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Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs with Sea Salt

I wouldn’t call this a recipe. An assembly job is a more accurate description. And let’s face it, in the summer time, who can be bothered with cooking and recipes and such? I know that many nights I cannot be bothered to heat up the kitchen by turning on a burner or the oven.
Plus, summer means fig season. For those of you who live in a climate where fig trees grow outside, I envy you. For the rest of us, we carefully scour farmers markets, specialty markets, or Trader Joe’s for the first sign of fresh figs.

Fresh figs bear little resemblance to the filling of a Fig Newton cookie. Fresh figs are a succulent and delicately sweet.

If you are a child of the 80s, you may recall an INXS video for the song ‘The One Thing’ which features an opulent dinner party and big haired models seductively eating fresh figs. I can’t lie, every time I eat a fig that song and video play in my mind. Fortunately for everyone, I eat most meals on my own, so they are spared my interpretation of that video. Ha!

If you haven’t ever tried fresh figs, I encourage you to track them down. They are in season during summer and I have recently seen them at both Trader Joe’s and Costco. I usually eat figs just like an apple or pear. They are also delicious sliced and on top of yogurt or oatmeal. But, sometimes I will want something a little sweet and decadent in the evening.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs with Sea Salt 6 fresh figs 8 ounces dark chocolate, melted Sea salt Place parchment paper on a plate or small baking sheet. Chop or break up chocolate and place in small glass bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until the chocolate is melted. Dip the bottom third of each fig into the melted chocolate. Place on parchment paper and sprinkle chocolate with sea salt.

Dipping fresh figs in dark chocolate and sprinkling them with sea salt is the perfect way to end a meal. If dark chocolate isn’t your jam, you can substitute milk chocolate. But, I really enjoy the slight bitterness of dark chocolate with the sweetness of the figs.

To start, I break up the chocolate and microwave it in a glass bowl for 30 second increments. Stir the chocolate after each 30 second interval until melted. Meanwhile, line a plate or small baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip the bottom third of the fig into the melted chocolate and place on parchment. Sprinkle sea salt on warm chocolate. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes to set up.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs with Sea Salt

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

Ricotta Toast with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-4

If you have become a bit tired of avocado toast, you may want to consider swapping out the avocados for ricotta. Don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to avocado toast. I love it, I eat it often, but sometimes I want something a little different. Ricotta is light and airy and perfect with so many different topping.

Ricotta toast is something that I have eaten since I was a kid. Every Italian family keeps ricotta in the fridge. You still get the rich, creamy spread you are used to from avocado toast but a whole new universe of flavors opens up for you. Ricotta can easily be used either in sweet or savory dishes, think lasagna versus cannoli.

In New York, you can find fresh ricotta at many Italian markets. Have you had fresh ricotta? It is so creamy and delicious. I die. Literally. Well, I guess figuratively but still you cannot even at how good it is. I haven’t tried making it at home although I have been told (and this video confirms) that it is really easy to make.

How to Make Fresh Ricotta

I like to use a hearty, rustic bread for the toast. For the toppings on this ricotta toast, I used morel mushrooms which were foraged from the woods near my friend Rachael’s home in Missoula, Montana. I was so excited to get a package from her with bunches of morel mushrooms. What a treat! I made this Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions using some of the mushrooms from that same haul.

If Rachael didn’t send you any morels and you couldn’t find them locally, I would swap them out for cremini or button mushrooms. Not quite the panache of morels but still a nice meaty texture to complement the ricotta. I also used some beautiful, medium-sized asparagus chopped into bite-sized pieces to top the Ricotta toast.

Ricotta Toast with Asparagus and Morels-1

Ricotta toast with morel mushrooms and asparagus can really be eaten for any meal. I prefer savory foods in the morning and devoured the toasts on Sunday morning for brunch with coffee. But, served with a green salad or soup, the ricotta toast would also make a perfect light lunch or dinner. Plus, it is so quick and easy to make. Basically, you a few minutes to chop the mushrooms and asparagus, a few minutes to sauté them, and the time it takes to toast the bread. Brilliant when you don’t want to fuss in the kitchen on a weeknight.

Ricotta Toast with Morels and Asparagus

 

 

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi Cheese

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Can we agree that cooking outdoors is approximately 110% better than cooking indoors? The food always tastes better, outdoors > indoors, and your kitchen stays cool. Grilled vegetables are a summer staple at my house. Whatever ripe vegetables I can find in my garden or the farmers market typically makes onto my grill.  The addition of Halloumi takes this grilled veggie dish up a few notches.

