Appetizers, Sauces & Other Extras

Muhammara

So we’re deep into Lent now, and this is the time that I am most likely to break. Not even necessarily that I consciously decide to go against the grain, but that I forget that I’ve made a decision to eat closer to the ground and that bowl of salted caramel truffles is calling my name and it’s like seven on a Thursday and what am I still doing at work… I know that you’re busy reshaping the world powered by other people’s humble prayers and good deeds, but God, please take a minute to forgive this human’s seemingly inability to not stop off at the grocery store for a bag of popcorn. I’m weak. I’m human. This dip is a good thing to eat to remind yourself that real food tastes better than fake food. This takes no time at all, and serves as both a great accompaniment to vegetables as it does a conversation starter. No one will believe that you just put things in the blender. Blend away, sinners.

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Muhammara

16 ounces roasted red peppers, drained

2-ish cups walnuts

6 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 cup virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Blend until you’ve achieved a smooth texture.

***Note to the follower of this recipe. This dip is very forgiving – this is actually what I consider the cheater / I have to make something for book club and I have nothing in the house version of this dip. Today I forgot to buy a lemon – or did I buy a lemon and just can’t find it? – so apple cider vinegar went in instead. Feel free to sub in different nuts, I have found that cashews are a decent and creamier substitute for walnuts.

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Sauces & Other Extras

Lemony Tomato Jam

My mother’s tomatoes outdid themselves this fall, and I was the happy recipient of a large colander of them two weeks ago. I do love tomatoes, but after several dinners of them with cottage cheese, and tomato soup and sandwiches, even I cave and find a way to can them. You probably already have your own go-to tomato sauce and salsa. If you have a bumper crop of juicy garnet-red orbs this fall, make tomato jam. You can spread it on sandwiches, serve it on a cheese plate or top meatloaf with it. This is your year for tomato jam. Just don’t do what I did and splash boiling hot water on your chest, and then have to walk around with an ice pack for a few hours – avoid that part. Do however, make this on a rainy day that begs you to curl into a blanket that your grandmother made and sink into another reading of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes. Have some goat cheese handy, with a little piece of bread – to check that the jam is, you know, just as good as you thought it might be.

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Lemony Tomato Jam

(makes twelve cups of jam)

6 pounds tomatoes, washed and quartered

6 lemons

6 cups sugar

4 tablespoons butter

3 jalapenos, seeded and diced

3 cups apple cider vinegar

3 limes, juiced

1/4 cup molasses

3 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons cardamom

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

8 cinnamon sticks

60 juniper berries

30 whole cloves

12 allspice berries

First things first, slice your lemons in half length-wise, then slice into thin half moons. Remove the seeds. Set these aside in a bowl while you move on to the next step.

Arrange all of your whole spices into a neat pile on a large-ish sheet of cheese cloth and tie shut with a long piece of twine.

In a vary large pot, combine the tomatoes, sugar and butter and bring to a gentle simmer. When the fruit has given up the ghost, so to speak, and has relinquished its juices to the sugar, you can crank that baby up higher to a boil. Boil for about eight minutes or so, stirring so as not to burn the bottom. Add the lemons and the jalapenos. You washed your produce, right? Please say you did that. Cook the tomatoes with the lemons for about five minutes.

Now added the vinegar, the juice from those limes, the molasses and the ginger. Add the cheese cloth with the spices, but tie the twine to the edge of the pot so that you can easily retrieve it later. Simmer this until the mixture has reduced by half. This is going to take at least two hours. Stir occasionally.

When reduced by half, ladle into clean jars and process.

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Sauces & Other Extras

Ranch Dressing

I did not grow up eating as much ranch as my husband did. He ate it on salads and smeared it on sandwiches and he dipped his pizza crusts in it. He lived in a world where ranch was a condiment like mustard. I did not buy ranch dressing on my first trip to the grocery store as a married woman, and it was very distressful to my new husband. Over years I’ve grown to appreciate, if not understand, his love of this dressing. Here is our own gluten-free and paleo version.

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Ranch dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

10 scallions, roots and tips removed, roughly chopped

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 large bunch parsley, stems removed and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons dried dill

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Stuff all ingredients into your food processor and blend until smooth.

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Sauces & Other Extras

Home-made & Paleo Mayo

Guys, guys, guys. So it took many, many failed attempts, I have finally figured out how to make the most easy, most fool-proof mayonnaise recipe, ever. I have read so many mayonnaise recipes, and so many of them have broken. And, by the way, did you begin to think that mayonnaise was our favorite ingredient? It has been in so many recent recipes because I have been celebrating my new mayonnaise-making skills! Follow these steps, and you too can master this temperamental condiment.

The mayonnaise.

The mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 egg yolks*

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 cups oil**

Plug in your food processor and put the water, the lemon juice, the yolks and the mustard in the bowl with the blade attachment. Blend these ingredients until completely combined. Then, with the blade spinning, pour the oil in the thinnest stream that you can manage, into the yolk mixture. Do not get rushed for time and think that you can pour the oil in anything but a thin stream, because then your mayonnaise will break and you will have completely wasted two cups of glorious oil.

Try this in Qomer Sauce or in Fresh Corn Slaw. Or smear this on bread before making your favorite sammich, or dip your french fries in it. Hey, guys, no preservatives, so go wild!

*I prefer to use pasteurized eggs for this recipe.

**Feel free to experiment with different kinds of oil here. I prefer to use grapeseed oil for a very plain mayonnaise. The mayonnaise in the picture made use of olive oil – and check out that pretty color. Be advised that more flavorful oils will produce strongly flavored mayonnaise.

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Sauces & Other Extras

Qomer Sauce

The history of the Coloumbian Exchange hooked me in college. I took one Andean Anthropology class and I could not get enough. I loved hearing about the people and their culture. I was excited by the idea of chicha. I read volumes on chuno. The birthplace of the potato was fascinating. It is very possible that the whole quecha language was what caught me. The words sounded romantic, and rolled off of my tongue in drops thick like honey. Try this Peruvian-inspired sauce to taste a little of my own fascination (maybe it will hook you too).

(Qomer is quecha for green)

Eggs drenched in luscious qomer sauce.

Qomer Sauce

1 cup mayonaise

4 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil like grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, roughly chopped

5 scallions, cleaned and roughly chopped

1 large handful basil

1 large handful cilantro

1 smaller handful mint

Dump all ingredients into a food processor and blend baby, blend! Every once in a while, stop the machine and scrape down the sides to make sure that everything is thoroughly mixed.

You may find yourself without access to fresh herbs. You may substitute the fresh mint for one scant tablespoon of dried mint, but you will have to let the sauce meld overnight in the fridge. Do not substitute the other fresh ingredients, however, just adjust the remaining ingredients that you can find.

Eat this on everything, even on hard-boiled eggs that you have inexpertly peeled.

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