Ingredient: salt

Artichoke Dip 2020

Artichoke Dip 2020

Growing up in Missouri in the 1970s I went to a lot of potlucks. A lot. Most were filled with things like Swedish Meatballs, Three-Bean Salad, Macaroni Casserole, Watergate Salad, Jello Everything, and of course, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. My mother would get so annoyed at those who brought KFC. She would mutter under her breath, “Why the hell did I go to all the trouble to make something from scratch if others are just buying fast-food?” And people wonder where I get my attitude…

All of this to say somewhere embedded in my taste memory is a fondness for another 1970s favorite: Artichoke Dip. A dollop on a Triscuit was my favorite snacking comfort food. While I still think Triscuits are the greatest cracker ever invented (no judgement, please), I have outgrown the mayo-heavy, bland artichoke dip of my youth. Below is a recipe I started making nearly ten years ago. It’s a tiny bit more sophisticated but still pretty comfort food-y. The other day I also realized that if you pick up a can of artichoke hearts (in water, not oil) on your next COVID-19 grocery run, chances are you might have all the ingredients on hand for that night when your neighbors wanna come over for some Driveway Drinking. This also makes a wonderful spread for a sandwich or wrap filled with avocado, cucumbers and a slice of sharp cheddar…

Quarantine White Bean Dip

Quarantine White Bean Dip

If you’re cooking and adding beans to everything these days like minestrone, soup, stews, etc., this is a great way to use up the extras. If you don’t have tahini, just use a tiny bit more olive oil. The fat from the olive oil and/or tahini is what makes the dip a little more decadent. Specific quantities are listed below, but just adjust to what you have on hand and your taste. FYI: this also works with canned beans.

Toum — Lebanese Garlic Sauce

Toum — Lebanese Garlic Sauce

With it being coronavirus/cold and flu season, this seemed like a logical recipe to post.
I first read about this sauce/spread in Milk Street magazine and then a couple of weeks later I saw it at the Boulder Farmers’ Market and then, strangely enough, at Trader Joe’s! Its origins are Lebanese and it’s often served with chicken kabobs, shawarma or falafel, but I like it drizzled over grilled veggies, spread like mayo on a sandwich, layered with hummus and veggies in a wrap, added to soup, drizzled in the middle of a taco filling, or simply dolloped on top of a potato chip!

All you need is a food processor or blender (I’ve only made it in a food processor), garlic, olive or vegetable oil (I use sunflower), lemon and salt. What makes it so unique is the emulsification process that produces an aioli-like sauce with an essence that enhances other foods to umami status.

Pesto (that doesn’t turn brown)

Pesto (that doesn’t turn brown)

Even if it tastes the same there is nothing appetizing about brown oxidized pesto. I used to find it so annoying when I would go to all the trouble and time to make a fresh batch of pesto and within minutes it would go from bright green to muddy brown. Bleh. But now thanks to Maria Rodale’s cookbook, Scratch, I finally learned the trick to keep pesto bright green: blanch the basil leaves. So simple! Below is my version of her recipe — it doesn’t have cheese (not that I’m opposed, I just like it better sprinkled on top not mixed in), uses walnuts instead of pine nuts, and less olive oil. The amount below will make enough pesto for a full pound of pasta.

During the harvest season I make as much pesto as possible and freeze in small 4oz. little jars. I used to freeze batches of pesto an ice cube tray, but I found that unless I wrapped each little cube in plastic wrap, they would freezer burn way too quickly. So now I just put in a little jar with a layer of parchment paper cut to size over the pesto and freeze.

Craveable Cauliflower Buffalo Wings

Craveable Cauliflower Buffalo Wings

Full disclosure: I’ve never eaten Buffalo Wings made with chicken. Wings became popular long after I became a vegetarian, but I’ve been making this recipe for years and find myself craving it, especially in the winter.

Why chickpea flour? No, not because I’m going all GF on you! I actually like the nutty, more complex flavor of chickpea flour because it adds a deeper flavor to the cauliflower, and it definitely provides a little extra protein. Where to buy? I usually get mine at a local Indian grocery store, but you can also find it in specialty/natural foods grocery stores that carry the Bob’s Red Mill line of flours/grains.

There are seemingly dozens of variations of this recipe on the Internets, but I have tried to make this recipe a little more straightforward and easy to execute without losing any flavor. I hope you enjoy and crave!

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

I kinda love butternut squash soup. Sure, if served I’ll eat it, and even I’ll probably even feign that I like it. But most times it’s usually just kinda bland and the texture isn’t all that pleasing. However, this particular recipe I created is actually craveable. In fact, my 16-year-old daughter asked while eating it if I could make this every month in the winter. Yes, I made it in an Instant Pot, but not necessary. For those who don’t have one (is that even possible?!), simply make on the stovetop in a soup pot making certain to cook the squash fully.

The key to making this soup so dang luscious is two-fold: 1. Use full-fat coconut milk in a can. Don’t skimp and use the coconut milk you pour on your cereal or use the ridiculous “reduced-fat” coconut milk. No, just use full octane tasty, silky, fatty coconut milk. 2. Puree in a blender, preferably one like a Vitamix with a lot of horsepower. Don’t be lazy and just use your immersion blender. I promise it won’t taste nearly as good. And then you’ll be disappointed and will likely throw out what you don’t eat. Which is even worse than using reduced-fat coconut milk.

Also, I’m very well aware that simply using curry powder from a jar is not “real” curry powder. Whatever. I make a lot of Indian food and create my own curry, so I get it. BUT sometimes the generic, sorta quintessential American curry powder just hits the spot, especially if you are serving to kids or people who are not huge fans of too much spice. And I don’t know about you, but that generic curry powder is just so evocative of hippie comfort food that sometimes I just crave it.