Archive for dips and spreads

Za’atar Hummus Pizza

I can’t stop thinking of new menu items for my cafe. I was having a conversation with my lovely baker about the possibility of doing kids’ lunches and we were brainstorming foods that might work particularly well for school lunches. You know, easy to eat, healthy, familiar enough for most kids…She mentioned that a restaurant she once worked in served a hummus pizza and I have been obsessing all of the hummus pizza possibilities since then. As you know, I’m also obsessed with Za’atar. On top of all of that, I have gotten over my longstanding aversion to olives. I think we just might have it on the menu at the cafe sometime soon…this may or may not be the version that goes into kids’ lunches, but it sure is yummy!

I make lots of varieties of focaccia, so I use leftovers for the pizza crust. You can use your favorite pizza crust, tortillas, or even pieces of bread for little personal hummus pizzas. And, of course, topping are your choice, but here’s a suggestion…

  • Pizza crust (unbaked or pre-baked will work), tortillas, or bread
  • Hummus, about 1/4 cup per serving
  • Lightly steamed broccoli
  • caramelized onions
  • pitted and halved olives (optional)
  • Sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt
  • Aleppo peppers, optional

If you are using a pre-baked crust, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If your crust still needs to be cooked, bump it up to 400 degrees. Place your crust on a pan and spread with hummus. Arrange the broccoli, onions, and olives (if using) evenly over the hummus. Sprinkle with sumac, fresh thyme, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Add a pinch of aleppo pepper, if you wish. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your crust is lightly browned and the hummus is heated through. Enjoy!


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Za’atar Seasoning

I only recently discovered Za’atar, but it’s one of those tastes that will stay in my culinary repertoire for the duration.  From what I can gather, the name refers either to a specific herb native to North Africa or a spice blend common in that same region.  I have never come across the herb called za’atar, so I am referring to the blend of spices I call Za’atar seasoning.  Like many native spice mixtures, it varies from region to region and even from household to household.  It can include a variety of spices such as oregano, marjaram, thyme, fennel, caraway, and savory, as well as sumac and sesame seeds. It can be sprinkled in olive oil and used as a dipping sauce for breads or filling for breads, or as a rub for meats or tofu, or poured generously on hummus.  For a while, I was buying the spice blend from a local spice shop, but then I discovered that it was even more heavenly made with fresh thyme from my garden, so I started making it myself.  As is the case with most spices, Za’atar seasoning is high in antioxidants and it also microbial, so a good addition to your holiday diet!

You can add and replace spices as needed, but here is my favorite simple Za’atar seasoning…you may not find sumac at your grocery store, but you should be able to find it at most specialty spice shops.

  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a small blender.  You want to break open the sesame seeds so that they are digestible.  If you don’t have either of those tools, you could try crushing them on a cutting board using a flat-bottomed glass or something similar, along with a little elbow grease.  Optimally, you’ll open up the sesame seeds a bit to break up the hull; your body will have a hard time digesting them if they are intact.  Sprinkle the crushed mixture on hummus and other dips, or use it as a seasoned salt on tofu, beans, roasted vegetables, etc.  If you want to use it as a rub, stir it into about 1/4 cup olive oil.  This is also a yummy sandwich spread!  It’s a great way to bring flavor to dishes without adding excessive salt.  It’s such a simple thing, but adds incredible flavor.  I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!

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Gingered Carrot-tomato Sauce

I love, love, love this sauce.  I love it on vegetable pancakes, I love it on quinoa, I love it with chickpeas or lentils or vegetables, and sometimes I just eat it with a spoon right out of the jar.  It’s just another example of how easy it is to make something divine from a few simple ingredients.  And, I can’t think of a place right now where one couldn’t just run down to the Farmers’ Market and buy all of the vegetables.  You’ll have to get your ginger from the store, most likely, but that’s a darn good ratio of local to non-local.

