Creamy Artichoke Spread

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Remember that week I spent in Rome I’m still eating my way through all the goodies I brought back.

While in Rome, I stopped at the local grocery store The Coop. It was perfect because that’s where I bought my 25oz bottle of extra virgin olive oil, that I’m still using. I also made my way to the spreads section of the store. There, I found black olive tapenade, capers in chunky salt and it’s also there I discovered Artichoke Pate. While the jar and ingredients were in Italian, I managed to google translate my way through. I wish I had brought a jar back home with me. Since I wasn’t able to, I decided to make my own artichoke spread with fresh ingredients.

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Don’t get me started on the fresh Italian ingredients in Rome. At one of the restaurants we went to, they served whole fried artichoke. It wasn’t covered in batter or anything. Not the way you think of fried vegetables, at least.  The artichoke was served whole and the leaves were browned and crispy. A perfect combination with a plate of bread and cheese. I just can’t wait for the farmer’s markets to open up in May. I’ll be eating fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long.

So what the heck would you use Artichoke Spread for, right? That’s probably one of the first questions you asked yourself when you got to this recipe. Well, Artichoke Spread is actually pretty versatile. If you love sandwiches, use Creamy Artichoke Spread instead of mayo or mustard, then pop in the panini grill. Use it as an appetizer for dipping bread, or add a small bowl of Artichoke Spread to your charcuterie board. I even challenge you to be creative and use it as a light pasta sauce in lieu of pesto. It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of Artichoke Spread. 

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Artichoke Hearts
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves Garlic

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, place the artichoke hearts, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil and pulse until smooth.
  2. Depending on the consistency, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
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Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins

Banana Muffins

Rise and Shine! It’s breakfast time. Get a hold of these Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins to start your day. You won’t be disappointed. The muffins are loaded with bananas, walnuts and Orange blossom Water (my not-so-secret ingredient).

Banana Muffins

My best recipes come to me when I see an ingredient in dire need of being used. I’ve shared with you before a recipe for Banana Bread. It’s a total hit in our house. I really wanted to come up with something better than just your average banana bread. That seems pretty standard, right? Bad bananas means bake banana bread. Then I got to thinking about my favorite Middle Eastern sweets and decided to fuse the two together. If you’ve ever made qatayef with walnuts (قطايف), you know that the pancake stuffing consists of walnuts, white sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Add to banana muffins and you have a one-of-a-kind sweet breakfast treat.

Banana Muffins

Speaking of Qatayef … isn’t Ramadan right around the corner? There will be plenty of walnut and cheese filled sweets to go around for 30 days and 30 nights. Okay, if we’re lucky, 29 days.

Tell me I’m not the only person this happens to. I buy bananas green and then all of a sudden they become dark brown before I get the chance to use them up. Well, my mom’s been really good about using up the bananas. She makes whole grain Belgian waffles and tops them with banana slices. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Banana Muffins

This last batch of bananas was pretty strange. I bought them when they were green. I swear to you they never turned that bright yellow color. They just went straight from green to brown, almost overnight.

Banana Muffins

 

 

Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins

Yield: About 18 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons White Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons Orange Blossom Water
  • 4 Medium Bananas
  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 large Egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. Line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, white sugar and orange blossom water and set aside
  4. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, brown sugar and salt, and set aside
  5. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl, add the mashed bananas, egg, and butter. Beat until thickened (you can use a hand-held beater as well)
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients, continue beating until combined, 1-2 minutes
  7. Stir in the cinnamon walnut mixture
  8. Spoon the batter into you muffin cups, filling about 1/3 to 3/4 way up
  9. Bake on the middle rack for 18-20 mins
  10. Cool on a wire rack and then serve
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Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup

Cauliflower Pea Soup

So one day, the day I was prepping for my dinner party and Ultimate Charcuterie, I was at none other than my favorite grocery store, wegmans. I was stocking up on all the cheeses, meats and goodies I wanted to feature on my board. And at the very last second I picked up what I thought was chunks of parmesan cheese. It wasn’t until I started putting the Charcuterie board together that I realized I had actually picked up parmesan rinds. Parmesan rinds are hard and practically inedible. Devastated, I just threw them into the fridge thinking I’d figure out what to do with them later.

