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Posts from the ‘Appetizers & Small Bites’ Category

what? another take on hummus?

We have this favorite little Japanese maple out back. This past week, its finely pointed leaves began to wave then drop in sweet clusters of beet red.

It was quite impossible to say no to the urge that hit me…so,  with that…Wegetable Vednesday makes a comeback!


With the crimson and scarlet, burnt orange, rust and gingko gold of fall flying,  suddenly I craved the taste of color.


I’m in school and everything I do in the  kitchen for months will need to be simple. So, for a while simple is all I have to offer you.

…and a hope and a toast to your very good health!


(Though the following recipe calls for black beluga lentils, they may be somewhat difficult to find. You can order on line if you like, or substitute with small, dark green Puy Lentils. Both these varieties will make a more luxuriously textured and  dramatically colored hummus.)


Red Beet & (Black Beluga) Lentil Hummus

 Black  Beluga Lentils, rinsed – ½ cup

2 medium Beets or 3 small – peeled and cut into chunks

garlic – 2 cloves, peeled

Tahini Paste – 2 Tablespoons

Olive Oil – 2 Tablespoons

Fresh Lemon Juice – 2 Tablespoons

Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons grated (minimum)

sea salt – 1 teaspoon (to start)


NOTE: Sometimes lentils off the shelf are rather old and will benefit from a little soaking. Nothing extravagant here, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow them to soak an hour or two before draining and cooking. If your package says no need to soak, then no need to soak.)


Rinse the lentils and add to a medium size pot. Peel the beets and cut into chunks about 1½ inches in size. Add to the pot with the lentils and add 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and reduce temperature to simmer. The beets should be fork tender and the lentils soft when done.  (About 20 minutes or so.) Read more

Hummus – stuffing our pockets

Hummus was one of the first things I learned to make as a 20-something year old bent on eating well, while not making life difficult on relatives of cows I’d grown to love as a girl. The hummus of those days has morphed a number of times over, as we ourselves tend to do.

Back then I used canned chickpeas. I prefer to cook my own these days, but I’d much rather use canned chickpeas than face the dreadful plight of hummus-lessness when the mood for hummus-in-a-hurry strikes. I’m not at all a fanatic about cooking my own and  always have canned chickpeas on hand. BUT, I do think home-cooked beans are noticably better-textured and flavored and if you want to consider giving it a gohere are some reasons why you might consider it too –

You’ll cook them with no preservatives, no gross amounts of salt in the canning liquid – (though not all canned beans come loaded this way.) You can use some of your own cooking liquid to puree in with the beans. (Much better than plain water.) I won’t use the liquid if they’re canned. A batch of your own fresh-cooked chickpeas is a fraction of the cost of canned. There’s less to throw away (or recycle.) And then, there’s the taste.

One of the changes to my hummus has come about quite recently – only since developing a mad crush on Ottolenghi (I mean, his recipes!) It would seem that the skins of the chickpeas, even when the beans are cooked to softness, retain a bit of their toughness unless measures are taken to further soften them. Ottolenghi adds baking soda to both the soaking water, and then again to the cooking pot. This addition and sufficient cooking time are  probably THE keys to THE creamiest, most velvety hummus your mouth will ever taste. I’d like to compare it to ambrosia’s savory cousin, but having never tasted ambrosia…Anyway…

Another measure which I’ve read about recently – in several places – seems awfully tedious at first. – but perhaps especially in the case when canned beans are used, worth the extra effort. You squeeze each and every little chickpea between thumb and forefinger, easily slipping them out of their filmy skins. This happens all the more easily with the addition of baking soda to the cooking water. (It’s as if they were itching to shed them, and you came along, right place, right time.) What’s left, once these naked beans are pureed with garlic and fresh lemon juice and tahini (the “butter” of sesame seeds”) is exquisitely smooth.