Of course, you could add all types of spices to this sauce – berbere, my current obsession, curry spices, chili peppers, basil, oregano…

  • olive oil for sauteeing
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6-8 good-sized carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped, optional
  • 4-5 fresh tomatoes, or about a cup and a half of jarred strained tomatoes
  • grated fresh ginger, to taste
  • a dash of cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee, optional
  • salt, to taste

Heat a large skillet to medium, add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt.  Drizzle with olive oil and give it a stir so the onions are coated.  Reduce the heat a bit and leave the onions for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally if you get the chance, until they are very soft and caramelized.  Push the onions to the side, add the carrots and celery to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then turn the heat back up to medium and saute until they soften.  Remove from heat.  Put the tomatoes and the cooked vegetables into a blender or food processor and process.  I like to leave this sauce a little chunky, so I am careful not to over-process, but if you are going for a smooth sauce, process away!  Pour the sauce back into the pan and grate in the ginger, then add the cinnamon, ghee, and salt.  Simmer on low for about 10 minutes or so (at least), then taste and adjust seasonings.  If you are paying attention, you’ll know when you have the right amount of salt.  Enjoy!

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Tomato Curry

Tomatoes are almost back!  Even though it’s early, there is at least one local farm with a greenhouse that typically has tomatoes available at the first market, which is in just three short weeks…Until then, I personally do not buy fresh tomatoes, so this recipe is actually based on jarred tomatoes, both diced and strained.  Since the only brand of canned tomatoes that is BPA-free is Eden and I can’t find those anywhere, I stick with tomatoes in glass jars.  The two organic brands I know of are Lucini (for diced and whole tomatoes), and Bionaturae (for strained tomatoes, more like tomato sauce).  They are both low in sodium and quite tasty for a Winter soup or other tomato-based dish like this one.  If you use a different brand, check the sodium content, then give it a taste before adding salt.

I served this over quinoa as a side dish, but adding browned tofu (you can brown it with the onions), roasted chickpeas, or your protein of choice, could easily turn it into an entree.  It also made a great dipping sauce for veggie pancakes.  I got the original recipe from Moosewood Cookbook, but tweaked it a bit to Winterize…I keep roasted chili peppers in my freezer so I have them available through the Winter.  If you don’t have any, you can use some dried chili flakes or cayenne, but it much smaller amounts!

  • 2 large shallots (or one onion), minced
  • 1-2 Tablespoon minced roasted chili, or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes (Lucini – from a glass jar)
  • 1 cup strained tomato (Bionaturae – from a glass jar)
  • generous pinch cinnamon
  • salt, to taste (assuming you are using jarred tomatoes with minimal salt, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon should do it)

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the ghee or oil.  Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, then add the roasted chili and cumin and keep it going for a few more minutes.  Make a space in the middle of the pan, add a little more ghee/oil, and then the garlic and ginger.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant, then add the diced and strained tomatoes, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve over cooked grains alongside a protein and a big pile of vegetables.  Enjoy!

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Five-Spice Carrot Cashew Butter

THIS is the beauty of sharing food with our communities!  I never would have tried this recipe had a friend and fellow food-lover not brought me a little sampling of this delicious spread.  I wouldn’t have tried it because, other than in soup, I am not a huge fan of cooked carrots.  I also had to get rid of my five spice powder because I couldn’t stand smelling it everytime I opened my spice cabinet.  Despite these two seemingly major hurdles, I absolutely loved this spread.  My friend had paired it up with a millet bread that I make; again, a combo I wouldn’t have gravitated toward on my own, but it was fabulous.  It had all the cakey, creamy satisfaction of cake with frosting, without the cloying sweetness.  It would also be great on any bread, crackers, etc.  I am so looking forward to buying fresh carrots from my local farmers, as I know I’ll be making this throughout the Summer.  I think I’ll just buy my five-spice powder a quarter teaspoon at a time:)

This recipe is from the Real Food Daily Cookbook, which is written by Ann Gentry, the owner of Real Food Daily restaurants in California.  All of the recipes in the cookbook are vegan and, even if they aren’t your style for one reason or another, there are enough delicious-sounding condiments and sauces and such that it’s worth your time just for the inspiration it might provide for your own creations. 

