Eggplant Dip Topped with Fattoush Salad

fattoush-eggplant-dip2

I realize I profess my love for eggplants all the time, but this eggplant dip topped with a variation on fattoush salad is everything I dream about when I dream about food (the vast majority of my waking hours). If you’ve read this recipe for Ridiculously Simple and Creamy Eggplant Dip and tried it out for yourself, whether you left it true to form or tried any of the other suggested additions, then you’ll know the value of roasting a whole eggplant until it looks like a shrivelled up witch’s foot. This isn’t a true fattoush salad as I’ve added a few extra ingredients but it’s definitely reminiscent of the original; I admit that when I have a jar of pickled peperoncini peppers in the fridge I feel compelled to add them to just about everything. This has become a beloved party dip over the span of a month and I’ve eaten it solo in my pyjamas for dinner at least 5 times (I don’t bother with anything to use as a dipping vessel, a fork does just fine thank you very much). As long as you make sure to drain the cut up tomatoes and cucumber on some paper towel before adding them to the eggplant base you can have leftovers the next day, just be warned that raw garlic seems to become exponentially stronger after a night sitting in the fridge – approach with caution.

Brown shallow earthenware bowl filled with eggplant dip and with a topping of fattoush salad

eggplant dip topped with fattoush salad:

for the eggplant dip:

1 eggplant, scored several times and roasted whole at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until black and shrivelled on the outside

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. Ras El Hanout

Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Scoop out the custardy eggplant insides and combine in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Use a large fork to whip the mixture into a frenzy until it becomes a creamy and relatively smooth dip. Set aside while you make the fattoush salad.

for the fattoush salad:

About 1/2 cup cucumber chopped into smallish pieces, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

About 1/2 cup tomato cut into small chunks, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

5 pickled peperoncini peppers, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of parsley, torn into very small pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. sumac

Generous pinch of dried chili flakes

Kosher salt

In a salad bowl gently toss together the cucumber, tomato, scallions, and peperoncini peppers. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and top with the sumac and chili flakes, adding a pinch of kosher salt to round out the flavours.

Transfer the eggplant dip to a shallow bowl and spoon the fattoush salad over top, adding another drizzle of olive oil for presentation and extra flavour. Serve with pita bread or crispy baguette slices, or with a fork and nothing else.

Walking in the rain for long periods of time makes me feel more alive than a stroll on a sunny day. The ocean is best when it’s entirely greyscale, and listening to the combined sound of water lapping on the shore and rain falling on wet leaves is like a being wrapped in the most comforting blanket imaginable. But I’ve realized it’s also been a month of depressing music, lots of downtempo, minimal everything, and more Nick Drake than you can shake a stick at. I’ve been making the attempt for a full single day now, and although it’s been tempting to listen to the new Casino Versus Japan album nonstop I’ve been filling my ears with Teeel’s gloriously synthy good times. And you know what? I had a bit more bounce in my step tonight when I walked to the beach in the pouring rain.

Teeel – Temple of the Sun

Marinated Olives with Orange and Rosemary

Clear glass dish with marinated olives with orange and rosemary on a white, green, and red striped tablecloth.

Do you need a quick, dare I say effortless, appetizer for your next gathering? Something less formal and more of a help-yourself-my-lovely-friends ordeal, but still sophisticated enough that it looks elegant decanted into a few pretty dishes? Look no further dear reader, this bright little recipe lets the olives do the work with the help of a few vibrant additions to the overall look and taste. Rosemary and orange zest are old friends in this recipe, seemingly oddball in combination with the olives but somehow it just works. Give the olives at least a day to marinate in the fridge and then put them out for your guests in a few well-chosen beautiful dishes (remember to include a little container for the pits as well) and let them have at it.

marinated olives with orange and rosemary:

About 2 cups of mixed olives, with pits (reserve the brine for storing any leftover olives)

2 or 3 big sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 orange, coarsely zested and juiced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl or container stir together the olives, rosemary, orange zest and juice, garlic, and a few good glugs of olive oil. Give the mix a generous addition of freshly cracked black pepper, stir well and try an olive to make sure the flavours are on the right track. Allow to marinate overnight or for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours, store any leftover olives in the reserved brine (these make an excellent midnight snack as you stand in the front of the open fridge pondering what your real snack will be).

And speaking of midnight snacks, cold roasted radishes dipped in sea salt make an excellent last-minute addition to your day…

Roasted pink radishes on a white plate.

Bowery Electric provides the ideal downtempo soundtrack to mulling over your late night eating habits; I should know, this album has served me well through my important snack food decision making for the last 20 years or so.

Bowery Electric – Empty Words

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Hot Peppers

Bacon wrapped hot peppers stuffed with cream cheese on a yellow oval plate. Garnished with parsley.

By all means, use only jalapeño peppers for this recipe. I went to 2 different grocery stores when I made this particular batch and was only able to find 5 jalapeño peppers and so I subbed in whatever small hot peppers I could find. Although I roasted the peppers to help take out some of their heat, my guests still found the jalapeños overwhelmingly spicy (although I preferred them, so knowing your audience is helpful here). I like the reliability of cheddar when it comes to these peppers, but use any cheese that sounds good to you. I specify full fat cream cheese because I find that low fat versions tend to have a gritty texture when heated, and if you’re wrapping these in bacon I feel like the whole low fat idea becomes moot anyway. The most time consuming part of this recipe comes from hollowing out the peppers and removing the seeds, the stuffing and wrapping part goes by quickly in comparison. I’m always trying to convince myself I don’t need to wear gloves when I cut up hot peppers but after several fiery eyeball incidents I’ve resigned myself to a pair of rubber gloves reserved just for this purpose. Serve something ice cold to drink with these, I suggest a really cold light tasting beer or giving rosé slushies a try.

bacon wrapped stuffed hot peppers:

16 small hot peppers of your choice

8 oz. full fat cream cheese, softened at room temperature

2 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded

1 bunch of scallions, things sliced (both white and green parts)

1 medium-sized tomato with the seeds removed, cut into a very fine dice

About 2 Tbsp. worth of fresh sage, cut into fine ribbons

Juice of 1 lime

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

16 slices of bacon, sliced in half lengthwise

Cilantro or parsley for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prep the hot peppers by cutting them in half lengthwise, carefully removing the seeds without destroying the shape of the pepper – you’re aiming for little pepper boats. Roast the peppers cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about a half hour. Allow them to cool to room temperature, leaving the oven on if you’re making the peppers right away.
  2. Combine the cream cheese, cheddar, scallions, diced tomato, fresh sage, lime juice, kosher, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Using 2 teaspoons, carefully stuff each pepper with the cream cheese mixture. I find that I usually have to reallocate some odds and ends once I’m finished, but you should have enough to generously fill each of the peppers.
  4. Carefully wrap each stuffed pepper with half a slice of bacon, being careful not to pull too tightly as the bacon will shrink as it’s heated. Arrange them on the same parchment-lined baking sheet that you used before, making sure there’s space between each pepper.
  5. Return the bacon wrapped peppers to the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve while still hot garnished with the parsley or cilantro, ideally with cold beer, and watch how quickly they disappear. In fact, you’ll probably be kicking yourself for not doubling the recipe so make note for any future stuffed hot pepper endeavours.

From Russia, with love.

Motorama – Ghost