The pita-pocket sandwich is just about whatever you’d like it to be. What I’d like it to be goes something like this:

Home-baked pita, sliced in half. A good slathering of lemony hummus, topped with thinly-sliced tomatoes and English cucumbers (the kind with the very small seeds); perhaps some sprouts or pea-shoots or micro-greens; maybe some delicate leaves of Spring lettuce, or any other lettuce shredded; perhaps some shredded carrot; a little feta; thin slices of red onion; perhaps some marinated & grilled kabobs of fish or chicken (or you decide); definitely some Greek-style yogurt or tzatziki. And maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil. And because each half is fairly small and because life comes with SO many choices, and choosing is sometimes very hard, make them every which way.


But DO start with the hummus:


The Hummus


1¼ cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (See NOTE)

1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Juice of 2 to 2½ lemons, or to taste

2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

4 – 5 Tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

a pinch (or several) of ground cumin

extra virgin olive oil


OPTIONAL: see below for optional garnishes & serving suggestions

Hummus becomes a personal thing over the years. You find what you like – more garlicky or lemony, or less? – more tahini, less tahini? – more herbs or none at all? It pays to taste a little as you go. Taste your tahini before you start. Is it bitter? Then go with far less than what’s shown above. (I ruined a batch once with tahini far different than what I was used to.) Add most of the lemon and 2 cloves of garlic to start. It won’t be the right consistency yet, but Taste. If it’s tasting about right, don’t add the rest until closer to the end if at all. You’ll develop your own perfect proportions. With that out of the way, here’s the method –

NOTE: 1¼ cups dried chickpeas will equal about 3¾ cups cooked – if you use canned chickpeas you can give them a little extra cooking time in fresh water to soften them further, and then if you like, remove the skins from them as well.


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a menu for valentines & a stacked bistro salad

Can I see a show of hands? Who among you would like to spend several hours in the kitchen preparing a beautiful meal for your love on Valentines Day?     Oh. Well that’s surprising.  Alright then, Plan B. Who among you would like to spend under an hour (excluding dessert) preparing a luscious and (well) sort of sexy Valentine dinner? We got some hands on that one!

Let’s talk about the menu then…You with your hands up…this is for you…(the  others, you’re obviously being well taken care of.) What are we looking for in a meal for lovers? Ok, it was already decided that we want it easy. Of course you’re right. After all, where do we want to spend our love and energy?  (That’s rhetorical – thanks, but no need to share.)

Ok. What else? Color? Good! It should be pretty shouldn’t it. Sensuous? Oh, I like that! What else? Not too heavy? Oh that’s a good one, yes! Who’s looking to drift into a coma immediately after pushing their plate back. Anything else? Oh, taste! Of course! It should taste really good!

What do you think of this then?

A Valentine Dinner for Lovers


To whet (& wet) the Appetite:

Passion Fruit Cocktails for Two

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette


Seared Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna

Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

 oh-so Forbidden Rice


a sweet multitude of options


Tomorrow I’ll post the 3 dinner items, along with how to get it done in less than 1 hour, with just a tiny bit of prep work the night before.  Each is so easy.

I’ll have one more dessert as an option, posted Saturday I think.

Now, for the appetizer:

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a fork with a taste for adventure

When I was a newly-turned teen, my mother suddenly (and inexplicably) turned adventuresome in the kitchen. She’d always been a good cook, and our meals never lacked for flavor, but they never ventured beyond our borders either (unless you count England, and I’m sorry, I just can’t. Meaning no disrespect at all!) Meals at our house had followed along very traditional lines, until…around the time she married the man who was to become Dad to us.

Dad was Greek and maybe it was just his colorful character alone, or the foods he’d bring home from Foti’s (very Greek) deli; or the influence of Dad’s mom Yaya, who’d make us Sunday dinners of Greek roasted chicken doused in fresh lemon and filled with whole heads of garlic and her plump handful of oregano from the garden, and her zucchini and okra in a skillet, and her brilliant yellow-orange zucchini blossoms, dipped in egg batter and fried. Or maybe too, it was that Dad insisted for special outings we drop into Poncho’s Mexican restaurant, which was, strange to say, our family’s first introduction to south of the border. Maybe it was a combination of these things – or maybe it was that Mom enrolled in college for the first time  – Mom was herself becoming more adventuresome and her new spirit found its way onto our table.

