Category Archives: Appetizers

Don’t Judge A Dish By Its Color: Edamame & Pea Hummus

edamame and pea hummus

Consider the cracker. How versatile it is! How much freedom you wield with that (preferably whole wheat, flax, chia, or vegetable) crispy square with which you can scoop up all sorts of delights. Healthy delights. What once was considered the epitome of naughty – chips n’ dip – can now easily be transmuted into the healthiest part of your day. With this recipe, it undoubtedly will be. Full of protein and antioxidants from a surprisingly hearty concoction of edamame, peas, lemon juice, garlic and several healing spices and herbs, you may just find this to be the ideal vehicle for shelving your post-celebratory guilt and repenting upon your most ghastly of holiday gastronomical sins.

Full disclosure – this ain’t pretty to the untrained eye. My little sisters compared it to vomit with great gusto, while my mother swooned for its striking greenery.
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When Curry Powder Met Avocados: Indian Guacamole

Heidi Swanson’s new book has landed. Super Natural Everyday is inspiring in every meaning of the word. Her words make you want to record your own musings, her photographs make you want to pick up a camera, and her recipes make you want to cook with abandon. Super Natural Cooking is well-loved cookbook of mine, but Super Natural Everyday firmly ensconces Heidi as an arbiter of natural cooking. While I loved languorously paging through Super Natural Cooking over and over again, many of its recipes were reserved for special occasions or certain turns of mood, whereas the recipes in Super Natural Everyday are things that I want to cook and eat NOW, with no exception.
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Bid Chips and Salsa Adieu: Smoky Carrot Hummus

I am easily excitable when it comes to food. In other aspects of my life as well, passion is my North Star. When something just feels right, I tend to try and steer my ship in that general direction. It’s a magnetic pull, really. Things could be no other way than what they are. Now we arrive at the ever-elusive point: the hummus. Not your traditional hummus, oh no, this is a special sort of hummus. It is intoxicating and rich and downright wonderful, something that you’ll want to make over and over again on those days that things just aren’t going your way and you’d just kill for an ingestible that won’t make your stomach swell to the point of no return.
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Goat Cheese & Beet Greens Crostini with a Salad of Roasted Beets & Frisée

Having a dinner party anytime soon?  Impress your eco-minded guests with this “green” appetizer from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year In The Life of a Restaurant.  Not only does it utilize the beets, but also their uber-nutritious greens.  The greens cook down and are soft and mild – don’t be afraid!  Its presentation, with the beets bleeding vibrantly onto the frisée, along with the variety of colors and textures, is pleasing to the eye.

Goat Cheese & Beet Greens Crostini with a Salad of Roasted Beets & Frisée
Serves 4

Beets & Beet Greens
3 bunches of small beets (9-12 beets) with greens attached
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Goat Cheese Crostini
4-7 1/2″ thick slices of a baguette, depending on how thick it is
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1-2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1 head frisée, dark green tops snipped down to leave only the white and yellow parts, core chopped off, and leaves torn into medium pieces
2-3 tablespoons chives, snipped
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut stems off the beets, leaving about 1″ on the beets, as this keeps them moist during roasting. Remove beet greens from the stems, wash thoroughly, shake dry and roughly chop. You will have approximately 2 cups. Set aside. Scrub beets thoroughly, but take care not to rub off their skins. Place in a roasting pan with about 1/2 cup water. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until a knife slides easily through beets; 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours; depending on their size. Some may be done before others. When tender, remove to a plate using tongs and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.

2.) Prepare the beet greens while to beets are roasting. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes more; until onions are beginning to brown. Add beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender and vastly reduced in size; 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar; more to taste if you’d like. Set aside.

3.) When the beets are cooled, use your fingers or a dark-colored towel to rub off their skins and the stems. Do this over a sink, as it can get quite messy! Chop off the rough bottom and top parts of the beets, and cut the beets into quarters. In a medium-sized serving bowl, toss beets with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil; more, if necessary. Set aside.

4.) Prepare the crostini. Generously brush both sides with olive oil. Spread parsley on one side, and season with salt and pepper. Move to a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the crust is firm and the bread is lightly toasted; 6-10 minutes. Remove and divide beet green mixture evenly amongst the crostini. Top with goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, heat in the oven for 7 minutes or so; until goat cheese is warmed but not melting.

5.) Prepare the salad. Reheat beets in saute pan over medium-high heat until warmed through; 4-6 minutes. Toss beets and frisée in serving bowl. Sprinkle with chives. Check for seasoning; adding more vinegar, salt, and pepper, if salad needs a bit more pizzaz. Serve immediately with the warmed crostini on a platter.

This recipe was adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year In The Life of a Restaurant by Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson with Catherine Price. Published by HarperCollins Publishers; 2009.

Baked Acorn Squash

A quintessentially fall dish, its versatility makes for a hearty side, a charming dinner party appetizer, or a festive midday pick-me-up.

Baked Acorn Squash
Serves 2

1 acorn squash
1/2-1 tablespoon melted salted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
a few drizzles of maple syrup

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half. Scoop out all of the seeds and stringy flesh. Place in a heavy, rimmed baking dish.

2.) Brush insides of squash with butter, sprinkle with sugar, and then give each half a healthy drizzle of maple syrup. Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking dish so the squash’s flesh does not burn while in the oven.

3.) Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes; until a knife easily pierces the skin and the tops are nicely browned.