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.

Roasted Carrot Dip

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If you have followed me for any time, you are most likely aware that I prefer a white bean-based dip over one that is garbanzo bean-based, like hummus. The texture is smoother and creamier, in my humble opinion, because of the different bean.

I also don’t think that tahini is the big deal ingredient that most people think it is. (Sorry Elaine and Yotam.) I love it in some things, not in everything.

So if I want a white bean dip or spread, I reach for my favorite – canned Great Northern beans. Then I decide what I’m going to add to it. Hummus eaters make hummus, with tahini and lemon. Same dip, all the time! I like to change things up.

Recently I came across a Roasted Carrot Hummus dip from My Kitchen Witch, and it caught my attention because carrots are one ingredient I haven’t added to white bean dip!

On this blog there are recipes for white bean dip with fresh rosemary, spices, beets, roasted butternut squash, paprika cream, and pumpkin. This just goes to show what can be done to make spectacular and tasty dips. You don’t always have to make hummus!

I’m not using Debi’s recipe, because hers is a hummus. This recipe is a white bean dip. But those roasted carrots got my attention! Thanks, Debi!

Roasted Carrot White Bean Dip

6 small orange and/or yellow carrots
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
2 cans Great Northern beans, drained
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, to taste
Olive oil
Aleppo pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Scrub the carrots, if necessary, trim the ends, and dry off on a paper towel.

Place the carrots, cut into uniform pieces if necessary, in a jelly roll pan, or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast until the carrots are caramelized but also tender. Sometimes I turn off the oven after the caramelization shows, to let veggies cook all the way through; you don’t want any burnt bits on tender carrots.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, place the drained white beans in a food processor jar.

Add the cooled carrots, garlic, cumin, and salt. Pulse as much as you can, then slowly add olive oil until there are no pieces of carrot or garlic any longer, and the dip is creamy.

If you like the carrot bits in your dip, process the garlic first, then add the carrots.

Serve immediately with pita bread, pita crisps, crackers, or bread.

You can see in the photo above how creamy and “pourable” this white bean dip is. And it doesn’t thicken and get mealy like garbanzo bean-based dips do.

I sprinkled Aleppo pepper on top of the dip, and for extra color, served it with blue corn chips.

Before I could even wash dishes, my husband had finished the dip! That’s his thumb in the photo.

verdict: Obviously my somewhat picky husband loved this dip, but I concur that it’s outstanding! The carrots add a subtle sweetness.

Note: I’ve never found that Hummus or white bean dips keep in the refrigerator. The garlic gets an off taste from oxidation, I presume, and it never tastes as good as when it’s just made. I recommend only making what you plan on eating on the same day.

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.