Archive for the 'appetizers' Category

Watermelon feta salad or soup

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Chilled watermelon soup

As you can see, Evan is particularly pleased with this simple watermelon dish. The baby version of watermelon salad turns into a creamy soup, which Evan found a bit strange at first. He tried to eat the soup off the spoon, and realized that was not the most convenient method of consumption. "Slurp, slurp", I said, as I fed him, making the noisiest slurping sounds that would be perfectly polite at a Japanese ramen house. "Hoo!", he giggled. The more he eats this soup, the more practice he gets at conveying liquids to his mouth with a spoon, rather than a bottle. He seems to find the result worthy of the effort.

The grownup version of this dish is a warm weather favorite. With its juicy sweetness, watermelon begs for the salty counterpoint of feta cheese. The salad is incomplete without fresh mint leaves and some grassy, peppery extra virgin olive oil. I like to top the salad with some Aleppo chili pepper flakes. The salad would pair nicely with a good chilled beer, I think, and is best consumed outside in the hot summer sun.

This is the third post in a series on making your own baby food. See the first and second posts here:on making baby food, what am I, chopped liver?.

watermelon feta salad

Leave out the chili flakes to make the baby-friendly version of this recipe (see below). You can always add the chili flakes later.

1 small or 1/2 large watermelon
1 8 oz/226 g package feta cheese, cubed
1 bunch fresh mint
black pepper
olive oil
Aleppo or other chili pepper flakes

  1. Cut the watermelon into large bite-sized cubed and place the fruit in a large bowl.
  2. Add the feta cubes to the bowl. The ratio of cheese to watermelon should be a little less than one to one.
  3. Rip 2-3 handfuls of mint into the bowl.
  4. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Sprinkle the chili flakes over the top.

Serves 4-6.

watermelon feta soup

  1. Follow the directions for preparing watermelon salad as shown above, skipping the last step.
  2. Remove a few chunks each of watermelon and feta cheese from the bowl, and place them in a coffee grinder.
  3. Add another mint leaf or two, if you like, and another drizzle of olive oil.
  4. Pulverize the salad in the coffee grinder. Correct seasoning with freshly ground black pepper and olive oil.
  5. Optionally, sprinkle in a dash of finely ground chili pepper such as cayenne or hot paprika.
  6. Store in a 4 oz/125 ml canning jar.

who put the latkes in harry truman’s gatkes?

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Celeriac carrot latkes

Every Hannukah, my tone-deaf father who sang “in the key of R” would sing “Who put the latkes in Harry Truman’s gatkes?” No, that’s not the name of a song. It’s just a silly phrase that he’d sing intermittently, while preparing the holiday dinner. I have no idea who put potato pancakes in Harry Truman’s underwear, or why, for that matter.

Last night I finally girded my loins to make our first Hannukah dinner for this year. I’ll be making potato pancakes on Friday for a holiday party, so I wanted to make something a little bit different. Hannukah is all about fried foods, potatoes just happen to taste good when fried. So I opted for celeriac carrot pancakes.

These are a little trickier than potato pancakes, as the celeriac and carrots lack the potato starch that helps bind together traditional latke batter. As long as you squeeze out any excess water and fry them at a fairly high heat, these fritters should come out crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. You could use avocado or safflower oils coconut oil or schmaltz for frying, as these fats tend to have a high smoking point (see note below). I used bacon fat to fry the majority of my latkes. It’s cheaper and imparts a subtle smokey flavor to the fritters. Be sure to turn on your kitchen fan to drive out the greasy bacon odors. (The noise of the fan also helps drown out the sound of your Jewish ancestors turning over in their graves.)

The flavor of these pancakes is both sweet and earthy, with a touch of the metallic sharpness of celeriac. Apple sauce is redundant here, the carrots are sweet enough. A little sour cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt are fine toppings. A mixed holiday genres by topping his with cranberry sauce. I prefer sour cream.

carrot celeriac latkes

300 grams celeriac, washed, peeled, and trimmed
300 grams carrots, washed and trimmed (don’t bother peeling)
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 eggs, beaten
a scant pouring of matzah meal, just a tablespoon or two
about 1-2 TBS freshly minced dill
about 1 scant TBS salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
fat for frying (choose a fat with a high smoking point, such as grapeseed oil, coconut oil, or rendered animal fat such as schmaltz or, ahem, bacon fat)

  • Cut the vegetables to fit the chute of your food processor, and process using the grater attachment. If you’ve got time and want to work out your biceps, grate the vegetables manually. Alternate between celeriac, onion, and carrot (the onion prevents the celeriac from oxidizing).
  • Mix in the beaten eggs. Add a little matzah meal if the batter looks like it needs help keeping together.
  • Season with dill, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  • Heat your fat in a heavy frying pan on a medium-high flame (I like cast-iron). Optionally, heat fat in two large pans to more efficiently cook all the latkes.
  • When the fat is very hot, place a large soup spoonful of batter in the pan and flatten the batter with the back of the spoon. You want a very thin fritter that just keeps together. Repeat until the pan is full. You want some space between each latke, and you don’t want to crowd the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably be able to fry two to four latkes in each pan.
  • When the latkes turn brown at the edges, turn them over with a spatula. Fry until the other side is browned.
  • Taste the first batch of latkes. Correct the seasoning if necessary.
  • Fry the rest of the batter, allowing the latkes drain on some paper towel.
  • As you fry, monitor the heat of the frying pan. You may need to adjust the heat slightly, up or down, as you go along. If the latkes are too brown, you may need to turn the heat down a little. If they take too long to cook and aren’t crisp, you may need to turn the heat up. Be sure to melt more fat in the pan between batches. Then allow enough time for the fat to heat up.

Serve with sour cream or crème fraîche with a bit of dill for garnish, and optionally, a slice or two of gravadlax.

Serves 2-4

Note: Check out this page for a list of oils and their smoking points. Avocado and safflower oils have the highest smoking point.

lazy mezze meal

Monday, September 25th, 2006

When I’m feeling lazy and the weather is warm, a light dinner of assorted mezze is very satisfying. Here are some ideas for small dishes, followed by a couple of recipes. Combine a few of these dishes with toasted country style or flat bread and cured meats and cheeses for a light supper or lunch.

  • Halved tomatoes, fried in olive oil with sliced garlic, sprinkled over with salt & pepper and a basil leaf
  • Zucchini blossoms lightly sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Steamed stinging nettles (or spinach), mixed with butter, sauteed garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper and garnished with grated parmesan

chickpea and fennel mezze

1/4 can chickpeas
1/4 large fennel, diced
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

  • In a bowl, lightly mash the chickpeas. Toss in the fennel.
  • Press the garlic clove and squeeze the half lemon over the mixture.
  • Pour olive oil on the meze and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2-3 (small, mezze style portions)

cucumber, yogurt, and blueberry mezze with lemon thyme

1 large Persian or other long cucumber, finely diced
2 tsp fresh lemon thyme, pounded in a mortar and pestle or finely chopped fresh mint
about 1 c natural, unflavored, full fat yogurt
about 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 c fresh blueberries
salt and pepper to taste

  • Put the diced cucumber and herbs in a medium bowl.
  • Pour over some of the yogurt, then squeeze in the lemon juice and toss. You want to balance the acidity of the lemon juice with the tartness of the yogurt, but you don’t want the mixture to be too runny. Add more yogurt as needed and taste as you go.
  • Add in the blueberries and toss carefully, so as not to smash the fruit.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 as part of a mezze style meal

P.S. Stay tuned for more reports on NYC and Stockholm…

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Creative Commons License