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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

Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-1

A few of my favorite signs of spring are the incredible vegetables that pop up early to remind us of the rich bounty of produce that is heading our way. This list includes asparagus (yes!), peas (nothing like ‘em), greens of all varieties, and for those fortunate to live near cool, damp forests, morel mushrooms.

For those of us who live in the high desert, the morel mushroom is a bit of unicorn, amazing to behold but rarely seen in person. But, this year, through a unicorn trick of her own, my friend Rachael, who lives in Missoula, Montana had a banner year foraging the forests and brought home sixteen pounds (!) of these woodsy gems.

That alone is amazing but she generously shared her haul with me. Isn’t that incredible? I was beside myself when she sent them to me. I have eaten morel mushrooms in restaurants before but I’d never worked with them before.  So, once I opened up the package, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work researching how to store and looking for inspiration on how to prepare them.

How Morel Mushrooms Grow

<In your best Elmer Fudd voice> ‘Be very, very quiet, I am hunting morel mushrooms…’

Typically, Friday nights are not the most productive nights in my kitchen. I am usually tired and likely to be in the mood to put my feet up and enjoy a glass of wine. But, the allure of these mushrooms was just too great. I decided that pizza would be the perfect vehicle for these meaty mushrooms. If you can’t find morels you can substitute any other mushrooms in their place.

Turns out that they are easy to work with so if you happen to spot some at your local farmers’ market, grab them. I cut the stem ends off, split them down the middle vertically and gave them a good rinse. They are pretty dirty because they were plucked from the dirt in the forest. Hey-o! Keep in mind, you don’t want to rinse or wash them until you are ready to use them.

Morel mushrooms-7

How to Make Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

I sautéed the mushrooms for a few minutes in a little butter and olive oil with pieces of green onions (red or yellow onions would work too). Then, I removed the veggies from heat and rolled out the pizza dough. Note: you can make your own dough from scratch if you are feeling inspired but I like to keep a few packages of Trader Joe’s pizza dough in the freezer at all times.

Roll out the dough into a thin circle and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Spread the oil around the dough evenly. I also like to sprinkle some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the dough. Then, top with shredded mozzarella, the sautéed morel mushrooms and green onions.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-9

Pop the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and carefully crack a raw egg into the center of the pizza. I cracked the egg into a small ramekin first to make the process easier (and in case I needed to pick out any egg shell fragments). Cook five more minutes. Take pizza out of the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil. When you cut into the pizza, the egg yolk breaks and becomes a rich, creamy sauce for the pizza.

The pizza was delicious and special thanks to Rachael for her generosity. I had a ball playing with the mushrooms.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

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:

 

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

If you keep pizza dough in your freezer (you do keep pizza dough in your freezer, right?), then weeknight dinners are a breeze. All you need is sauce, a few vegetables, and cheese and you are good to go.

A few years back I found a recipe on a blog for smoked mozzarella pizza with lemon.  The recipe and picture caught my eye because the lemon was sliced into paper thin rounds and used as a topping. Lemon rinds? Can you eat them? Would you want to?

Since I am always game to try new things, I made the recipe and fell in love with it! Since then I have realized that thinly sliced lemon on a salmon sushi roll is also delicious. But, this post is about pizza and over the years I have riffed variations of the original pizza based on whatever is in season or in my refrigerator.

This time around I had spinach that I needed to use and the end of a bag of pistachios. I find smoked mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, ask at your local grocery store. Smoked mozzarella can sometimes be challenging to find. You can use fresh mozzarella in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the smoked variety.

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Pizza Dough

I take the pizza dough out of the freezer the morning I plan to make pizza. The dough will be thawed by dinner time. A few tips on pizza dough. Many grocery stores stock fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated aisles. I particularly like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also hit the freezer section and get bread dough (like Rhodes) and keep that on hand. If you have some time on the weekend, you can make a delicious no-knead pizza dough and use it for this recipe or place it in the freezer for future use.

I also love making pizza on a pizza stone. You put the pizza stone in the oven as you start to preheat the oven. Once the oven comes to temperature, then set a timer for at least fifteen minutes and let the stone get nice and hot.

I roll the dough out on a parchment paper-lined pizza peel. Roll the dough out thin if you want to achieve a crispy crust. Then, drizzle the crust with olive oil and spread it around with your fingertips until there is even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the top of the dough.

