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Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (Htipiti)

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

You want easy and healthy recipes, right? Well, I am happy to tell you that you will love this recipe. This feta and roasted red pepper dip comes together very quickly. You only need to give a quick chop to the roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, and feta then combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. You will be sitting outside on your patio with a delicious snack and glass of wine in no time at all!

If you travel to Washington DC, you may have heard of or eaten at Zaytinya, one of chef Jose Andres’s many fine restaurants. Zaytinya serves Mediterranean small plates and if you have the chance to go, do it! The food is delicious. But, if your travel plans do not include a trip to DC in the near future, you can still experience a taste of Zaytinya in your own kitchen.

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This dip would be perfect on a mezze platter. Mezze refers to a collection of small plates that are served with drinks. All you need is a large platter or cutting board that you will add fresh pita or pita chips, cucumber slices, hummus, olives, and the feta and roasted red pepper dip. If you feel like preparing a second small dish, I would recommend these za’atar roasted tomatoes and perhaps some tzatziki, a yogurt cucumber sauce.

How to Assemble a Mezze Platter

Check out this video if you need a little inspiration on putting together a mezze platter. When I need inspiration, I love looking at posts from Tieghan of Half-baked Harvest. She is masterful at creating boards like this Mediterranean Platter. I also think Gaby’s Mezze Platter from What’s Gaby Cooking is lovely.

Furthermore, serving a mezze platter is a wonderful way to entertain.  You can think of a assembling a mezze platter much like putting together a cheese board (albeit much less expensive to assemble). Chill a bottle of white wine, open a bottle of red to breathe, and have a few beers in the fridge. All that is left to do is to invite a few friends over.

Feta & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes with Pita Chips

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Za’atar. Doesn’t it just sound exotic? Do not be put off by this unfamiliar Middle Eastern spice mixture. Za’atar is combination of dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and savory, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It is delicious and works perfectly on these za’atar roasted tomatoes!

I used za’atar to season the roasted tomatoes and on the pita chips that I baked for this post. Za’atar is available at Middle Eastern markets or on Amazon. If you are ambitious, you can make your own.

 

I love the flavors of Middle Eastern food. That love can be traced back to trip to Las Vegas many years ago.  I had a remarkable meal at Neyla, a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant that sadly is now closed. That night at Neyla, we enjoyed mezze as our meal.  Mezze is an assortment of small plates, think tapas, but with Middle Eastern flavors.

That first experience with Middle Eastern food started a life-long love affair for me. I sought out Middle Eastern restaurants to try in Salt Lake City and in other cities when I traveled. For the record, when in Salt Lake City, I recommend visiting Mazza for an incredible Lebanese feast.

In addition to trying meals at Middle Eastern restaurants, I also began trying to make Middle Eastern foods at home. Back before you could Google a recipe, cookbooks were the main source for exploring the recipes of a new cuisine.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

I was inspired to write this post after recently reading the fabulous cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood. The mezze section of the cookbook is filled with traditional Lebanese small plate recipes, including a write-up on how to peel chickpeas for super smooth hummus.

As an aside, I actually read this article from Serious Eats on making the smoothest hummus ever and I decided to try it.  The kicker is that the article said that peeling the chickpeas is the essential step that makes the hummus so smooth. So yes, I PEELED the chickpeas, all the while muttering to myself, ‘why the hell am I peeling the chickpeas’? I will be damned if that hummus wasn’t the most incredibly smooth hummus that I have ever made. That being said, peeling chickpeas is rather tedious and time-consuming.

Abood’s method seems more efficient than the one that I used which was standing their peeling them one by one. Next time I make hummus, I will try to her method and let you guys know how it goes.

How to Make Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes

If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. However, in the meantime, feel free to give these delicious za’atar roasted tomatoes and baked pita chips a try. You can add a bowl hummus and an assortment of olives and enjoy a wonderful mezze of your own.