Are you familiar with Halloumi? From Cyprus, halloumi cheese is an unripened goat and sheep’s milk cheese. Eaten before grilling, halloumi is a bit bland but once your grill it or cook it in a skillet, a golden crust forms with soft delicious interior. Halloumi can be found in many grocery stores with the fancy cheeses, Mediterranean markets, and at Trader Joe’s.

For this recipe, I made a simple, Mediterranean-inspired dressing to marinate the Halloumi and veggies prior to cooking. Both the vegetables and the cheese will soak up the flavors of the dressing so be sure to allow enough time for the marinade to do its work before you are ready to cook.

How to Grill Halloumi on the BBQ

If you can’t quite wrap your head around grilling cheese on the BBQ this video by Curtis Stone will show you how it is done and what the Halloumi should like when it is done.

If you plan to cook outside on the grill, you can either thread the cheese and veggies onto skewers or use a grill basket (I like this one). If you use a grill basket, be sure to not overfill the basket with vegetables and cheese. You are looking to get a char on the veggies and cheese. If you overcrowd the grill basket you will find that some of the veggies will steam. I would cook half the veggies and cheese first and then the other half if space is an issue.

I like to serve the grilled veggies and Halloumi cheese with warmed pita bread and Greek Tzatziki sauce. You could also add a bowl olives or perhaps some hummus and cut cucumbers to round out the meal.  My favorite way to entertain is to place all the components of this recipe on a large platter or board. Then, your dinner guests can help themselves and take exactly what they want.

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food? Check out these other recipes:

 

Dutch Baby Pancake

Dutch Baby Pancake

Who likes recipes that involve less than five ingredients, can be blitzed up in a blender, and takes under thirty minutes to bake? *raises hand*

The Dutch baby pancake meets these criteria. You simply put eggs, flour, milk, and seasonings into a blender and pour the batter into a hot skillet which contains melted butter. Let’s talk about Dutch baby pancakes. Have you ever had one?

For the uninitiated, Dutch baby pancakes come out of the oven as light, puffy, golden brown, eggy pancake. Have your cameras ready if you want to Instagram this dish because the puff of the pancake is short-lived. Within minutes, the air comes out of the Dutch baby and it flattens out to a slightly less photogenic but still absolutely delicious dish. The video uses a slightly different recipe but will show  you the process of making a Dutch baby pancake.

How-to Make Dutch Baby Pancakes

Dutch baby pancakes are typically served for breakfast or brunch. I love to eat a Dutch Baby pancake with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. But, served with mixed berries and maple syrup is also delicious. How does lemon curd and strawberries sound to you? Or, wouldn’t sauteed apples and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar be scrumptious? Let’s face it, any fruit that is in season is a perfect accompaniment to a Dutch baby pancake.

Once you make a Dutch baby pancake, you may find that your imagination runs wild thinking about the possibilities.  Please tell me that your imagination runs wild when you make a delicious recipe. I find myself thinking about what else would taste great on this light and fluffy pancake. What savory toppings can I pair with it to turn this into a savory dinner?

Dutch Baby Pancake

This recipe for a savory Dutch baby pancake from the NY Time includes fresh herbs in the batter and is sprinkled with salty, nutty Parmesan cheese while it bakes. OMG. Yum! I must try that recipe soon. I imagine pairing it with a salad and glass of crisp, white wine.

Enough daydreaming, let me encourage you to try making a Dutch baby pancake this week. You will impress yourself and your people as you take it from the oven in all its glory. I use my 10-inch cast iron skillet to bake the Dutch baby. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet then a similarly sized baking dish will do in a pinch.

Other recipes full of eggy goodness that you might be interested in:

Dutch Baby Pancake

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

The only thing that could make this dish more spring-like is if I stuck a tulip on the top of it. I would not do that because it would be silly. Instead, I took some of my favorite spring flavors and combined them into a beautiful asparagus and artichoke frittata.

Springtime is always associated with eggs (think Easter) and those tender spears of asparagus. For this recipe, I recommend selecting asparagus that is at least as thick as a pencil. You do not want to be trying to peel those skinny little stalks into ribbons. Unlike most preparations of asparagus, you don’t want to snap off the tough ends. You will use them as a handle and hold onto them as you are peeling the stalks into attractive ribbons.

