Tag Archives: Snacks to serve with drinks

Muhamarra (Red Pepper, Walnut and Pomegranate Dip)

dip with beerI don’t often remember my dreams, but last night’s was so vivid that I feel compelled to tell you about it. In my dream, I led a protest march at the McGregor sock factory. We all carried signs, designed by me, that read, “We demand equal rights for all toes.” I was so confused when I woke up. I avoid confrontation at all cost, so I can’t for the life of me, figure out how I came to be leading a protest. If anyone is skilled in dream analysis, please enlighten me.

Clearly I don’t have answers to all the world’s injustices, but I can suggest a great new dip for Super Bowl Sunday. Small steps folks!

I first had this dip a few weeks ago at Fairouz, a Lebanese restaurant in Ottawa. When I moved to Ottawa over 25 years ago, it was one of the only great ethnic restaurants in town. We went often, but never on a Saturday night, as that was when they featured live music and belly dancers. Watching them always made me uncomfortable. Sadly, they closed their doors in 2005, and I really missed it.

When I heard that they had reopened, I was thrilled. Fairouz 2.0, as I call it, is just as delicious, but with a fresh modern twist on Middle Eastern food. Luckily we went with a bunch of friends, because we wanted to try almost everything on the grazing section of the menu. Our favourite was the muhamarra dip. Much easier to make than it is to pronounce. I googled the pronunciation and heard it pronounced like this, this and this.

Of course I quizzed our waiter about how to make this dip. All I could get out of him was red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. I came home, did a little research and got to work creating. Almost all the recipes I found used some sort of binder, usually breadcrumbs. The go-to spices were commonly cumin and some sort of hot red peppers. Since Aleppo pepper is sadly unavailable, I went with a dried Turkish red pepper called Maras (or sometimes Marash).  I buy mine at Damas, a Middle Eastern supermarket in Ottawa. You can easily find it on Amazon as well. Pomegranate molasses (the syrup of boiled pomegranate juice), is also readily available at Middle Eastern supermarkets. Dip ingredientsMost recipes called for roasting and peeling fresh red peppers, but I was feeling a bit lazy, so I just used jarred roasted red peppers. Some brands are heavy on the vinegar, so taste the peppers first and rinse them if they taste too vinegary. Measure out all your ingredients and then start processing.

I garnished the finished dip with extra drizzles of olive oil and pomegranate molasses. A scatter of fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped toasted walnuts add a welcome crunch. Fresh mint sprigs look pretty. You can serve it with pita chips or warmed fresh pita. I used whole wheat mini pitas. on black plate

Click here to print recipe for Muhhammara.

ready to dip

 

 

Slice and Bake Cheese Sables

with wineSome mammals develop an extra layer of insulation to keep them toasty during the winter. For mammals with fur, this extra layer consists of a thicker or longer winter coat of their fur. When spring and summer roll around they naturally shed that extra layer. Other mammals, like me for instance, pack on a cookie layer to keep them warm during the polar vortex. Sadly, that extra layer does not magically shed when bathing suit season rolls around.

 In order to help me shed my cookie layer I declared my kitchen a bake-free zone during the month of January. But, as anyone who knows me can attest, I can get a little cranky if I go too long without baking. I was having some friends over for drinks this week so I thought I would break my rule and bake some savoury cheese sables. (Sable is what the French refer to when talking about crumbly butter cookies) It didn’t really feel like cheating since these cookies are sugar free!

I came across a recipe for Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt in the January 2015 issue of Food and Wine Magazine. The dough came together very quickly and I rolled it into a log and chilled it. Slice and bake cookies make me very happy. slicingThey are topped with some rosemary salt as soon as they come out of the oven.adding rosemary salt While they looked quite beautiful, when I picked up a cooled biscuit to taste, it fell apart in my hands. I am not quite sure what I did wrong. Perhaps it is nature’s way of telling me that until I shed my cookie layer, and I need to lay off all biscuits, be they sweet or savoury!with rosemaryI carefully transferred them to a platter and served them anyways. They were messy but still quite delicious. If anyone has any ideas about what went wrong, let me know. I have a few suspicions. I used Manchego Cheese instead of the Parmesan called for in the recipe, so perhaps that was a factor. I also baked them while on holiday in Florida, on a very humid day, so perhaps that was what caused them to crumble.

Click here to print recipe for Slice and Bake Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt.

Avocado Toasts

I’m about to confess something that may get me drummed out of the tribe. I’m sick of eating humus! Truthfully, I have only myself to blame for this unfortunate state of events. I have been eating humus with carrot and celery sticks  for lunch everyday for the past year. Seriously, everyday! I know, you must be wondering, how is that possible? She’s a food blogger, she must create all kinds of wonderful lunches, each day more imaginative and fantastic than the last. But the sad truth is that I get into a rut, it’s just easy, plus it’s healthy and fairly low cal and so then I feel justified later in the day to indulge in my daily aperitivo!

I confess my boring lunch habit not so you will feel sorry for me, but as a way of sharing with you the discovery of a fantastic and simple appetizer to serve with drinks when company comes to visit.

Every summer for the past 26 years we have been gathering at our cottage with my husband’s University housemates and their spouses. Over the years our numbers have swelled as everyone started having kids. We had our annual get together this past weekend. It was just a small group of 15 this year as several members had other commitments. Each family is responsible for one meal over the weekend. It’s fantastic because it means that I am not in the kitchen the entire weekend cooking for everyone and I can enjoy my company instead of resent them!

As I began to plan what to serve my guests with drinks before dinner, I ruled out the usual suspects: humus and pita (sick of humus, see above!), tortilla chips and salsa (too predictable), a big bowl of pistachios or peanuts (nut allergies). As I was reading my July issue of Bon Appetit magazine, the photo on the editor’s letter page stopped me cold. It was just simply grilled bread topped with ripe avocado, sea salt, olive oil and red pepper flakes. I have to say that since Editor-in-Chief  Adam Rapoport took over at the helm of Bon Appetit, I have really started to enjoy reading this magazine once again. He has injected it with a fresh modern vibe and it just inspires me to cook everything on the pages. I still miss Gourmet (a moment of silence please!), but Bon Appetit is really doing a great job to partially fill the void.

The beauty of these avocado toasts is in their simplicity. The key is to gather together the very best ingredients for this dish. There is no real cooking or recipe involved here. Think of yourself as an orchestra leader, bringing together some gifted musicians. Each on their own, sounds quite nice. Together, they create a beautiful harmony. Look for good Artisan bread that has an “open crumb structure” (that’s baker speak for bread with lots of holes – more holes means more crusty spots to give added crunch and crevices for the olive oil to drip into).

A big fat clove of fresh garlic gets rubbed onto just grilled bread.

The avocados should be perfectly ripe, so buy them a few days ahead so they have time to ripen to perfection.

Table salt need not apply for the job of topping these crostini. Pull out the Maldon Sea Salt or some Fleur de Sel. The large crystals of salt will give added crunch and provide a perfect counterpoint to the bland creamy avocado. Pull out that expensive bottle of fruity, slightly bitter olive oil that you have been saving for a special occasion. The nooks and crannies of the grilled Artisan bread will soak it up. Finally, a very light sprinkling of red pepper flakes to wake up the taste buds.

These Avocado Toasts will have your friends and family toasting you!!