Next, place slices of smoked mozzarella on top of the dough, followed by lemon slices (rind and all). My sweetie doesn’t love the lemon rind so I do cut the rind off half the lemon slices and put those pieces of lemon on his side of the pizza.

Finally, place spinach leaves over the top and sprinkle with the pistachios. Slide the pizza and parchment onto the pizza stone and let the magic begin.

I usually check the pizza halfway through cooking time and rotate the pizza 180 degrees to ensure even baking.

Let me know if you try this unusual but delicious pizza!

This recipe is inspired Alexandra Cooks recipe for Pizza with Lemon Smoked Mozzarella and Basil  

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

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

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

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Perhaps it is my Irish roots or maybe it is just because potatoes are damn delicious, but either way, I love potatoes. And, as long as I have potatoes in the house, I know I can put a satisfying meal on the table in no time. You do not need me to enumerate all the amazing things that you can do with potatoes. Okay, I will anyway. I love them roasted, mashed, baked, fried, shredded, spiralized, scalloped, or hasselbacked.

As you can see in my previous posts for Roasted Carrot Hummus and Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds, roasted vegetables are my absolute favorite. The roasting process brings out incredible flavor and texture in vegetables and these lemon roasted potatoes are delightful.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

The potatoes in this Lemon Roasted Potatoes recipe get crispy and golden brown on the outside and stay tender on the inside. The flavor of the garlic and lemon mellows in the roasting process and actually develop a sweetness. I have added the chipotle chili powder and cayenne to balance the sweet with a little bit of heat. The rosemary adds an earthy fresh flavor. But, if rosemary isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it out with some parsley but don’t add it until the end of the cooking time.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes are a lovely side dish to accompany any number of protein-filled main dishes. They would be a delicious side to salmon or chicken. On the other hand, if you are looking for a meatless menu idea, I think the potatoes would be delicious served alongside a Middle Eastern mezze platter of cut up veggies, pita wedges, hummus, and olives.

Alternatively, you could toss some asparagus spears in the oven while the potatoes are cooking. I would add them to the oven when you have about 20 minutes of cooking time left on the potatoes. Then, poach or fry an egg and serve on top of the potatoes. So good, right?

How to Make Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

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:

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Veggie Enchiladas

 

Greek Buddha Bowl

Greek Buddha Bowl

One of the things that I love about Buddha bowls is that you get a complete meal in a bowl.  Hello Fun Seekers’ reader Mila inspired this Greek Buddha Bowl. I combined the flavors that you typically associate with Greek food, like feta, olives, red onions, and a spicy yogurt sauce into a hearty and healthy meal. This Greek Buddha Bowl recipe is the second in a series of Buddha bowl recipes here at Hello Fun Seekers. The first post was a Mexican food inspired Fiesta Buddha bowl.

Are there flavor combinations that you love that would make a great Buddha Bowl? I would love to hear them in the comments below. I am thinking about Thai flavors or maybe sushi roll flavors.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Ingredients and Swaps

Along with their versatility, I adore the way a Buddha bowl incorporates a grain (in this case, farro), vegetables (zucchini, red onion, and red pepper), and beans (garbanzos) into a nutritional powerhouse of a meal. All that is needed is a delicious sauce and perhaps a few toppings and dinner is done. But, the beauty of a Buddha bowl is the way the recipe can be adapted to incorporate your favorite flavors.

There are no rules here! Swap out ingredients that you or your family are not crazy about with ingredients that are more palatable to you. If you aren’t a zucchini fan just replace it with something else that is green. How about broccoli? Or, perhaps spinach suits you better? Don’t roast the spinach but you could sauté it if you didn’t want to use it raw.  However, you can use it raw and the spinach would likely wilt a little bit when combined with the warm grain and roasted veggies and be incredibly delicious.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Have you tried farro? Farro is a wheat grain often used in Italian cuisine. Until recently, farro was sometimes difficult for me to find at the grocery store. Thankfully, I can regularly find farro at Trader Joe’s and sometimes in the bulk bins of many grocery stores. Farro has a slightly chewy texture and nutty flavor when cooked. If you can’t find farro you can substitute other grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley in this recipe.

Greek Buddha Bowl

Greek Buddha Bowl

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