Category: Dip

Grilled Vegetable Salsa

June 24, 2009


In addition to the cake that I brought for my friend Lauren’s 40th birthday, I also brought a couple of appetizers.  I figured since her husband Travis was going to be hauling the entire dinner up the mountain, the least I could do was bring some things to munch on while he got the rest of the food ready.

When I was searching for recipes for another friend’s 40th birthday party, I found this one for Grilled Vegetable Salsa.  I was planning to make it for John, but then decided to take the party in a more Mediterranean and less Mexican direction.  The idea of the salsa stayed with me and when I learned fajitas were on last weekend’s menu, I knew exactly what to make as an appetizer.

This recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.  I love this book on principle.  It has lots of gorgeous photographs in the front and all the recipes in the back.  It is well laid out and all the recipes I have tried are winners.  What I don’t like is that almost every recipe suggests you serve the dish right away.  What kind of cocktail party is there where you can make everything à la minute?   So, I take a lot of what is said in the book with a grain of salt.  Against Martha’s advice, I also streamlined the cooking process and I made parts of the salsa ahead of time.  It was great and everyone loved it. The salsa was awesome with chips, but you could incorporate it into a main course by spooning a generous amount of the salsa over black beans and rice, and topping it all off with slices of avocado or guacomole.


One Year Ago:  Mushroom Pearl Pasta with Sweet Peas and Goat Cheese (if peas are in season where you live, make this!)

Grilled Vegetable Salsa
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Stewart calls for three different cooking methods for the vegetables.  I streamlined it into two.  You could further streamline it by just grilling the peppers rather than roasting them.  If you do roast the peppers, they can be made up to four days ahead of time and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

1 tsp. olive oil
2 ears of fresh corn, husk and silk removed
1 large red onion, root intact, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 roasted large red bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 roasted large yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 roasted large orange bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 oz. kalamata or oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 roughly chopped fresh basil

1.  Prepare a grill over high heat.  Place the corn and onions on the grate and grill, turning, until grill marks appear on all sides and the corn and onions are cooked through.  The onions will take 5-8 minutes and the corn will need 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  When cool, cut the corn off the cob.  Cut the onion rings into 1/2 inch pieces.  Set aside.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Return to room temperature before continuing.)

2.  In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, corn, and onion.  Stir in olives, garlic, cumin, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Allow the vegetables to marinate for at least one hour and up to six hours.  Just before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste.

This is Not Whipped Cream

June 17, 2009


So, this dip is what I mistook for whipped cream the other night.  Yes, I brought this to sandwich between layers of strawberry shortcake and strawberries.  In my defense, it didn’t have the garnishes in it yet – it was just white.  But trust me, it’s much better served with crackers than with chocolate sauce.

This is a great recipe to have in your repetoire because it has few ingredients and takes next to no time.  It also tastes really good and can be made one day ahead.  It’s a lovely place to put all those gorgeous radishes you are seeing at the farmer’s markets.


One Year Ago: Feta and Ricotta Cheese Skillet Pie

Feta-Radish Spread
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The New Classics
Serves 4-6

Martha tells you to make your own pita chips here but I simply ran out of time.  I brought my clients store-bought pita chips instead.  Another change I made was to use more yogurt (a full 7 oz. container instead of the 1/4 cup she called for) to eliminate the need for olive oil in the spread.

1 package sheep’s milk feta cheese (7 or 8 ounces), coarsely chopped
1- 7 oz. container Greek yogurt (DT: I used low fat)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced

Pulse the feta, yogurt, and lemon juice in a food processor just utnil the mixture is thick and spreadable, about 10 pulses.  Transer to a medium bowl, and stir in the parsley and radishes.  Serve with pita chips or crackers.  (The dip can be made, without the radishes and parsley, 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Add parsley and radises just before serving.)

Veggies and Dip

May 8, 2009


I love vegetables and dip.  I really do.  Now lest that sound ultra-virtuous, please realize that most dips are so bad for you that it cancels out the good that the veggies do.  Pre-made supermarket dips are usually loaded with artificial flavors and chemical stabilizers.  Many that you would make at home have no artificial ingredients, but do have enough calories and fat per serving to make it really unhealthy.

So here are two for you.  They have a similar base but different flavorings.  I use low fat sour cream and low fat buttermilk but the flavor is of the luscious full fat variety.  You can choose the peppery version (coarse ground pepper and chives) or the lemon-y herb one.  Or, if you are cooking lunch for 20 hungry Yoginis as I am on Saturday, you can make both.


Buttermilk Peppercorn Dip
Adapted from Martha Stewart Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook
Makes 1 1/2  cups

1 cup low fat sour cream
2 tbsp. low fat buttermilk
1 tsp. coarsely ground mixed peppercorns (black, pink, and green)
2 tsp. minced chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 large shallot, miced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Place the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to combine.  Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 48 hours.


Lemony Herb Dip
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes about 1 cup

1 8-ounce container low fat sour cream
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1 small lemon
Salt and pepper

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance, cover and refrigerate.

