Mediterranean Dip

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This raw vegetable and feta dip is perfect for a party before fall weather hits. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I found the recipe for this Mediterranean-inspired dip. I’d typed it in MS Publisher, and recently found it on my computer. Typically I’d have added some notes, and certainly show credit, but nothing.

Honestly, I changed it so much that it’s not the same recipe, but has most all of the original ingredients. This recipe intrigued me because the ingredients are puréed.

On this blog I have made a layered Mediterranean spread, which is a Greek version of Southwestern 7-layer spread. Nothing is puréed except the hummus Layer.

I’ve started a new thing lately, when I serve a dip to a small group. I like to have guests serve themselves from the main bowl into their own little bowl. That way, they can double-dip, drool, and spill their chips in the dip, and it doesn’t affect anyone else!


Mediterranean Dip

2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced lengthwise, seeds removed
2 garden-ripe tomatoes, cored, coarsely chopped, seeded
2 ounces Kalamata olives, pitted
2 ounces black olives, pitted
5 ounces baby spinach (about 4 loosely packed cups)
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt*, strained
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces feta or goat cheese
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
Finely chopped purple onion, optional
Chopped fresh parsley, optional
Toasted pine nuts, optional
Pita chips, or pita crisps, or pita bread

Before I began, I prepared the cucumbers and tomatoes and let them drain on paper towels.

I even dried off the olives and feta.

Pulse the cucumber, tomatoes and olives in a food processor, but don’t overprocess. Transfer to a colander to drain. I used paper towels to “dry” up the mixture as much as possible, before finishing the dip.

Clean out the food processor, than add the spinach, yogurt, olive oil, garlic and salt and purée. Add half of the feta cheese and purée again. The mixture doesn’t have to be completely smooth.

Transfer the spinach mixture to a large bowl using a rubber spatula. Crumble in the remaining feta, lemon juice and oregano. Give it a stir, then add the cucumber-tomato-olive mixture.

Fold until smooth, check for seasoning, then place in serving bowl.

If desired, sprinkle dip with finely chopped purple onion, chopped parsley or toasted pine nuts. Or all three!

Have you ever had naan dippers?! They’re perfect for this dip, as well as Stacy’s simply naked pita chips – a favorite of mine.

I also cut up some cucumbers and red bell peppers for serving.

This dip is fabulous, and much prettier than I expected it to be. Just whatever you do, don’t eat the dip hovering over the serving bowl!!!
(Sorry, pet peeve of mine.)

* To drain yogurt, I just turn it upside-down on paper towels in a colander; it gets much firmer after two hours.

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Mediterranean Layered Dip

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A while back my friend had a happy hour at her house, and she served a Mediterranean-inspired dip. She’s a funny person, my friend. She claims to hate cooking, but she always serves the best and prettiest food, and always offers unique, signature cocktails.

She’s also an expert at entertaining – to the point that once she had pressed fresh flowers between glass plates for a spring girls’ lunch at her home. I think she’s in Martha-Stewart-wanna-be denial…

Most of us are familiar with the 7-layer dip; sometimes the number varies. It’s Mexican, or Mexican-American, and typically contains layers of refried beans, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, maybe seasoned ground beef, and so forth. If you love all of those ingredients, then you would love the dip, served with tortilla chips and margaritas.

My creative friend, however, was inspired by a recipe she’d seen in a magazine, and created a multi-layered dip using Mediterranean ingredients. It was fabulous.

We can’t find the recipe, so I’m creating this version with my own favorite ingredients from that part of the world. Whatever you use, you just can’t go wrong.

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Mediterranean Layered Dip

White bean dip, or hummus, preferably home-made
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Goat or feta cheese
Kalamata olives, sliced
Toasted pine nuts
Diced shallots
Pita pockets

Begin with having a plate or shallow bowl for serving. Place the white bean dip or hummus on the serving dish. I have had decent store-bought hummus, but I simply made a garlicky white bean dip. Smooth out the white bean dip.

Prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. This can be done with a knife, or simply with a melon baller or small spoon. Cut up the cucumber and place on paper towels to drain.

Prepare the tomatoes by de-seeding them as much as possible, then cutting them finely, and placing them on paper towels to drain. Have all of the other ingredients on hand.

Begin the layering process by adding the cucumber and then the tomatoes.

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Add the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.

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Then add the olives, pine nuts and shallots.

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Serve with pita triangles cut from pita breads. Alternatively, half the triangles, drizzle with olive oil, and toast until lightly browned for a crisper pita “chip.” (The photo below right shows the pita triangles halved, but not yet toasted.)

It was a hot day when I made this dip, so I served a rosé.

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The fun wth this recipe, is that you can substitute ingredients as you wish. Capers instead of olives, roasted red peppers instead of tomatoes, grilled artichokes, and more.

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You can top the dip with black pepper, oregano, sumac, za’atar, or a chiffonade of fresh basil.