In any event, whatever the cause, dinner became, more and more, an exotic experience. That’s not to say it became the norm for us to eat things beyond the familiar, or that we came to the table dressed in saris.  Just that we gradually came to be more curious, more daring, more open to new things, until gradually we’d developed a real appetite for the gorgeously exotic on our plates, a hunger for something not yet tasted.

I don’t eat many “meats”. Poultry and seafood’s about it for me. But vegetables, and fruits, and grains and beans and spices from all over the planet, those I find endlessly enticing. And so it is, that when I first set eyes on Yotam Ottolenghi’s newest book Plenty, I was smitten! This dish that I’m about to fix and share is the very dish that graces the cover. It sucked me in with a rush like a door just opened onto a wind storm. I was a goner.

Ottolenghi, chef and co-owner of several restaurants called by his name (including one in London) writes a weekly column for the London Guardian on vegetarian cooking, though he himself is not vegetarian. From Israel, he draws on a wealth of culinary traditions, with a strong focus on the Mediterranean basin. His dishes may very well scratch every culinary itch I have, one by one.

So here – with a thankful nod to my mom who grew this wild love of food in me, and to my Dad who might have grown it in her –

from the cover of Plenty

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

(serves 4 as starter – or 2 for dinner with a salad & bread) large and long eggplants

  • 2 large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Maldon sea salt (or any flaky sea salt) and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar (see NOTE)


  • 9 Tablespoons buttermilk (just over ½ cup)
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1½ Tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of salt

NOTE: Za’atar – here is one thing that may be a bit of an obstacle in Ottolenghi’s book(s)…because he’s drawing on his (and other) heritages, some ingredients – in particular the spices and spice blends – will be very unfamiliar, and not always easily obtained. I ordered my little bottle of za’atar from the Spice House on-line. $4.99. Za’atar is a spice blend, and like others, the ingredient list and proportions can vary. One recipe for it that I found on-line included sumac, thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano and salt. Sumac is acidic, quite tart, much like a lemon, and is considered an essential culinary ingredient in much of the Middle East. It’s by far the predominant  ingredient in this blend. Since sumac isn’t on my grocery shelf either, I decided just to go ahead and order the za’atar on line. You could read more on sumac or order it, here. If you’re feeling particularly adventuresome, simply add the herbs called for in the za’atar ingredient list along with lemon for something approximating this dish. Or wait, as I did, for the za’atar to arrive on your welcome mat.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, cutting straight through the green stalk – which stays intact just for the looks of it. Using a small sharp knife, make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half as deeply as possible but being careful not to cut through to the skin. Repeat at a 45° angle to create a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and continue brushing until all the oil has been absorbed. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and salt and pepper.

Roast for 45 minutes up to an hour, depending on size of eggplant. The flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Removing pomegranate seeds: While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontal halves. Holding one half, cut side down, in the palm of your hand, place over a deep bowl and begin smacking the top-side of the fruit with a wooden spoon. Smack harder as you go to release the deepest of the pomegranate seeds into the bowl. Remove any white pitch that fell in along with. (Illustrated here.) Read more

Hummus – revisited

My daughter Ashley and I laughed the other day about one of her childhood memories. She remembers gazing into the refrigerator, many more times than once, standing there long enough to get goosebumps, and concluding: there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, to eat here!  She said  that the only things we always had in the fridge were lemons and eggs. And though we had a genuine laugh over this the other day, I’m seeing the refrigerator through my little daughter’s eyes now and it’s something I so wish I could do over! It’s not that the refrigerator was near-empty. Aside from the fruit in the crisper though, it was never a storehouse of delights and ready-to-eats. I didn’t see it at the time, but I do now: our refrigerator was not a kid-friendly place.  It wasn’t that there was nothing to eat in there, but that just about everything required a Mama to put it together. Grocery shopping was for me one of those things I’d procrastinate over. I think that reluctance to shop made me more resourceful in the kitchen; but it didn’t make it easy on my girls. Neither did the fact that I didn’t buy junk food. About the time Ashley would sink her head though, sigh and walk away from the refrigerator, I’d jump to.  I’d become a dervish, and pulling things from the pantry and the refrigerator (things she hadn’t recognized as real food – and probably no kid would have) I’d manage to concoct something colorful and nummy…most of the time. I always tried to put love on the table…but I’m wishing now I’d put a little more of it in the fridge, within reach of my kids’ little hands.