Cauliflower Pea Soup

It wasn’t until I was on a work trip to Rome, that I had mentioned the unfortunate incident to a fellow colleague while talking about the buffet of cheeses at our conference. She had suggested freezing the rinks and throwing them into a soup. Brilliant! I’m not sure why I hasn’t thought of that before. As soon as I got home, I threw the rinds into a freezer-safe ziplock bag. 

It’s been the warmest February in DC on record. The Washington Post even says it was warmer than the average March! That’s good news for me, she who does not like snow. But it’s bad news for the me who loves cozy soups in the cold months. I cannot let all of winter and early spring go by without at least one more soup recipe – Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup. And lucky for me, the weather took a turn for the cold when overnight we hit 20 some degrees Fahrenheit.

Cauliflower Pea Soup

Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil + 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock
  • 12oz Frozen Green Peas, thawed
  • 1 Parmesan Rind

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Wash and cut the cauliflower head into medium-sized (1 1/2-inch) florets
  3. Place the florets in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, cumin, cinnamon and ginger, until coated
  4. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat
  6. Add the onions and sauté until translucent
  7. Add the Parmesan Rind
  8. Add the peas, stir for 1 minute
  9. Then finally add the roasted cauliflower florets
  10. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir then bring to a boil
  11. Once boiling, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup to your desired consistency. NOTE: You can also blend the soup using a standing blender. Have another empty pot available. Using a ladle, spoon the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. Then return to the pot. Use the additional pot if you have too much liquid for the standing blender.
  12. Simmer on low for 5 minutes
  13. Most of the time the Parmesan rind dissolves in the soup. If it hasn't dissolved, scoop it out with a slotted spoon before serving.
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One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetables is one of my favorite comfort foods. Comfort food by definition is, ” food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” For most, that means lots of carbs and lots of sugar. For me, comfort food really does fit the Merriam Webster definition, that is, a traditional dish that brings back childhood memories. So what is it about One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake that makes me nostalgic? I have so many childhood memories of being at my Tayta’s around dinner time. She’d whip up her chicken and vegetable bake. She always had a way of making even the hardest dish seem easy to pull together. It must be all her years of cooking for 8 children. Yes, eight. The apartment always smelled amazing. It was wafting with aromas from a mix of garlic, onion and Arabic spices that made me practically drool as I waited not-so-patiently in the family room watching TV.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

My mom learned to cook Arabic dishes from my Tayta. And I’m so happy she did. I grew up eating vegetables, stews, beef, chicken and lamb. You name it, I grew up eating it. I’m pretty sure my baby food consisted of full Arabic meals smoothed out in the blender and served in plastic Barbie bowls. And for that I’m thankful. There is no other comfort to me than cooking with Arabic spices, lots of garlic, lots of onions and lots of olive oil. I know I’ve done something right when my dishes look and smell like my mom and Tayta’s dishes.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

A note on “thirds of an oven.” You may have read in some of my recipes, or in other recipes a reference to cooking something in the top or bottom third of an oven. If you’ve baked sweets, you’ve definitely read baking in the middle rack. So here’s the deal with thirds of the oven. Different recipes require direct, medium or indirect heat. Most sweets are safe in the middle rack, where you’re ensured that the bottom won’t burn. While, other recipes, such as roasted vegetables, may require more direct heat to get that roasted and charred flavor.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Open up you oven and take a look. Visually divide your oven into thirds. You’ll see there is a Top third, Middle, and Bottom Third. Keep that in mind when reading recipes. For the One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake, I mention baking in the bottom third of the oven. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

