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)
- 6oz feta
- 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.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
When I think about a dinner that screams SUMMER! – for whatever reason, my go-to is fish with a fruit salsa. I don’t know about y’all, but I always am more interested in fish in the summer – I can mentally transport myself to the ocean and pretend that fish just got hauled in a few minutes beforehand. And as for fruit salsa, that’s kind of a no-brainer. Who doesn’t appreciate the sweet, juicy bounty of summer harvest fruits? As you can see from one of our first recipes from last summer, I have a template when making a dish like this. Salmon (my favorite fish of the easily-accessible-at-the-grocery-store varieties) + spicy flavoring on the salmon + cool, juicy, & sweet contrasting salsa. Hey – if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?
Hot Salmon with Pineapple Salsa
- 2 salmon portions (~5-6oz each)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp hot sauce (we used Frank’s)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of ancho chili powder
- 2 cups diced pineapple
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 3 turns fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- Prepare the salsa. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate until time to eat.
- Whisk together all of the ingredients under the salmon bullet, except the salmon itself.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the salmon portions on a piece of foil large enough to fold around the salmon.
- Paint the hot sauce mixtures on all sides of the salmon.
- Close the foil around the fish, pinching the edges closed.
- Bake on a cookie sheet for ~15 minutes. [FDA recommends a safe minimum temperature of 145 degrees F.]
- Open the foil and turn oven to broil. Broil, which watching closely, for just a minute or two to crisp up the top.
- Serve salmon with salsa on top.
Dinner for two. There is a lot of salsa – we intended it to be a topping/side dish, but it’s plenty to serve with 4 or 6 portions of fish.
So here’s what I did for this recipe. I just made it up. Do not look here for authentic ratios of spices in a jerk spice blend. If you have Jamaican friends, send them the other direction – away from my inauthentic blog post! But if you’re not super-concerned about authenticity and want to test out some spicy hot baked wings… check out this recipe. I kept the wings whole and intact (mostly out of sheer laziness), but for more pieces and a more traditional wing look you can certainly portion them! A lot of time you can find them portioned in the store too. Here’s a nice breakdown on the chicken wing from The Kitchn. PS: The Kitchn is a great site for everything from recipes and how-tos to all sorts of tips & tricks of the trade.
Also, I am not joking about the spice level. Selim, who when asked in Indian or Thai restaurants for his preferred spice level answers, “However you would make it at home,” even thought these were spicy. I am way wimpier when it comes to spice, but I battled through. You can taste the other spices and even a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar despite the heat. It also helped that we paired this with cool and tangy Green Crema to keep our tongues from burning off. If you don’t want quite the five-alarm spice level, try cutting back on the crushed red pepper flakes in the recipe.
Baked Jerk Chicken Wings
- 3lbs of chicken wings
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine all of the spices in a small bowl or ramekin.
- Toss wings with oil in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle spice mixture over wings, tossing until all are well-coated.
- Spread wings out on a foil-lined cookie sheet, skin side up.
- Bake for 20 minutes and then flip to the other side. Bake 20 more minutes.
- After the full 40 minutes, return the wings to the original side up. Turn the heat up to broil. Broil for just a minute or two, watching closely, so the skin crisps up. Areas of thick spice coverage may blacken a bit, which is fine, but don’t let the skin burn!
When Selim asked me to make dinner with some salmon tonight, I wanted to try something a little different than our usual. Our usual involves adding spices to a salmon fillet and broiling it. Selim is the master of this process. I am not.
So I googled “different way to make salmon.” Seriously. This is how sophisticated and worldly I am. After browsing around for a bit, a salmon cake recipe caught my eye. I grew up eating crab cakes like it was my job, but I don’t think I’ve ever had salmon cakes. I wanted to bake them instead of fry them in a nod to being a bit healthier. After Pinterest-ing for awhile, I found a recipe on the Baked by an Introvert blog that approximated what I was envisioning for tonight.
I’m really happy about how my version turned out. The salmon cakes are moist on the inside and just barely crisping up on the outside. Slicing them open with the edge of your fork releases a gratifying poof of steam. I love the flavor. If you’re one of those people who orders their Thai or Indian food at level 10, you probably won’t find this very spicy. But for the rest of us, it’s a nice, slowly-building spiciness.
I also made a cilantro lime aioli to top these guys, but am not super happy with it, so won’t share tonight. I think with just a few tweaks it’ll be perfect. A cool topping like that complements these salmon cakes perfectly though!
Spicy Salmon Cakes
(Inspired by the Oven Baked Salmon Cakes on Baked by an Introvert blog)
- 1lb or less salmon fillet (ours was 0.85lb)
- 1/2 of a small onion, finely diced
- 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup of cracker crumbs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 10 turns black pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp hot sauce (we prefer Frank’s)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, slide the salmon fillet into the water. Decrease heat to low and cover for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine onion, pepper, crumbs, and spices in a large bowl.
- Remove salmon from water. Set out and allow to cool.
- Pat the salmon dry of any excess moisture. Coarsely break apart and add to the bowl. Stir to combine with other ingredients.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Combine well.
- Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
- With your hands, scoop up a full handful of the salmon mixture. Form into a ball between your hands. Place on the cookie sheet, and press down lightly with the heel of your hand to create the patty.
- Repeat step 8 for each patty.
- Bake for a total of 30 minutes. Flip halfway through, so each side cooks for 15 minutes.
Makes 6 medium patties.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Are they zucchini lobbyists like VEEP’s Dan Egan?” Well… that would be a cool job, but we’re pretty invested in anesthesia school. Zoodles aren’t too complex to make and are an easy way to get some extra vegetables in your life (never a bad thing). In terms of flavor, they add a subtle earthiness, but also take on the flavors you’re trying to highlight in a dish. The spices (chipotle, paprika, and cumin) shine and if you’re looking for a even more heat, toss in a pinch of cayenne or use hot instead of sweet paprika.
This recipe is adapted from another Pinterest find… The original inspiring recipe can be found on Mrs. Happy Homemaker‘s blog.
Caliente Chicken & Zoodles
Adapted from Mrs. Happy Homemaker blog
- 2 large zucchini
- 1 tsp of Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp safflower oil
- 8oz chicken thighs, cubed
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp Chipotle powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
- Prepare your zoodles. See this post if you don’t know how.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pan and toss with the spices and 1 tsp of lime juice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, still over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the chicken from the pan. Do not clean/wipe out the pan.
- Add the zoodles to the pan and cook uncovered for 2 minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan. Add the hot sauce, remaining lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Makes a light dinner for two.