How to Make Baked Pita Chips

3 pita breads

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon za’atar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With pita bread lying flat on a cutting board, split the bread in half horizontally so you have two thin rounds. Repeat with the two other pita breads.
  3. Place rounds on two sheet pans. Place olive oil, salt, pepper, and za’atar into a small bowl. Brush each pita round with olive oil mixture.
  4. Bake until golden. Start checking the pita rounds around 7 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle.
  6. Gently break up the rounds into pieces.

NOTE: You can also cut the pita rounds into eight wedges before you coat with oil and bake. I prefer the more rustic look of breaking the pitas up into uneven pieces.

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus recently on her Food Network television show Giada Entertains. I grabbed my computer during the episode and searched for the recipe on the Food Network website.

I was able to locate the recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus but the photograph of the food on the website seemed a disservice to the appetizer that Giada demonstrated on her show. Isn’t the photo above of the Roasted Carrot Hummus much more appealing than the one posted below from the Food Network website?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

The photo of Roasted Carrot Hummus from the Food Network website

The experience that I had watching Giada’s show and many other similar experiences on the Food Network website inspired the new series that I am starting today. The focus of this series is take awesome recipes from the Food Network and to cook them at home. Then, the important part, we are going to take good photos of the recipes. The Food Network’s website has consistently terrible photos of their recipes. Did I mention that?

Roasted Carrot Hummus

I often feel frustrated when I want to pin a recipe from Food Network to my Pinterest account. The photographs of the food that come up are rather uninspired. I work hard to curate Pinterest boards that are full of tantalizing recipes and sometimes I won’t pin a recipe despite how good it sounds because the photo is bad.

So, I am taking on the challenge of a photography project to create beautiful photos of recipes that I see on the Food Network. This way I can pin the recipe and hopefully give the recipe the Pinterest love that it deserves.

Next up in this photography challenge

Here are few examples of delicious-sounding recipes that are paired with sad photos on the Food Network website. I plan to make and photograph these over the next few months.

Parmesan Pomodoro

Original photo from Food Network website

Rigatoni with Greens

Original photo from Food Network website

Southwestern Potato Salad

Original photo from Food Network website

See what I mean? Life is too short to post recipes with mediocre pictures.

Don’t you think the pin below would get a lot more repins on Pinterest than the one next to it?  This is important if you are an avid Pinterest user.

If you come across a poorly photographed recipe on the Food Network, shoot me an email with a link to the recipe and I will add it to the list of recipes that need to be photographed again. Also, I need a good hashtag for this project. If you can think of something clever, leave me a comment below.

Onto to the recipe, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe. I added tahini, cumin, and reduced the amount of oil.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate SeedsSteamed cauliflower stinks. Growing up I couldn’t stand the smell that would permeate beyond the kitchen when my Mom would steam cauliflower. So, for years I didn’t think that I liked cauliflower because it would never make it past my lips based on the smell alone.

Then, one day I discovered roasted cauliflower and my entire world view of cauliflower completely changed. Suddenly, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I often have cauliflower in my grocery cart during the winter months especially when the availability of fresh locally-grown produce is sparse.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate SeedsHave you tried roasting cauliflower? I want to urge you to give it go if you’ve only had it steamed and didn’t care for it. You might find that roasting cauliflower changes your mind. I love cauliflower roasted simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper. But, sometimes you want a dish that has a little more pizzazz.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate SeedsI think this roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds could be a star of your holiday table. Or, it would brighten up a dreary winter meal. The pomegranate seeds make the dish sparkle!

The cauliflower is seasoned with an array of warming spices including sumac. Sumac is commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. If you aren’t familiar with sumac, it is well worth adding this lemony-flavored spice to your pantry.  Sumac can be found as Middle Eastern markets or ordered online.  Buying new spices is one of the reasons I love shopping at ethnic markets.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate SeedsTahini is crushed sesame seed paste and a crucial ingredient in hummus, baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip), and halva (a sweet confection which was a childhood favorite of mine). Tahini is available in most supermarkets in the ethnic food aisle. You will want to give the paste a stir before using because much like natural peanut butter, tahini can separate when sitting on the shelf.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate

Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds

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