 

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 Chicken Thighs, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons Seven Spice (found at your local Arabic store)
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • Salt, to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Yellow Onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup Carrots, chopped
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prepare the chicken and vegetables
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the seven spice, salt, sumac and garlic
  4. Using your hands, rub the chicken generously, back and front and all over, with the spice mixture, then set aside
  5. Next, toss the potatoes in the spice mixture and set aside
  6. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken skin-side down in an even layer, and the potatoes
  8. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is crispy, then remove and set aside
  9. Cook the potatoes until crispy on the outside, about 2-3 minutes on each side
  10. While the chicken and potatoes are being sautéed, toss together the carrots and onions with the spice mixture.
  11. Remove the potatoes from the pan and add the carrots and onions, cooking for about 5 mins (or until slightly charred)
  12. Turn the heat off
  13. Using tongs or a spatula, arrange the vegetables in your large oven-safe skillet (or in an oven-safe baking dish), then nestle in the chicken, skin-side up.
  14. Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  15. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender and can be poked easy with a fork
  16. Serve warm

Notes

Your oven is divided into thirds. Visually imagine the thirds as: Top third, Middle and Bottom third. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.

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This Week on Instagram

My first full week back, and I wasted no time drafting up a ridiculous looking to-do list. I baked a special birthday cake, made my date truffles and hosted a potluck Arabic Breakfast (which actually took place around brunch time), among many other adventures.

 

First thing’s first. Upon my return from travel, one of the first things I did, was head to my absolute favorite grocery store, Wegman’s . I was so excited when I saw this tomato dispenser. There’s a real sense of excitement when you have the ability to dispense multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

 

I love it when my dad decides he wants to make something for dinner, but then doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. He brought home this tuna steak and wanted to have it for dinner. My mom, dad and I spent a good 15 minutes discussing and researching how to crust, sear and cut tuna steak- YouTube video tutorials and all. It was a success! Thank you YouTube for being one of the best platforms for how-to’s.

 

This week I made a very special cake for a very special birthday boy. Truth be told, he’s my friend’s son and I couldn’t wait to make something special for him. We celebrated at our weekly movie night, and he was just over the moon with excitement. I’m going to guess it’s because he had a 4-layer triple chocolate cake with oreo frosting to enjoy to himself! I will say though, the baking, frosting and assembly were easy compared to the anxiety and work I put into transporting the cake. Note to self, never go into cake delivery.

 

Does anyone else go to Costco with the intention of buying 2-3 items and leave spending at least $200? I went into Costco intending to pick up bread, coffee cups and eggs. I left with beach chairs (it’s March in DC, by the way), a 100-pack of razors and tank tops – among many other things I did not have on my list. Oh yea, and I lunched on the samples.

 

We’re still snacking on the delicious almond biscotti I brought back from Rome. It goes perfectly with my coffee and hazelnut creamer.

 

Finally getting around to testing some of the olive oils from Rome. I bought olive oil made from black olives. It’s has a thicker, creamier taste, but goes perfectly with Italian Pane bread.

 

I decided to join my mom for yoga on the weekends, starting this last week. The yoga classes are part of the gym we’re both members of. I woke up and with only half a cup of coffee in, I made my way to class thinking it would be great to have a relaxed class. Surprise! I walked into “broga.” As the instructor explained, it’s yoga developed by “bros” and involves more active participation. So basically, I was doing pushups and burpees in yoga class!  

 

I posted my first Instagram story video tutorial for my date truffles. I’m not great with video, and I definitely did not primp ahead of time, because I had my “home bun” as I like to call it. The date truffles are really easy and really fun to make. One day, when I have my YouTube channel all set up and I start recording and editing recipe videos, you all will be the first to know about it.