I’ve learned and grown some since then (though I still always have  those eggs and lemons.) Like everyone, I have some stand-bys that, when the refrigerator begins to yawn, I employ. One of our favorites is hummus. Why? you ask. The first and best reason is simply that we really like it, a lot! But there’s another good reason (and you’ve already guessed it haven’t you!)  I always have on hand what it takes  to make it.  What can we do with hummus? A generous scoop on the plate, a crater in the middle, a good drizzle of olive oil. Whole-grain crackers or pita. A hard-cooked egg (clever, huh?), or maybe paired with some leftovers from the night before. A beautiful green salad, a little wedge of good cheese, a few olives, a glass of wine. No one complains. It’s what we do at our house when the cupboard is bare.

As good as hummus can be as part of a vegetarian meal, it’s also good as part of a vegetable appetizer; or with fish, or kebobs, or as a spread in a vegetarian sandwich.  I’m saving what I like best about hummus for last though. It ‘s a dip-able, scoop-able, ready-to-eat-able bowlful that kids know JUST what to do with. (What’s more, it’s the perfect consistency for drawing smily-faces.)

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Minty Cucumber-Yogurt Salad

This salad is so cool and refreshing. It’s really a lovely accompaniment to fish or grilled foods, or anytime you want to cool the mouth down when the main course carries some heat. I frequently will serve it with toasted pita bread, as I did this time. Simply brush the pita with olive oil, sprinkle on coarse salt, pepper, paprika and some cumin seed (or black or white sesame seeds) and toast in the oven or toaster oven at 350-375° or on the grill long enough to heat through. Cut into triangles and serve alongside the salad.

  • 1 cup plain Greek-style or whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 Tbl. olive oil
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 t. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbl. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

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White Bean, Sage & Roasted Garlic Spread

This is the last of the winter night’s menu that I’ll post.  There’s something both humble and luxurious about this little spread. These little white beans, so tender and plain, so very “ordinary”, haven’t an egotistical bone in their little kidney-shaped bodies.  So that’s what makes this dish humble. But the luxurious comes from the slow-cooking, the perfect herbal blend of bay leaf and sage, the aromatic sweetness and warmth of roasted garlic, the touch of richness from the olive oil, and a sunny squeeze of lemon, all puréed to silkiness. (Please don’t be put off by the large quantity of garlic called for in this recipe. I assure you that, thanks to the roasting, the ultimate taste is mild and sweet.)

White Bean, Sage, and Roasted Garlic Spread

(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, an older favorite of mine, by Deborah Madison)

  • 1-1/2 cups of dried navy beans or cannellini, soaked and drained (see NOTE)
  • 5 garlic cloves, skins removed
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves (if your bay is more than a year-old, start with new – it makes such a difference)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 whole head garlic, outermost papery husk removed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more)
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme (see variations)
  • Herbes de Provence (optional)

 Boil the beans in a large pot with water enough to cover by 2 inches for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat and add the 5 cloves of garlic, the sage leaves and bay leaves and only 2 teaspoons of the olive oil.  Simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.  (You can also put them in the oven at 350°F for the same amount of time. Since you’ll also be roasting garlic for this recipe at the same temperature, you may want to use the oven.)  Once the beans are tender, remove the bay leaves and drain, reserving the broth.


Meanwhile, if your beans are cooking on the stovetop, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Cut off the top 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of the garlic head and rub it with a little of the remaining olive oil. Put it in a small baking dish, and add 1/3 cup of water. Cover and bake until soft and lightly caramelized, about 45 minutes. Cool, then squeeze out the softened garlic. Purée the beans in a food processor with all the garlic, the remaining olive oil (approximately 2 T), 1 teaspoon salt, and enough of the reserved bean broth to give the beans a soft, spreadable consistency. Season to taste with lemon juice and pepper, and taste again for salt. You’re sure to need more.  (I prefer a more lemony spread, so I use the juice of nearly 2 lemons, depending on their size. Go slow and taste as you go til it’s just right for your taste.)  Stir in the thyme leaves and serve either warm or at room temperature.  For serving, I like to drizzle ours with a little extra olive oil, chopped fresh parsley or thyme, freshly ground pepper and some crushed Herbes de Provence.

