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Duo of Dips: Artichoke Feta and Tomatillo Salsa

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What’s better than one delicious dip? Two delicious dips!

I feel like an infomercial…. buy one recipe and get a second for free! Except no one is paying for these recipes.

Recently I had a friend come to visit Seattle for the first time. While I knew we would eat most of our meals out at restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and hole-in-the-wall gems, I wanted to make sure there was at least something at home to snack on. While it was comical that I thought the two of us could possibly eat a snack (since we pretty much ate like 78 meals a day at Seattle’s most exciting eateries), I was at least prepared if the urge to snack ever hit.

 

Artichoke Feta Dip

Adapted from Macrina Bakery

  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • 1 large garlic clove, left in peel
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces (1 1/3 cups) crumbled feta cheese, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place artichokes and garlic on lined baking sheet, drizzle on half the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each), minced thyme, and toss to coat in oil. Roast in oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for 15 minutes.

Place cream cheese and feta in the bowl of a food processor (using the steel blade). With the motor running, drizzle in remaining olive oil and blend until very smooth. Add cooled artichokes, remove peel from garlic (you should be able to easily squeeze it out), pulse entire mixture a few more times to slightly chop up artichoke (I like this dip somewhat chunky, but pulse additionally for a smoother consistency). Taste for seasoning. I found the feta I used was plenty salty so just added a bit more pepper.

Transfer to serving bowl. While I don’t typically garnish plates with completely random ingredients (this isn’t the 90s afterall, when every dessert was garnished with mint), I thought this needed a bit of color, so I added a sprig of parsley.

Eat immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days (let come to room temperature before serving). I enjoy this most with pita chips, but flatbread, crackers, or a sturdy chip would work.

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Tomatillo Salsa

Adapted from Rick Bayless

  • 8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed (1 serano if you prefer more mild)
  • 5 or 6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • Salt

Preheat a broiler.

Roast the tomatillos and chile on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 to 5 minutes more.

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos and chiles, including all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the cilantro and pulse lightly until combined. Add 1/4 cup water, blend to a coarse puree, and scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water (this removes some of that very strong oniony taste, feel free to skip if you really like onion), then shake to remove the excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

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Avocado Hummus

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I have mixed thoughts on New Years Resolutions. I applaud people who make goals and hope to implement changes in their lives, but so rarely do people follow-through on them. I’m totally guilty. I’m pretty sure I’m still paying for a gym membership I signed up for 8 years ago. I think I went once or twice?

But, 2014 IS going to be the year I keep up that resolution of eating more healthily. I can do it! Totally going to cut down on carb-heavy meals and sauces with a stick of butter.

… at least until February when the rest of the food blogosphere starts posting rich, decadent recipes again.

When thinking about how I want to improve my diet I like being assured I can continue to eat delicious food. So often people associate healthy with boring. The following dip recipe is actually pretty good for you and unlike most dips, which include copious amounts of cheese, the only highly caloric or fatty ingredient in this is avocado, which is a good fat.

While I love a traditional hummus, I love the pack of peppery punch this hummus has from the arugula and the rich, savory, creaminess of the avocado creates a velvety smooth texture. A healthy amount of garlic and lemon round out the flavor perfectly.

Whether you want to ring in the New Year with this dip or whip up a batch to enjoy with sliced vegetables for lunch (it actually holds up really well and lasts several days), look no further! I think slices of carrot, cucumber, or celery, pita chips, or lightly toasted pita bread are all great accompaniments. It’s also delicious used as a spread on a sandwich instead of a mayonnaise.

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Avocado Hummus

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • One 15-ounce can garbonzo beans (aka chick peas), drained, liquid reserved, and rinsed
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados, seeded, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 packed cup arugula
  • 1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

Combine the beans, avocado, arugula, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Gradually add in the reserved canned liquid, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is creamy. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with pita or sliced vegetables.