Simply Delicious

January 28, 2009

If you ask my husband what he wants for dinner, without hesitation he says,”Mexican.” If you ask him where he wants to go out for dinner, he also says, “Mexican.” I honestly don’t even ask him anymore or if I do I have to ask like this, “Honey (deep breath), what-should-I-make-for-dinner-don’t-say-Mexican?” Phew.

I too love Mexican food but seeing as live far far away from Mexico, there aren’t a lot of places around here to satisfy the craving. Randy thinks bad Mexican is still good. I think bad Mexican is greasy and fattening. So I would rather make it myself.

Two things make a Mexican meal complete for me. Beans of some kind and lots of guacamole. For my clients last night I made Mushroom and Pinto Bean Enchiladas, Mexican Rice with Peppers and Tomatoes, and Salad with a Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. I included a container of my guacamole which has gotten raves from them before and from others too. It is one of the only things I make completely without a recipe and totally to taste (hummus is another one.) I thought I would write a post about it so I paid attention to the proportions of what I added. Sometimes simple is best.

Serves 6 generously

I like my guacamole very limey and salty. You can always add less lime juice and salt and see how it tastes to you. If there is not too much going on in the meal, or if I am not serving salsa, I will dice up two seeded roma tomatoes and add it to the mix.

2 large ripe avocados, diced
1 1/2 large limes, cut in half

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. cilantro, or more to taste

Place the avocados in a large bowl. Juice the limes into the same bowl and add the salt and pepper. Using a potato masher, mash up the avocados and incorporate the juice. You will want to leave some texture. Add the cilantro and mix carefully with a spoon.

How My Business Works

November 4, 2008

I’ve written here about how I became a personal chef and I’ve written here and there a bit about my clients, but I realized I haven’t described the nuts and bolts of my little business.

I currently have three permanent clients and one temporary one. They are all couples and I cook for them on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Before I had my second son, I cooked for them on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but my older son took two longs naps a day until he was 2 years old and went to bed every night at 6pm and woke up around 8. Those days are no longer and while both my boys nap at the same time (which is the ONLY reason I can even keep this business going), I have a lot less free time to cook. Two days a week it will have to be until we have more preschool in place.

For each meal, I bring them an entree and usually two sides. Occasionally there are other components to the meal (like chutney and raita if I were making Indian food). Tuesday is the day I bring the “treat”. Everything is made 100% from scratch and is all vegetarian. I would say about 25% of the time the food is vegan, but the “treat” never is.

I cook everything in my kitchen and divvy it all up into plastic containers. I get everything as ready as it can be and deliver it to their homes with a handwritten note explaining the night’s menu and any last minute prep the food needs. Some nights it is as easy as popping stuff in the microwave and tossing a salad, other nights something will need to go into the oven or a little more prep will be involved. On my next visit, I pick up all my empty containers – I have quite a collection!

Because the meals I make are fairly involved, I use Mondays and Wednesdays as prep days. I almost always bake on Mondays and I will do any prep work possible in advance, even if it is just chopping vegetables. I find (and this is good advice for dinner parties too) that any little thing you can do in advance, from making the salad dressing to taking the leaves off parsley, will make your food prep the day of that much easier.

Since I tend to be busy prepping on Mondays and Wednesdays, our dinners those nights are a little simpler. Last week I was glancing through one of my favorite cookbooks, Real Vegetarian Thai, looking for a curry paste recipe to send to Beatrice at Ginger Beat. I love this cookbook – it is written by a woman who spent two years in Thailand while in the Peace Corps, and all recipes come with some kind of back story and lots of thoughtful tips. I decided to make a quick rice noodle soup with some lemongrass stock I had in the freezer and a salad with this incredible dressing.

The dressing comes from the New York Times and it tastes exactly like that perfect one you get at sushi restaurants. It is incredibly simple to make, it makes a lot, it lasts for a week in the refrigerator, and it is so nice and thick that it can also be used as a dip. I can also imagine it spooned over tofu, or even over soba noodles. It is so good, I was tempted to eat it straight from the jar – a desire I have never experienced for salad dressing!

Before the recipe, let’s talk about miso. There are several different types of miso – white being the most mellow in flavor. It is often kept in the produce section of your grocery store, or where you would normally find tofu. You will end up buying more than you need for this recipe but, if you keep plastic pressed directly on top of the miso once it is opened, it will keep for a year in your refrigerator. And you will want to make this dressing again!

Miso Carrot Sauce
From The New York Times

Makes 1 1/4 cup

The salad I made for this dressing had butter lettuce, thinly sliced mushrooms, halved cherry tomatoes, and chunks of avocado.

1/4 cup peanut or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar

3 tbsp. white miso

1 tbsp. dark sesame oil

2 medium carrots

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and cut into coins

Put all ingredients into food processor and pulse to mince carrots. Let machine run for 1 minute, until mixture is chunky-smooth.

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

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