Variations: In the summer months, omit the sage and roasted garlic and add instead one cup of basil leaves and 2 garlic cloves pureed in 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil.  Or add in place of the basil, one cup of flat Italian parsley.

Serving Suggestions: This is delicious on crostini.  (Simply brush olive oil, with a touch of salt & pepper, onto sliced French or Italian bread and toast in your oven, in a panini pan or on the grill.) Also good as part of a vegetarian sandwich, with roasted bell peppers, cucumber, cheese, etc. Good (and healthy) too as a dip for vegetables.  Or as an accompaniment to a summer grilled meal outdoors.  And of course, as part of an appetizer course for those bigger dinners with guests. My husband and I will sometimes have a dinner plate with this spread, crostini, olives, a big beautiful green salad taking up half the plate, maybe a hard-cooked egg or slice of good cheese or a piece of cold fish or chicken leftover from the night before.

NOTE on beans: For those of you unfamiliar with working with dried beans — home-cooking your own beans as opposed to using canned obviously requires more forethought and overall prep time. Once you’ve tried both, though, you’ll find that the difference really is noticeable. Home-cooked beans have more depth of flavor – especially with the sort of aromatics they’ve been cooked with here – and a better texture. But sometimes, something just has to go, so don’t hesitate trying this recipe if what you have is more canned beans than time.  If using dry beans, you can “soak” them one of two ways.  The traditional method is to cover with several inches of water and soak overnight for use the next day.  But there’s also the “quick-soak method” in which you put the beans in a pot, covered by several inches of water, and boil for five minutes, then allow the beans to soak for several hours before using in your recipe.  In both cases, when the beans have soaked, drain the soaking water and start anew with fresh.

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Spicy Candied Pecans (or Walnuts)

Here’s another one of the appetizers served at our Beat the Winter Blues Party .  I’ve tried a number of recipes for candied nuts over the years, but my favorite is this.  (Judging from responses to these sweet and savory bites, I’m not alone.) I’ve made it with both pecans and walnuts, and though I love walnuts, pecans definitely have the edge here – something about their sweetness offset by the savory heat of the spices is just right.

Spicy Candied Pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  • 4 cups pecans

Spread the nuts in a shallow pan (either a broiler pan or a jelly roll pan will do.)  Roast for 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle on to the hot nuts…

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (grade B is darker and has a bit more maple-y flavor)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup

Stir to coat well, and then pop them back into the oven to roast another 10 minutes.

While the nuts are roasting, in a small bowl mix together:

  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. salt (or 1-1/2 if using Kosher)
  • 2 t. paprika
  • 1/8 t. (to as much as 1/4 t.) cayenne pepper

Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter and wait – (have you noticed that smell in your kitchen? ah!) When the nuts come out of the oven for the second time, quickly sprinkle the spices over them and mix well to coat.  Quickly spread the candied nuts onto the parchment paper to cool, breaking the clumps apart with your fingers when they’re just cooled down enough to touch.  Store airtight. (These make a nice gift too, in a pretty container or vintage jar.)

Serving suggestions:  These are absolutely wonderful in a salad.  I’ll give a favorite salad to utilize these nuts in an upcoming post.  You can chop them up and roll a log of chevre over them and serve with crackers or crusty baguette.  Or chopped and scattered over green beans or yams or – .  And always as they are, straight from the jar, with nothing but your fingers.

This recipe came by way of my dear friend Carolyn, and to her, from another friend. That’s the way it goes with good eats.  The original recipe called for corn syrup.  I’ve replaced it with brown rice syrup, and not only is their taste improved (yes, hard to believe), but they’re crunchier and healthier too!