Soft Pretzels (and Welsh Rarebit)

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Pretzels and cheese sauce is  a well-balanced and nutritious dinner, right?!?! Right.

While I love going out for a fancy dinner or attempting to cook something elaborate at home, sometimes I just want to eat some stinky blue cheese, a scoop of ice cream, a glass of wine…. or perhaps potato chips and onion dip. I guess when you’re an adult no one forces you to eat vegetables (or anything that resembles an actual meal).

After a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants (which included perfectly seared Albacore and an edamame and  mushroom risotto) I can’t say I was that hungry for a huge dinner. Something snacky sounded good. Seeing as I’ve wanted to make pretzels for a while and I had all of the ingredients I decided to seize the moment and make me some pretzels and cheese sauce.

Up until this week I can’t say I had any idea how one makes a pretzel. I found it very interesting that you actually (briefly) boil your pretzel in water with a very healthy amount of baking soda before you bake it. If you’re new to making pretzels, be sure to boil your pretzels in the biggest pot you have. The baking soda and pretzels caused the water to foam like crazy.

As far as pretzel salt goes, I didn’t have any so I used coarse sea salt and it worked just fine.

Soft Pretzels

From Alton Brown

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon table salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a bit more if your dough is too sticky)
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for bowl and work surface
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt

Combine the 1 1/2 cups water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

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Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. I found I needed to sprinkle in a few additional tablespoons of flour, as my dough was incredibly sticky.

Place the dough in a bowl coated with vegetable oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Alternatively, you can take your 24-inch ropes and cut into 6 or so pieces for pretzel bites. I did a combination of both.

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Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds (flipping over after 15 seconds). Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula (I used a fish spatula, which I love). Place pretzels on your prepared sheet pans.

Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel or sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Serve with mustard and/or a delicious cheese sauce (recipe below).

Just a note on storing the pretzels: like most baked goods, soft pretzels are best the day they’re made (preferably freshly baked). DO NOT put them in an airtight container (too much humidity). Chances are they’ll look super shriveled up. The best way to store them is in a paper bag, at room temperature. When ready to serve, heat them up for a few minutes in a 375 oven. But really, there won’t be any leftovers because they’re so delicious!

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Welsh Rarebit Sauce (aka Welsh Rabbit Sauce)

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup milk (whole is preferable, but skim or 2% will work too)
  • 1/2 cup beer (I found a pilsner worked very nicely)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 dash Worcestershire
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
 Sprinkle in flour and whisk together until combined. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.
 Pour in milk and beer, whisking constantly, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add mustard, paprika, and cayenne and whisk.
 Add cheese and whisk slowly, cooking for a couple of minutes or until smooth, melted, and very hot.
 Remove from heat and serve immediately. If you’re so inclined, a sprinkling of finely chopped chives will make it look less orange and goopey.

Pita and Hummus

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About 10 years ago I used to eat packaged, pre-made hummus by the gallon. I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Then something happened and the thought of store-bought hummus just didn’t appeal to me. People I knew started making their own hummus and I had the really, really good stuff at specialty restaurants. I just couldn’t stomach the gummy, flavorless junk from my local supermarket after having far superior hummus.

After craving hummus for far too long I decided to take matters into my own hand and make my own. It can’t be that difficult can it? Feeling ambitious, I decided I might as well make my own pita as well. For some reason the pita I’ve purchased at the store has been disappointing. Very cardboard-esque.

So, project pita and hummus commenced.

Pita Bread

Adapted from Anne Burrell

  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour, plus a little more for dusting
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl

1. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar and yeast and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, combine the bread flour and 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, cumin, salt and cayenne.

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3. Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and mix on medium speed to combine and knead the dough. It should take 6 to 7 minutes. At about 4 minutes into kneading my dough was super sticky so I gradually added more all-purpose flour a tablespoon at a time (it resulted in roughly half a cup more). After 7 minutes your dough should be very firm and not sticky or tacky.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

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After an hour mine was (waayyyyyy) more than double in size, so just check along the way.

5. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll into 7-inch rounds (1/4-inch thick), using an additional sprinkle of bread flour if your dough is sticking (my dough hardly stuck at all). Divide the dough between sheet trays (I have little baby sheet trays so needed to use 3), cover them loosely with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. As you will see, I chose to roll mine into abstract circles. I suck at rolling… errr…. I like the rustic, handmade look.

After researching other recipes I discovered a few different ways of cooking the pita and I wanted to try both to see which was most successful.

Stovetop method: Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle on medium-high heat. Lightly grease the skillet and cook pitas, one at a time, for 15 seconds on one side, flip and cook for one minute, then flip again and cook an additional minute. The pita should lightly brown and puff up and the total cooking time should be less than 3 minutes per pita. This method seemed straight-forward but was disastrous for me. After burning two pitas (even after turning down the heat and cooking for a shorter period on the second pita) I decided this wasn’t for me.

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Oven method: Lightly spritz the pitas with water and bake in a preheated, 500 degree oven for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pitas over and bake for 2 more minutes. Let cool slightly before eating. I prefer warm pitas and almost immediately started ripping these bad boys apart to dip into my hummus.

This was definitely my preferred method.

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Hummus

From Ina Garten

While I only went to one store in search of tahini, I was somewhat shocked at how pricy it is. I mean, it’s not obscenely expensive but considering tahini is simply ground up sesame seeds and a bit of oil, I thought the $11 price tag for the teeny, tiny bottle was a bit obscene. After googling “homemade tahini” on my iPhone, I decided it would be easy and much cheaper to make my own. I did so by grinding 4 cups of lightly toasted sesame seeds and 1/3 olive oil in my food processor for a few minutes, until it was a smooth, thick paste. It stores in the fridge for a few months.

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, 2 tablespoons liquid reserved (cooking dried chickpeas tastes so much better, but using canned results in a delicious, but less tasty hummus)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately the juice of 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
  • 8 dashes hot sauce (Frank’s is my preferred hot sauce)

Turn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it’s minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature with pita and/or an assortment of vegetables. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

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Baked Potato Chips and MacGyver Dip

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A while back on a lazy Sunday I went to brunch at one of Seattle’s (many) seafood restaurants, Salty’s on Alki. Every weekend their bar is overtaken by a massive buffet spread with every possible brunch item you can imagine. Made-to-order omelets, crepes, waffles, French toast, pancakes… freshly shucked oysters, jumbo prawns… 15+ kinds of dessert, a build your own Bloody Mary bar… ummmm… a pasta station, freshly prepared eggs benedict… no matter what you’re craving, Salty’s brunch buffet has it and they do an exceptional job of executing it.

Buffets have a bad reputation, and very rightfully so. 99.9% of the time buffets serve incredibly mediocre and usually bad food. Presentation is usually nasty and food items sit in warming dishes for an eternity. I’m pleased to say that Salty’s brunch buffet is very solid and they take pride in serving fresh food. Sure, there were a few misses, but for the most part I ate quality food.

After sampling almost everything I was pretty useless for the day. Food coma doesn’t even come close to describing my sloth-ness. While I SHOULD have had a very light, healthy dinner, I was in a snacking mood and wanted chips and dip. The thought of driving to a store for snacky items just seemed overwhelming so I decided to bake up some potato chips and make some sort of a dip with what I had in the fridge.

Oven Baked Potato Chips

  • One large russet potato, thinly sliced on a mandolin (1/8 inch)
  • A few drizzles of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper (optional)

1. Coat slices of potato in olive oil and salt & pepper.

2. Place coated slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I found some of the slices cooked faster than others so I’d recommend checking on them at about 15 minutes and every few minutes after that.

MacGyver Dip

I just used random stuff from my fridge and spice cabinet without measuring. A good dip should be creamy and pack a lot of flavor and should meet whatever flavor profile you’re into. Some hot sauce would be nice, a few cloves of roasted garlic… whatever you have available.