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

I used canned artichoke hearts that were quartered. You will want to drain  and rinse them and then gave them a rough chop. I selected feta cheese mainly because I had some in the fridge. You could also substitute Parmesan or goat cheese if you prefer.

Frittatas are equally as welcome on the table for brunch served with roasted potatoes and fresh fruits, as they are on the dinner table with a salad and crusty bread. They also travel well as leftovers for lunch the next day. Alternatively, frittatas are perfect if you are having vegetarian friends or family over (ahem, Mom) and don’t know what to make.

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Here is another idea; wouldn’t this be lovely as part of Mother’s Day brunch spread? Add some fresh fruit and mimosas and you have a brunch fit for a queen. Wouldn’t the asparagus and artichoke frittata also be perfect for book club? Most book clubs that I have been involved in could more accurately be categorized as wine clubs but the frittata would be great for that too!  I would recommend a Sauvignon Blanc to accompany this frittata because of the strong flavors of the asparagus and artichoke.

How to Make Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Wait! There’s More

If you like frittatas, you may also be interested in these recipes:

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Is anything more exhilarating than watching the Earth come back to life in the spring? No matter how challenging things are in the rest of the world, a walk around the block can have me whistling a tune in no time. Daffodils and tulips are popping up from the ground, forsythia bushes burst out their bright yellow flowers, and one of my favorite ingredients, spring mix salad greens, make an appearance in my garden. One of my favorite ways to serve spring mix salad is to combine it with Mediterranean flavors of roasted red peppers, olives, pine nuts, and feta.

Spring Mix Salad

Spring Mix Salad is typically a combination the following lettuce types: romaine, oak, leaf, butter, chard, spinach, and arugula. The greens are small and tender. They are also quite delicate so you will want to handle and dress them with care. I like to make a light vinaigrette and sparingly drizzle it over the greens.  A spring mix salad is not the salad to pour a glumpy ranch-style dressing over. You will want a hearty romaine or iceberg to stand up to the weight of those types of dressings.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Put the ingredients for the simple Mediterranean-inspired vinaigrette into a Mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. You can make the dressing ahead of time and then shake it up again just before serving.

You can either use jarred roasted red peppers for this recipe or roast your own. If I am not in a mad rush I usually roast them myself over one of my gas burners. You can also roast the red pepper under the broiler or on your BBQ. The key is to let the skin of the red pepper get nice and charred. Then, you place the pepper in a brown paper bag or in a bowl with a cover to steam for 10 minutes. The skin will peel right off.

The salad comes together quickly and makes a great accompaniment for dinner or I love to take it to work for lunch. Just tote your dressing along separately and pour on just before serving. The spring mix salad greens will wilt rather quickly after being dressing so plan accordingly.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

How to Make Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Aren’t sliders adorable? I think most things in miniature form are cuter than their full size counterparts. Think babies, puppies, kitties, and burgers. However, why should meat-eaters have all the slider fun? They shouldn’t, right?

Now that we are in agreement on that, let’s talk about these Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing. Boiling the beets along with a variety of aromatics imparts great flavor into the beets. The Green Goddess Dressing is creamy, herby, and delicious, which complements the earthiness of the beets. Red onions offer crunch and bite to the slider. The combination is top notch.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I estimate that approximately 99% of slider recipes that I come across feature some sort of meat filling. You know that I am always up for a challenge. Therefore, I want to create delicious options for vegetarian sliders. These Beet Sliders are not only gorgeous; they are perfect to eat while drinking a glass of wine or a beer and listening to Budos Band.

I would plan to serve two to three sliders per person for a perfect small plate offering. I adore small plates. Small plates always feel like a party. I would much rather have a few small plates than one entrée any day. Honestly, every day that would be my preference. Small plates are perfect for the chronically indecisive, possibly commitment challenged.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I digress. Let’s move on the these sliders. The key to any burger is getting the bun and burger to match up in size. Be sure that your beets are as big in the widest part as the bun they will eventually sit on. Once the beets are cooked and peeled, you will want to slice them into about one-inch rounds.

While the beets cook, whip up the ingredients for the Green Goddess dressing and thinly slice part of a red onion. I always recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves when working with beets. Beets stain everything they encounter so exercise care when preparing them.

If you are beet lover, you may want to check out these other recipes:

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

 

Asparagus Fries

Asparagus Fries

Spring is in the air! Can you feel it? On the other hand, maybe it is just me willing it here. Winter just isn’t my bag. I can get into a little snow around Christmas but beyond that, I am ready for it to disappear for another eleven months and three weeks.

