As you’ve seen with some of our other recipes, like our pimento cheeses (Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese & Southern Pimento Cheese), we’ve learned that making our own mayonnaise and/or aioli is so much easier that we ever would have assumed previously. Yes, whisking it all together takes a little bit of muscle, but it’s really a fairly quick and painless process. Aioli in its original definition is mayonnaise flavored with garlic, but these days you can find all manner of aiolis. So this here is the original, but with a SUPER strong garlic flavor! You’ll definitely want to make this with Patatas Bravas!
Super Garlic Aioli
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup neutral oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Place garlic and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
Slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl, whisking continuously.
Once base has come together, stir in the salt and vinegar.
Most people out there enjoy a good snack, but on Ally’s mom’s side of her extended family, they really embrace the snacking thing. When they’re together for a holiday or any sort of large gathering, they don’t just have three meals in a day. They add a fourth, solely devoted to snacks. Somewhere along the way, someone named this fourth meal “Dip Thirty.” (The alternate, but less popular name is “Dip O’Clock.”) Dip Thirty occurs between lunch and dinner, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. This allows dinner to be pushed back well into the evening, originally so no one had to waste the last hours of summer sunshine on preparing dinner or listen to whines of “I’m staaaaaaaarving!” Dip Thirty is so successful because with such a large family, everyone feels the need to bring something to contribute… which leads to counter-tops and picnic tables covered with a variety of snacks to sample!
Today we had a just-for-fun family gathering at Ally’s aunt & uncle’s home along the banks of the Potomac River, in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now, Dip Thirty really isn’t the time to be calorie-counting, but we decided to bring a snack that leaned towards the healthier side of the spectrum, knowing there would be plenty of delicious cheese-packed dips from other family members.
This dish, sabse borani, is an Afghan spread which is more commonly eaten on flatbread. We decided to use it in more of a dip fashion with pita chips. It’s actually quite simple to make, with only a few ingredients, but your result is a lovely and flavorful yogurt-based dip/spread. I see why it’s used as a spread, but it definitely works as a dip too! We made a larger amount to share, but this recipe is easily halved.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or any yogurt, strained)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium sweet onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 heaping cups fresh spinach
Salt & pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 20+ minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown, soft, and nearly caramelized. Stir frequently.
In the last few minutes of the onions cooking, add the garlic so it can soften
Remove the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
Lower the heat to a low-medium and then add the spinach to the same pan. Cover and wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. This only takes a minute or two.
Allow the spinach and onions to cool and then stir them in with the yogurt.
Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Adjust salt if needed.
Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.
My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.
Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.
Pickled Red Onions
1 large red onion
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.
During our years living in Columbia, we loved going to the Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia. Now that we live in Richmond, we’ve turned to the South of the James market for our Saturday morning perusing. For better or for worse, Soda City Market isn’t exactly a farmers market in our opinion. There are a handful of farmers with fresh goods, but they are definitely outnumbered by food vendors and artisans. South of the James is more of a true farmers market, with quite a few farms and farmers in attendance, in addition to some other vendors. Pro: there are way more options of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from which to choose! Con: there are not as many brunch-while-strolling-the-market options, though there are several.
This is in fact relevant to our recipe today and our goals of having this blog. While we were browsing through the produce at one stand, one of the proprietors was popping open these little tomatillos for people to taste. He told us these were “pineapple tomatillos” and would you believe it, they really do taste like a combination of a tangy, sweet pineapple and a sharply earthy green tomato. We bought a carton without a second thought. We’re certainly not tomatillo connoisseurs, but we’d never heard of these little guys. We also acquired some pretty purple beans, a few bell peppers and onions (which are also making their appearance in this salsa), and delicious plump blackberries that we finished before we even got to the car! Overall a successful trip 🙌🏼 Soooo… hopefully no one clicked on this link looking for a pineapple AND tomatillo salsa, because that’s not what we’re making tonight!
With a little research, we learned that tomatillos generally belong to two species of the same genus (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), but that there are dozens of varieties. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but are generally cultivated all over the Americas today outside of the coldest reaches to the north and south. The largest natural and cultivated variety of tomatillos grow in Mexico. Our pineapple tomatillos are one of those many varietals! Another interesting tidbit: the modern Spanish word tomatillo is derived from the Native American/Aztec word for the same plant and ingredient, tomatl.
I know these pineapple tomatillos aren’t exactly an ingredient everyone has on hand or can run out to the store and pick up, but if you come across them anywhere, get some! This salsa was refreshing – light and fresh! Everyone who ate it remarked that it tasted like a tropical fruit salsa, even though it obviously doesn’t contain any mangoes or pineapples or the like!
I have a confession. I am not on board with the bacon trend. I do not think EVERYTHING is better wrapped in bacon. I know this is an unpopular opinion around here. I mean, is there anything more American than being obsessed with bacon? My brother even informed us when we were planning our wedding that he wouldn’t attend if our cocktail hour didn’t offer bacon-wrapped scallops, his favorite hor d’oeuvre. (He was joking, obviously.) So when I first heard of bacon jam awhile back, on a menu somewhere I think, I thought 💭 ‘Ugh… and here it is, another perfectly good dish that people felt the need to add bacon to so they can be cool and bacon-centric.’