  • A few scoops of sour cream
  • A few scoops of mayo
  • Some leftover roasted red pepper
  • Salt & pepper
  • Caramelized onion (I just used a random half or so of an onion I had)
  • 3 chopped scallions
  • 2 strips of crispy cooked bacon
  • Garlic powder (I am a strong advocate of fresh garlic but I had none)
  • Some cayenne

1. Mix all of the above together, chill, and serve with chips!

The Dip for a Book Club That Dips (Caramelized Onion Dip)

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Dip, as defined by Merriam-Webster: to examine or read something casually or superficially.

A few years ago a friend from high school invited me over to a small gathering at her apartment. She said it was her weekly “Book Club.”

Me: What’s the book? I don’t think I’ll have time to read it before Saturday.

Her: Don’t worry, it’s just an excuse to get together with friends and eat and drink. We don’t even pretend to read a book.

Me: Okay. Are you a classy book club that drinks wine or are you a klassy book club that drinks cheap beer and margaritas made from cheap tequila?

Her: Somewhere in between, we drink everything, but it’s the good quality booze.

I figured sparkling wine was fitting. Who doesn’t love a good bubbly? (Btw, Schramsberg is my personal favorite.)

I’ve been in a book club before. I actually enjoy them. However, it seems most people use the pretense of book club to hang out and eat and drink. And I’m fine with that. I love reading, but I like parties even more.

While there were delicious cocktails and great conversation, the thing that stood out the most was the onion dip my friend made. She took onions, chopped them up, and mixed them with some seasoning, mayo, sour cream, and Swiss cheese. Then she baked it until it was golden brown on top and molten cheesy on the inside. While this was awe inspiring and perfect as it was, I made a few changes and have been serving it since.

Caramelized Onion Dip

  • 2 large onions, somewhat finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic, finely minced (I like garlic so I usually use 4 or more cloves, but feel free to use less)
  • ¾ cup mayo (I hope you use Best Foods, because that’s the best)
  • ¾ cup sour cream (I wouldn’t recommend using a low-fat sour cream since it’s just not the same and this is so far beyond calorie laden it probably doesn’t matter)
  • 1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper (feel free to use more or less based on your preference for spice, this amount gives a very mild heat)
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 4ish cups Swiss cheese (Trader Joe’s sells a packaged blend of Swiss and Gruyere that’s dirt-cheap and is roughly 4 cups that I always use)

1. Caramelize the onions (be sure to lightly coat in olive oil and season with salt and pepper). I find I can usually watch a 30-minute sitcom during this process (Modern Family preferable). Just stir during the commercial breaks. You want them to darken in color and bring out the natural sweetness. They should resemble a caramel color. Towards the end of the cooking process, you’ll want to add the minced garlic. It doesn’t matter if the garlic cooks completely, because the dip will be baked later on. Let mixture cool.

2. Mix together remaining ingredients and cooled onion mixture, stir, taste, adjust seasoning. Transfer to oven-proof dish. I usually use a glass Pyrex thingy. At this point you can cover the dip and refrigerate it for a few hours or a day (if you’re preparing it in advance).

3. Bake in an oven, preheated to 350, for about 40ish minutes. You can usually watch an episode of Breaking Bad or two episodes of Big Bang Theory (so long as you’ve DVR’d and can fast-forward the commercials) while the dip is baking. When the episodes are done, so is your dip!

4. This dip is best served with pita chips and potato chips. You’ll want to let the dip cool slightly before you devour it. When it’s fresh out of the oven it’s really hot and rather difficult to eat due to intense strands of cheesiness.

Notes for leftovers: A few weeks ago three of us ate almost the entire serving of this. Healthy, I know. However, there are great things you can do with leftovers in the rare event you have any. It’s delicious mixed in with mashed potatoes with a fried egg on top. Once I wrapped it in some frozen puff pastry with some spinach…. very delicious and it was healthy because it had spinach.