As I daydream about spring, I think about gardening, daffodils extending from the ground and showing off their pretty faces to the sun, and spring vegetables. Is there anything better than asparagus, peas, radishes, and greens? Well, perhaps, garden tomatoes and corn but right now after a long, cold, and super snowy winter, I crave all things springtime.

We have a friend named Denny who is in his seventies and who knows some secret spots in old orchards near his home where asparagus grow wild. GROWS WILD! I am such a city girl that it never crossed my mind that asparagus would grow wild. I know now that it does, and if I am lucky, he will feel healthy enough to go asparagus hunting this spring. He loves to pickle the asparagus (bloody Marys!) but sometimes he will show up at my door with a bag of asparagus that he has picked.

Asparagus fries

The orchards near his home seem to be getting smaller each year. Families sell off the land and developers build homes in their place, which makes me sad. So, even if you don’t have a source of wild asparagus available to you, at this time of year, grocery stores start selling asparagus at decent prices. I buy bunches of it in the spring. I love it steamed with lemon, roasted with olive oil and seasonings, or dipped in eggs and dredged in spices and panko. I added chipotle chili powder and cayenne to the seasonings which adds some heat. You can skip those if you don’t want the fries to have a kick.

Asparagus fries are wonderful appetizers to serve with drinks. They also make a beautiful accompaniment to seafood. I like to pick them up with my fingers and dip them into a complementary sauce. In the pictures in this post, I dipped into a spicy mango sauce, which is delicious. You can also dip them into warm marinara sauce or garlicky aioli. I also think that they would be delicious with Asian-inspired peanut sauce. I especially love Ina Garten’s peanut sauce.

 

How to make Asparagus Fries

How to make Spicy Mango Sauce

Spicy Mango Sauce

Here is the link to my post on how to make spicy mango sauce or you can follow the directions below.

Ingredients

1 ripe mango, peeled and diced

¾ cup canned coconut milk

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 lime, juice and zest

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

½  teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Place ingredients for sauce in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Put sauce in a canning jar or covered container for one hour.

Asparagus Fries

Veggie Enchiladas

Veggie Enchiladas

My main goal in life is to incorporate more vegetables in the food that I prepare for myself and my family and friends.  Okay, calling it my main goal in life may be an exaggeration, but it is a very important consideration in my cooking. Vegetables are full of healthful nutrients. They are also proven to reduce the incidence of most lifestyle-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These veggie enchiladas are delicious AND nutritious!

Veggie Enchiiladas

Eat Your Veggies

So, do you still need convincing about why sneaking adding vegetables into every meal is important? Okay, here it goes, vegetables are cheap. Who could argue with adding more budget-friendly food into your diet? Vegetables are also delicious. Stick with me on this one.

This veggie enchilada recipe is for you if you not a veggie lover. Or, it is also for veggie lovers who live with and cook for veggie-resistant people, I encourage you to try introducing new veggies to your crew and/or new preparations of veggies.

Veggie Enchiladas

For example, most people can behind the idea of eating a tray full of warm, cheesy enchiladas. Right? What if you added some delicious roasted vegetables to the beans and cheese that most people expect in their enchiladas? I tried this out on family and they gobbled up the enchiladas. As a result, I effectively and deliciously added an extra serving of vegetables to their day!

For this recipe, I roasted sweet potatoes, red peppers, and red onions in order to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables. By seasoning the veggies in in olive oil and chipotle chili powder, salt, and pepper, they take on a smoky, spicy flavor.

Veggie Enchiiladas

Once you are ready to start assembling the enchiladas, spread refried beans on a tortilla, top with roasted veggies, add finely chopped kale and cheese on top, and then roll up! Then, you slather on enchilada sauce and more cheese, no one will be the wiser about the big favor that you have done for them.

Leftover Filling

If you have any of the filling leftover, you can use it to make:

  • Huevos rancheros – warm corn tortillas, top with refried beans, leftover veggies, fried egg & salsa
  • Frittata – Beat eggs in a bowl, add leftover veggies to greased pan to warm, add egg mixture and cook until set
  • Quesadilla – Warm up leftover veggies, place a tortilla in pan, add veggies and shredded cheese, top with other tortilla, cook until golden on both sides. Slice into 6 pieces and serve with salsa

Here are a few other recipes that are chock full of veggies for you to consider:

If you would like other veggie-filled recipes delivered to your mailbox twice per month, sign up for my newsletter in the side bar to the right.

Veggie Enchiladas

 

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