Just stick with Mediterranean ingredients and you’ll love it!

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.

Foja de Noce

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When the holidays are approaching most all cooks and bakers I know begin thinking about festive treats and Christmas cookies. But not me. I think cheese. I begin collecting Gruyère for pasta, Fontina for savory tarts, Reblochon for potatoes, Époisses for hors d’oeuvres, and raclette and fondue cheeses for special feasts with family and friends.

Thanks to reading blogs, about food, of course, I recently came across one called Di Bruno Bros. From the blog I discovered their website, simply called dibruno.com.

The Di Bruno story is a typical one from 1930, with 2 Italian brothers moving from Italy to Philadelphia via Ellis Island. There they opened the successful Di Bruno Bros. grocery store, but in 1965 the store became primarily a cheese shop. Eventually the sons and other Di Bruno relatives took over the business, and they expanded the products with international gourmet items, and opened new store locations.

Also because of the blog, I discovered and ordered the cookbook Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese – a guide to wedges, recipes, and pairings. The author is Tenaya Darlington, who also blogs as Madame Fromage.

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Because of where I live, I have to be my own cheesemonger. My local grocery store does a decent job, but they’re not going to put out cheeses that the bulk of the population won’t buy. So I make purchases when I travel, and order online a lot, as much as my diet allows. French cheeses are my favorites overall, but the world of artisanal cheeses in the US has really grown, which is a fabulous trend.

So the book appealed to me because cheeses are described in delightful prose. I love the names of the chapters, such as ‘The Quiet Ones,” “Vixens” and “The Stinkers.” But also there are recipes associated with some of the cheeses, provided by the Di Bruno Bros. kitchen, and also notes from their professional cheesemongers. So what’s not to love!

All of my favorite cheeses that I mentioned above are in this book, but I also love that they wrote about two of my favorite American cheeses. One is an old standby for my family – Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove Chèvre, and a recent discovery – Red Hawk by Cowgirl Creamery.

In the introduction, the author writes, quoting a cheesemaker, that “making a cheese with pasteurized milk is like trying to bake a cake with hard-boiled eggs.” Love it.

To get to the point of this post, one cheese in the book especially caught my attention – Foja de Noce – an Italian sheep’s milk cheese that I’d never heard of. It’s wrapped in walnut leaves and aged in mountain caves. Drinks suggested for pairing include Barolo, a pint of amber, or Scotch ale. Hmmmm.

Here is the cheese. It’s a Pecorino, and has a delightful flavor, similar to an aged Manchego. To quote the author, which will give you an idea of her writing style, “it has all the primal whomp of a nutty, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and yet there is so much more going on: a lazy kind of sweetness, a buttery stealth that lingers, a dreamy, woodsy depth.”

The recipe using this cheese was intriguing to me because it’s a tapenade which not only contains olives, which is to be expected, but made with Foja de noce and smoked almonds. I’ve posted on tapenade before on the blog, and I’ve only been familiar with olive-heavy tapenades. So i knew i just had to make it. It was a good excuse to try the cheese, besides.

I’m typing the recipe as it’s written, but please take note below on my changes.

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Sicilian Olive and Smoked Almond Tapenade
/From Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese

1/4 pound Foja de Noce, grated (I crumbled)
1/3 cup smoked almonds (I’m assuming whole almonds)
1/3 cup dry-cured Sicilian olives*, pitted
1 small garlic clove
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor.

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Puree until the mixture is finely chopped, about the consistency of pesto. This photo shows the tapenade on its way to become pesto-like in consistency.

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You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if the paste is too thick. Because I most likely used more olives, no extra liquid was required (see note). Covered, this tapenade will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The author suggest serving the tapenade with pita crisps or baguette rounds, and also suggests using it as a spread in a sandwich. Delicious.

I served the tapenade with browned flatbread triangles.

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The recipe states that Pecorino or Parmesan could replace the Foja de Noce.

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* I used Castelvetrano olives, which aren’t dry cured, but they’re the only Sicilian olives I could get my hands on.

note: I’m not going to rant (again) on poorly written recipes, but honestly, 1/3 cup of olives? About four olives fit into my measuring cup and so I gave up and decided to pit them first, then I weighed out 3 ounces. It perhaps wasn’t quite the right ratio, but the end result was delicious nonetheless. The rest of the recipe I followed exactly, because I was so intrigued with the ingredients, especially the smoked almonds and honey.

verdict: I will make this. Over and over again. It’s my new favorite spread.

Rosemary’d Dip

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Bean dips are delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is my personal white bean dip with spices, which was printed in Gourmet magazine. 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- and garlic-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
Scant 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt

First place the beans in a colander. Rinse and let drain.

Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and garlic cloves and purée until the mixture is smooth.

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Always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.

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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 and process by pulsing. If you think the purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil.

If you’re making the white bean dip 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 and definitely don’t refrigerate it; the texture changes.

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

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* Rosemary’s pungency can vary. Start small, you can always add more. 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.