Warm Fennel White Bean Dip with Kale and Parmesan

Food 2013 013 I’m not going to tell you that I’ve been too lazy to keep up the blog lately. Or that my daily routine leaves me tired and uninspired sometimes. I’m not going to tell you that I feel just a teensy bit overwhelmed with planning a wedding or that I like to give my brain a rest with an episode of Scandal most weekdays. Because you don’t wanna hear that complain-y crap!

What I am going to tell you is that I’m back to share recipes with you.

While I’ve been away from voracious for a bit, I’ve still been in the kitchen most days cooking nourishing food to keep us going. I’ve even cooked some especially good things. But I’ve mostly been falling back on dishes that are easy for me to make and aren’t deemed “blog-worthy”.

I’m making a promise to work harder to share the dishes that are coming out of my kitchen with you – because I know that we all need a little inspiration for simple healthy food that tastes good. Or at least I do.

And I’m starting out easy with a dip.

This is a new spin on the old can of white beans. Or bulb of fennel, depending on how you look at it. It’s creamy, dip-able, spreadable and great for sharing. I love the fresh rosemary in this but you could use thyme, parsley, basil or any other herb, really. I’d probably use a bit more when using leafy herbs though.

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Basil and White Bean Hummus

voraciousvander - basil white bean

I have a cookie recipe for you before Christmas…it’s not unlike my orange gingerbread cake – with its molasses and spices. But this time, there’s a little sugar-coated crunch and you know, it’s a cookie.  A Christmas one.

But before we get there, let’s talk basil.

My love of basil runs deep.

It’s just all warm days, simple meals and pesto to me. It takes my brain to a happy place.

I bought this big bundle of basil at the market the other morning  and walked around holding it like it was a bouquet of flowers, sneaking a sniff every now and then. Sure, I looked  like a crazylady, so what?

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Eggplant Sun-dried Tomato Spread

I got two plump eggplants in my vegetable box last week, which I thought was odd…considering it’s winter here. This week I got fresh peas. And strawberries. And brussels sprouts. Aaaand I officially have no grasp on the Australian growing cycle.

Nothing to do but roll with it.

Make this spread to eat on toast or crackers, chicken or fish, over pasta, rice, quinoa, pizza or with eggs. Stir in some chickpeas or white beans to give it a protein boost.

If you like creamy eggplant and sweet roasted garlic, make this immediately. It’s easy to put together, packed with good Mediterranean flavors and tastes great warm, cold or at room temperature. And in all seasons.

Eggplant and Sun-dried Tomato Spread
(very slightly adapted from Gourmet)

- 1/2 head garlic
– 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm pieces
– 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (3 ounces), chopped, plus 2 tablespoons tomato oil
– 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Cut off and discard the bottom (the woody end) of garlic head to expose cloves. Brush top of head with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Cool to warm, then squeeze garlic cloves from half of the skins into a small bowl, discarding skins. (Reserve the other half for other things like this or this.)

Meanwhile, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a large colander. Let sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze eggplant in a kitchen towel to remove excess liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, saute half of eggplant until browned and tender, about 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Cook the other half of the eggplant in olive oil the same way, transferring to bowl.

Add 1 cup cooked eggplant to garlic and coarsely mash together. Stir into remaining eggplant with sun-dried tomatoes (without tomato oil), parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle with tomato oil and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Chilli Sauce

Do you ever psych yourself out about life? Like all of the sudden, you feel like you’re not doing something right – even though yesterday you felt totally on top of it? Yeah, that feeling sucks.

How do you shake it?

My food processor is a surprisingly useful tool in dealing with these situations of mental stress. If something edible, and I daresay delicious, comes about because I decided to put a bunch of things in that food processor – things suddenly feel a little better. I’m on the right track. I’ve restored some sense of control.

It might be a combination of the simplicity of preparation, the loud noise it makes, and watching pieces of food get pulverized. I’m not sure.

I was looking to use some extra coriander and limes I had when I found a chilli sauce on Nigella Kitchen that fit the bill.

It’s similar to a typical fresh salsa with a spicy punch and a citrus zing, but has a smokiness from the roasted red peppers.

I omitted most of the oil that Nigella used in her version because I thought the sauce was the right consistency without it. It clings to a chip properly, without being too thick or sludgy.

It’s perfect for bringing to a party and scoring bonus points for making something (when you barely did anything.)

Or for enjoying alone while watching old episodes of Nigella, drinking a frosty beer, and taking a moment to breathe.

Jumbo Chilli Sauce
adapted from Nigella Lawson

- 3 whole roasted red peppers (jarred, to make it easy)
– 1 clove of garlic, peeled
– 2 hot chilli peppers (I used one red and one green) with seeds in tact but top stems removed and cut in half
– 1/2 cup coriander stems roughly chopped
– Zest of one lime
– Juice of one lime
– 1/2 cup coriander leaves
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– salt

Drain the red peppers of any excess liquid.

Place roasted red peppers, garlic, chilli peppers, coriander stems, lime zest and juice in a food processor and puree until finely chopped and almost smooth. Add salt, olive oil and coriander leaves and blitz again until everything is blended and smooth.

Serve with tortilla chips.