 

Sunday I invited over some friends for a potluck brunch. The potluck brunch turned into an Arabic Breakfast and it was amazing. We had fool (فول) fattet hummus (فتة حمص), falafel (فلافل), manaeesh (مناقيش), cheese assortment, egg station, labaneh, quiche, hash brown casserole. We even had fig walnut bread. It was fabulous.

 

Until next week …. follow along on Instagram

 

Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Italian bruschetta

I just got back from a four day trip to Rome, Italy where I ate, walked, ate, visited some historic sites, ate, shopped, did tons of work for my real job, and ate some more. I enjoyed every minute of Rome. For a full recap of my week in Rome with photos, videos and my own commentary, check out last week’s This Week on Instagram post.

Italians know how to live, and most importantly, they know how to eat. At restaurants, you never feel rushed. The waiters don’t stop by your table every five minutes to take your plates away and offer you the check. In Italy, mealtime is a laid back time with flowing table wine, a starter, main course, dessert and dessert drinks (at the very least). The waiters give you space to enjoy your meal and conversation. They check up on how your dish– likely one they recommended– tastes. They definitely don’t rush the check. Most of the time in Rome, we had to explicitly ask for the check. I loved the food in Rome. I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato, and drank wine like it was water. I’m almost positive the wine was cheaper than water.

Italian bruschetta

At most of my sit-down meals, I ordered a bruschetta starter. Bruschetta, pronounced broo-ske-tta, is made up of thick slices of grilled Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. Popular to contrary belief, classic bruschetta doesn’t actually come with tomatoes. Tomatoes are an add-on. Other toppings could include veggies, cured meat or cheese. Another notable difference between our “Americanized” version of bruschetta and true Italian bruschetta is the use of grilled, thick, Italian bread, as opposed to small French bread rounds or even hardened baguette rounds.

Italian bruschetta

Every single bruschetta I had in Rome was delectable. I always ordered mine with tomatoes — except that one time a group of us went to dinner and ordered “bruschetta classico.” After waiting 10 minutes or so for the missing tomatoes, our waiter explained that we had ordered “classico.” Classico does not include tomatoes, it’s basically grilled garlic bread with olive oil. Luckily for us, he was very kind, and brought us new Roma tomato-topped bruschetta. The tomatoes! The Roma Tomatoes! They’re the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever had. Packed with flavor, and not too hard or too soft, they were so perfect. Since leaving Rome, I’ve been dreaming about those ripe tomatoes over grilled garlic bread. I had to make some at home. Of course, I don’t have access to the same Roma tomatoes like I did abroad, but I made due with Roma tomatoes from Wegmans . Pro tip: the bread tastes so much better if you can grill it on an outdoor grill. 

Italian Bruschetta

Italian Bruschetta

 

Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Yield: 6 Bruschettas

Ingredients

  • 6 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil + 2 tablespoons for brushing
  • 2-3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 Slices Pane Italian Bread, sliced
  • 1 whole Garlic clove, for rubbing the bread
  • 1/2 cup Baby Arugula

Instructions

  1. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a small slit at one end of each tomato
  2. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil
  3. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice water for blanching
  4. Once the water boils, carefully place the whole tomatoes in the water. Cover and boil on high for 2 minutes then turn heat off.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the tomatoes and place them in the ice water. Wait about 2 minutes, before removing the tomatoes from the ice water onto a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. You'll notice that the skin has started to peel. Peel the tomatoes, then cut into small cubes
  7. In a medium bowl, mix together minced garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar then set aside
  8. Place a grill pan over high heat (or use an outdoor grill)
  9. Cut the Pane bread into 1 1/2 inch slices
  10. Place Italian bread slices on the grill, cooking each side for 5-7 minutes (until slightly charred), then flipping over to grill the other side for another 3-5 minutes. Watch the bread carefully, especially if using an outdoor grill.
  11. Remove bread from heat. While still warm, use the whole garlic clove to rub one side of each piece of bread, then brush liberally with olive oil.
  12. Top each bread slice with the tomatoes and baby arugula
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