a lot of good flavor, because you’re using good olive oil, right?

Another White Bean Dip!

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Last year, for the first in my whole life, I started seeing pumpkin hummus recipes all over the place. And it kind of made me mad. Because why hadn’t I thought of this?

I love pumpkin. And I thought I’d made just about everything possible with pumpkin. When my kids were young I was very adept at sneaking pumpkin into so many different kinds of dishes, because to me, it was just another vegetable that would boost the nutritional value of whatever I was “hiding” it in, whether is was soups or stews or pancakes or oatmeal. Sometimes things got a little orange, but kids aren’t as scared of orange as they are green.

But even now, with kids grown and gone, I still use a lot of canned pumpkin, but I never thought about adding it to hummus! Why not?

I’ve presented white bean dips on my blog before, because I honestly prefer them to hummus. I love a good hummus, with the lemon and tahini additions. But with white bean dip, there’s just so much more that you can do. My favorite ways are a spicy version using cumin, coriander, and cayenne, that was actually published in Gourmet magazine, and an herby way I make white bean dip in the summer, using fresh rosemary. Those seem to be the most popular variations for which I get requests from my family. But now I’m going to have to add another to that list. Pumpkin White Bean Dip.

Oh, this might not be a popular statement, but I also prefer white beans over garbanzos. They process smoother; they’re never pasty or dry.

What I use for my white bean dips are canned white beans. I typically buy great Northern beans, but you can opt for the more expensive canellini beans just as well. The only rule is that they must be well rinsed and drained before using. And a good olive oil is also a must.

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And for today’s dip, the inclusion of pumpkin, except in this case, since it’s January, I’m actually using butternut squash. Same difference. They’re both beautiful, orange winter squashes. I still have some canned pumpkin in my pantry, and I’m pretty sure it would work well. But I wanted to roast the butternut squash first for some extra flavor. It just takes a little more planning.

So here’s what I did.

White Bean Dip made with Butternut Squash

A chunk of peeled butternut squash, about 10 ounces
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 – 15 ounce can of white beans, rinsed and well-drained

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2 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
More olive oil
Pita chips for serving

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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Place the butternut squash in some foil. I actually used 4 thick slices from the non-seedy part of the squash. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the foil packet in the oven for a couple of hours. There should be some caramelization on the squash. I could have roasted it a simply in an open dish, but I didn’t want the squash to dry out. When you’re done it should look about like this.

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Let the squash cool, then place it in the food processor jar. Add the drained beans, garlic, cumin, and salt.

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Process until smooth, adding a little olive oil at a time. White bean dip should be soft and smooth, but not runny. It also shouldn’t be pasty thick. That’s why I always pour in oil slowly. You can’t overprocess the dip; if anything, it will just get smoother. So take your time doing it. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dip out into a serving bowl.

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It’s a really good dip with pita crisps.
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For a little color, I sprinkled some paprika on the top, but this is completely optional. Enjoy!

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Note: This dip can be doubled or tripled. I always serve white bean dips within a couple hours of making them.

verdict: Like I said above in the post, this will be one of the top favorite requested dips in my house, as soon as everyone has tried it. I think the roasted butternut squash made a significant difference, but I’ll try it once with canned pumpkin or canned sweet potatoes just to see.

Rosemary’d Dip

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Bean dips are so delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is White Bean Dip with spices. This one is similar in the use of white beans, but instead of spices, I only use fresh rosemary. So if you like rosemary, you’ll love this dip.

I don’t know if this is as much a dip or a spread, since I typically serve it with a spreader, especially with guests. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a soft, spreadable purée of rosemary-flavored white beans. It can served in a bowl alongside breads and crackers, as I have, or creatively topped on crostini for a prettier presentation.

And let’s not forget the healthful benefits of beans. It’s wonderful to enjoy a delicious appetizer that’s actually good for us!

Rosemary’d White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans, well drained and rinsed
1/4 good extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and puree until the mixture is smooth. I always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.

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I remove the germ from my garlic when I’m using it fresh in a recipe like this, and it’s not going to be cooked, like in a stew. Supposedly the germ is bitter. I’ve not tested this theory, but I do remove it when making this dip. I want a delicious fresh garlic flavor – not a flavor that is bitter and overly pungent. This is especially the case when the garlic is trying to sprout and the germs get quite large. I completely avoid them.

Scape down the puréed beans in the jar and process again.

If you’ve picked your rosemary early in the day, simply stick them in water to keep them fresh. I routinely do this even though I’m not sure how much it helps! I figure it can’t hurt.

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Then add the rosemary leaves and salt to the beans. If you think that the bean purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse just to combine, then add the rosemary and salt. If you’re making it about 3-4 hours before serving, definitely make it on the soft side, because the beans will absorb the oil. But I wouldn’t make it any earlier then 3 or 4 hours.

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Place the dip in a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with assorted breads, and/or crackers. Vegetables are good with it, too.

If you make this dip a few hours before serving, keep it at room temperature; don’t refrigerate it. It’s not good refrigerated overnight, either. It just loses the good texture.

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* My rosemary this time of year is much less pungent than in the summer, so depending when you make this dip, make sure you taste it. Fresh rosemary can be very strong. But whatever you do, don’t use dried rosemary.

note: You could certainly use garbanzo beans in this recipe, but I prefer white beans for dips. You can see how soft and smooth they are in the photo after they’ve been pureed with the oil and garlic. In my experience, garbanzo beans never get this smooth, which is why I prefer white beans. I’ve heard that if the garbanzos are peeled, they will become smoother, but I’m not about to bother with that extra step.