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Who has ever looked on a raw mushroom, all pudgy and pale, and swooned?  Even those of us who salivate to hear today’s special soup will be “a ragout of forest-found chanterelles”, or the chef’s risotto is one “teeming with wild morels and shavings of Romano.” Love them though we do, even WE can’t call them “pretty.”  Their photos, air-brushed to perfection, rarely grace the covers of food magazines.  The best we might say for their looks is that they’re sometimes “cute”…the caricatured little stools of toads or umbrellas for woodland fairies.  Mushrooms are rather shy, and enormously humble.  (Consider their beginnings!)  They’re simply ordinary little earth-lings capable of extraordinary delights when the heat’s turned up!

But if they weren’t (by general consensus) attractive when raw, they become even less so when the heat’s turned up.  A uniformly earthy brown, their plumpness lost to the broth, limp as a dishrag. How sad.  Photos never capture their good side.

All of this to say, you won’t find a photo here designed to entice you into the following recipe.  Turning instead to your mushroom memories and your own magnificent imagination, can you picture this…..?   A savory, pungent amalgam of chopped fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil and shredded Italian cheese – all those sunny things from a sunny place, filling the cavity of an earthly little ‘shroom, baked ’til nearly soft, a one-bite wonder.  Ahh, I thought maybe you could.  So here you have them…

Italian stuffed mushrooms

(or – putting the fun in fungi…)

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 24 2-inch diameter mushrooms, stems removed and chopped, caps reserved
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup chopped, drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large egg, lightly whisked
  • additional oil for brushing

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Lightly brush a 14 x 10 inch glass baking sheet or jelly roll pan with oil.  Heat the 2 T. of olive oil in a heavy medium-size skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped mushroom stems, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Sauté until the stems and fennel are softened and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool for about ten minutes. Stir in the cheeses, and then the basil. Season the  filling to taste with salt and pepper, and only then add in the egg. Arrange the mushrooms, empty bellies facing up. Brush their cavities lightly with additional oil, and then mound the filling inside, pressing it to adhere and completely fill the space.  (HINT:  putting the filling inside a zip-lock bag and then cutting a small triangle from one bottom corner allows you to squeeze the filling into the mushrooms, much like you’d use a pastry bag. Using the back of a spoon you can pack the filling down to make a little room for more.) Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through, about 25 minutes. This is a tasty, satisfying part of a vegetarian meal, or a crowd-pleasing appetizer.

(This recipe is slightly adapted from one first appearing in Bon Appétit, March/2003. This post was first published in cooking-spree, March 2011.)

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Marinated Olives

My husband and I had a “Beat Them Winter Blues” party over the weekend, with about 25 or so guests. We’re thinking it might be the first of a string of annual winter blasts. We had just way too much fun, and of course we ate too much, but we went into it knowing full well we would, and we feel no shame whatsoever! Over the next several posts I’ll be sharing recipes from that night’s menu. We begin with — as my Greek YaYa would say — the Oliv-ess. These little beauties received deep moans and sighs of appreciation, so you might just want to try them yourself. The recipe is not my own, so it’s fine if I brag (right?) – I think they’re one of the tastiest plump little olive bites I’ve ever popped in my mouth. The recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian. Graci, Giada!

Marinated Olives

  • 3 T. Olive oil
  • 1 T. grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 t. dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups cracked green olives or other green olives – with their pits –  (see NOTE)
  • 1-1/2 cups Kalamata olives – with pits – (truly a combination of any olives you’re fond of will work here)
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil

NOTE: About the olives. On this occasion I was unable to find cracked green olives, so chose the green olives with the least added herbs and spices, and then I rinsed them off and rolled them in paper towels before proceeding.

In a medium size, heavy skillet, warm the oil, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes over medium heat for about a minute, just until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the olives.  Add the fresh lemon juice and basil, and toss to coat.  Transfer the olive mixture to a container, cover and refrigerate. Over the next 12 hours, stir from time to time, allowing the olives to soak up these lovely, bright Mediterranean flavors.

Before serving, allow the olives to return to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Put in a pretty little bowl and watch them fly out.

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