I still feel this way – I’m looking at you Bloody Mary with four strips of bacon hanging out, bacon sprinkled donuts, and chocolate-covered bacon👀 BUT… I have definitely been convinced when it comes to bacon jam. I think I thought bacon jam was like regular jam (ie: raspberry or strawberry) with bacon bits stirred in. Which, in case you were wondering, is NOT what bacon jam actually is. It’s a sweet and savory spread, with just as much of a caramelized onion flavor as a bacon flavor. The use du jour is on top of a gourmet burger, but I think it’s much better used on foods that don’t already have meat in them. Hence, we made some bacon jam to slather on our Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones. Such a good decision! I’m already dreaming about bacon jam grilled cheeses, scrambled eggs topped with bacon jam, and adding bacon jam to my cheese & crackers regimen. But you do you, put this stuff on whatever you want!
In a large skillet, cook all of the bacon until slightly crispy. Remove to the side. Retain enough grease to coat the bottom of the pan, but discard any in excess.
Cook onions, topped with salt and pepper, over medium-low heat for ~1 hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
Once onions are caramelized, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up all the brown, delicious bits. Now stir in the sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from heat and allow to cool for ~15 minutes. Then combine the onion mixture and the bacon in food processor. Pulse to desired consistency – we like it well-combined, but with some chunks remaining.
We’re having an impromptu New Year’s Eve “party” tonight. I put party in quotations because we’re not exactly a wild bunch. We’re having food, alcohol, and friends on NYE, so I feel like it qualifies as a party, but we’re doing a lot more playing of board games than dancing on tables.
I’ve wanted to make muhammara for awhile now and tonight seemed like a good night! It’s really pretty easy to make, especially if you have a decent food processor. I mostly followed the recipe of my old faithful, Yotam Ottolenghi, for this one. If it’s any type of food from the greater Middle East, I feel like he makes it and makes it well! Muhammara originates from Aleppo, Syria, so the use of Aleppo pepper in the dish just feels important and necessary to me. Unfortunately, the civil war in Syria has greatly decreased world-wide supply of Aleppo pepper.* (*Obviously, this is not the most important negative impact of the Syrian civil war.) But with that in mind, if you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can substitute a smaller quantity of crushed red pepper flakes. (Aleppo pepper isn’t quite as spicy and has a deeper depth of flavor + a slight sweetness as compared to crushed red pepper. Some suggest a mixture of sweet paprika & cayenne/crushed red pepper is a okay approximation.) This spread is popular from Syria through Turkey and the Caucasus, with some regional variations. The main ingredients always include red pepper and walnuts (the basis of the dip), Aleppo pepper, and olive oil.
Also, for your party hosting pleasure, this recipe would be very easy to scale up. This yielded ~ 2 cups.
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I actually used cracker crumbs – crushed matzoh from our Potato Latkes the other night]
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup walnut pieces
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bell peppers in half, removing the stems & seeds, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast until blackened and blistering, ~30-35 minutes.
Meanwhile, grind up the walnuts in a food processor. You want them to be fairly finely ground, but still have some texture. Set to the side.
Peel the skin off of the red peppers once they are cool enough to handle.
Place peppers, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, bread crumbs, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and garlic in the food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Again, don’t over-process and destroy all of the texture.
By hand, stir in the walnuts into the rest of the ingredients.
Add salt to taste.
When serving, top with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.
Ok y’all, I know I say things like this all the time, but… This dip is SO easy to make and SO worth it. Bring this to your next family gathering, book club, or just make it for tomorrow’s dinner! It’s spicy without being overpowering. And everyone loves feta cheese!
On that note, now is a good time to talk about feta again. There is feta cheese and then there is feta cheese. If you bring someone from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, France, or, you know, basically anywhere else in the world, to the United States and show them the crumbly stuff that we sell in our grocery stores as feta – prepare to be laughed at. It is just nowhere near as good as what they have. But fear not! We Americans now have access to much better qualities of feta (usually imported from Europe or the Middle East) pretty easily here. Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods will always have some, your local grocery store might in some areas, and if those all fail, it’ll give you the opportunity to check out your nearest Middle Eastern market or international food shop! Look for feta in blocks, usually in brine. It’ll be wet and have some holes in it. While it crumbles easily between your fingers, it shouldn’t be dry and pre-crumbled for you. Believe me, I was a lover of American grocery store feta for years, so I’m not judging. But do yourself a favor and upgrade! Mmmmmm… feta 🙂
Also, you may have noticed if you read our blog semi-regularly (heyyy Baba, Aunt Suzanne, Mom 🙋🙋🙋), that we share recipes that make a wide variety of serving sizes. For example our Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese basically feeds an army, while this dip was easily eaten by the two of us tonight. This just goes to show you that we only share what we’re actually making for ourselves at any given time. We ate this dip with crudites to accompany some lahmacun tonight (perfect combo in case you were wondering!).
Spicy Feta Dip
(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice from a lemon wedge
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
Refrigerate until serving.
Top with a drizzle of olive oil when serving, if desired.