  • 1 Tablespoon oil (recipe recommends canola, but I will use olive oil)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (I would just wash them)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow miso (check ingredients if you need it to be gluten free)
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the carrots and onion and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the water, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, about 10 minutes.  Uncover and simmer until the liquid has absorbed, about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool completely. 

Transfer the cooled carrot mixture to a food processor.  Add the cashews, maple syrup, miso, five-spice powder, and salt.  Blend until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the spread to a small bowl.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Enjoy! 


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Walnut Miso Dressing (or dipping sauce)

I found this recipe on the 101 Cookbooks blog – a blog that is well worth following, by the way.   The dressing sounded intriguing, but I’m doing a cleanse of sorts, so I altered it a bit to meet my needs.  I used it on a chopped salad, but I also like it with quinoa and vegetables and as a dip and I think it would be great on a veggie burger too.  See below for some recipe suggestions…

By the way, I use a Magic Bullet to make this and other nut-based dressings, as well as for a variety of other things like chopping flaxseeds and other nuts and seeds, blending frozen fruit into a quick frozen treat, etc, etc.  Yes, it’s one of those “as seen on tv” things.  I received it as a gift from my sister-in-law and I have truly used it at least once a day since then.  You don’t have to wait for the infomercial if you want to buy one; I have seen them around town at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Costco. 

Walnut-Miso Dressing

  • 1 cup walnuts, soaked and dried or lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mellow white miso
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • water, 1/4 or more
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Blend walnuts, olive oil, garlic, miso, and apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup of water in a blender (or Magic Bullet:)  Add additional water to achieve the proper consistency – thick, but pourable for a dip or a bit thinner, but not watery, for a dressing.  Add some pepper and just a bit of salt, then taste and adjust if necessary. 

Walnut-Miso Quinoa: Add diced, crunchy veggies like carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, and sugar snap peas, along with lightly-steamed broccoli and cooked white beans to some cooked quinoa and dress with walnut miso dressing.

Chopped Salad: Crunchy salad greens, chopped roasted beets, diced raw carrots, chopped steamed broccoli and garbanzo beans placed on a cutting board and roughly chopped, then tossed with walnut miso dressing

Tempeh Burger: Cut one cake of tempeh into burger-sized patties and put in a medium saucepan with about 1/2 cup water, 3 Tablespoons tamari, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and 1 clove of garlic, chopped.  Turn heat to high until the liquid boils, then turn down to medium and steam the tempeh until the liquid is absorbed.  Grill, saute, or bake tempeh, then serve on a bun with lettuce, tomato and walnut miso dressing.  If you don’t have buns, serve over brown rice with green beans (below) on the side, then drizzle with walnut miso dressing.   

Walnut Miso Green Beans: Saute a shallot in olive oil until lightly browned, then add green beans and a pinch of salt and continue to saute, until green beans are tender-crisp.  Drizzle with walnut miso dressing and enjoy!

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Simple Hummus

If you look through my blog, you might notice that I like to keep things pretty simple.  I love to allow the flavor of good, high-quality foods shine without competition from a lot of embellishments.  I recently realized that is why I am so picky about hummus – I love garbanzo beans, I love lemon and I appreciate the combination of flavors that comes from combining them with modest amounts of tahini and garlic.  Of course, there can never be too much olive oil!  And, the beauty of this recipe is that if you like the flavor to be more complex, you can spice it up however you desire…cumin, red pepper, basil, smoked paprika, etc, etc…

  • 1 cup cooked sprouted garbanzo beans
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • small clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (omit if using canned beans and just season to taste)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup parsley

Process in a food processor, season to taste, and enjoy!  I love it with with carrots, celery,  and crunchy lettuce leaves.   Other good options are crackers, tortilla chips, with tomato and basil salad on top of bread strips toasted with olive oil and salt…

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