Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve Dinner Idea: Middle Eastern

CAUTION: This post contains profanity for the sake of humor.

When I was growing up, we had one ethnic restaurant in our town that wasn't a teriyaki joint - Hadi's, a Lebanese restaurant.  My family was slightly starved for culture, so we must have gone to Hadi's at least once a month for a few years.  Lebanese/Middle Eastern food has since become my comfort food - I love all the different lemony dips, the warm and floury pita bread, and the bright green parsley.  Lemon, garlic, sesame, and herbs form the foundation for many of the dishes.  And it makes for quite an impressive-looking spread:


This is a picture of the dinner Alyse and I prepared for our friends Kat and Vanessa (the same Vanessa of the Etsy shop hubuh) a couple of weeks ago.  Kat took this pic with her mobile and tagged it on facebook thusly:

In this photo: Kat, home-made tabouleh, Alyse, Alyse-fried falafel, BEER, pitas!, cukes and 'maters, Katherine, tzatziki sauce - HOME-MADE TOO BITCHES! feta - yum, home-made hummus.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

The only thing that wasn't homemade, I must admit, was the falafel - I made that from a mix (a tasty, tasty mix!).  But the hummus, tabbouleh, and tzatziki were homemade, and from recipes I created after much experimenting to recreate the tangy, exotic flavors of Hadi's from my childhood.  This would make a fantastic spread for a New Year's Eve Dinner Party!  It is easy to prepare, all the different foods go together, it is vegetarian, and it is easy to serve as finger food (minus the tabbouleh, which can be accommodated with a few small plates).  New Year's has always been a quieter holiday for me, and a quiet dinner with friends sounds just about right to welcome in 2011.  So make yourself some tzatziki, pop open a bottle of bubbly, and enjoy!

New Year's Eve Middle Eastern Dinner Party


To create a Middle Eastern-inspired spread, I served everything that Kat mentioned above, plus spanakopita for an appetizer.  Put out a platter of warm pita with all of the spreads (tzatziki and hummus), vegetables (sliced tomato and cucumber), falafel and tabouleh and let your guests go to town creating falafel sandwiches for themselves.

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt Sauce)


1/2 cup - 3/4 cup plain yogurt (Greek or some other thick yogurt works best)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 lemon's worth of lemon juice
1 handful fresh dill
1/2 English cucumber (peeled or unpeeled, your choice)
Salt and pepper

1. Slice the 1/2 cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds, if any, by running your pinkie finger down the center.  Shred the cucumber using a hand grater.  Salt the cucumber lightly and place in a mesh sieve over a bowl or the sink so that the excess cucumber juice can drain.  (You may want to do this up to a few hours in advance so you get rid of as much liquid as possible - but if you don't have a few hours, it will still taste great.)

2. Finely chop the dill.  Smash the garlic using the back of a large chef's knife and peel.  Mince the garlic very finely.  One trick that works well is to chop the garlic once, then sprinkle with a little salt and, using the flat part of the knife, grind the salt into the garlic to make a paste.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and dill.  Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon; taste, and add as much of the other half as desired.  Squeeze out as much of the cucumber liquid as you can, then add the cucumber to the mixture.  Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Best served as a sauce for the falafel, or as dip with warm pita bread.

Tabouleh


Tabouleh is traditionally an herb salad, so if it is authentic, the ratio of herbs to grain should be about two to one.

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup dill leaves
1/2 - 1 lemon's worth of lemon juice
1- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomato
Salt and pepper

1.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add the bulgur wheat, reduce heat, and stir occasionally until the grain has absorbed all the water and tastes done (if too chewy, add a little more water).  Once cooled, transfer the grain to a medium-size bowl.

2.  Finely chop the parley and the dill.  Chop the tomato into 1/4 inch pieces.  Add the herbs and tomato to the bulgur wheat.

3.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the salad to taste.  Stir in the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

Hummus


There are a frillion grocery store hummuses on the market now, but I really like being able to control what goes into mine - I like plenty of lemon and garlic and a creamy, smooth consistency.  All of the measurements in this recipe are basically to taste - the secret to getting hummus the way you want it is to taste as you go along.

1 medium can chickpeas
3-6 heaping tablespoons of tahini (available in most grocery stores these days)
3-5 garlic cloves
2 lemon's worth of juice
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.  Smash the garlic cloves with the flat part of your chef's knife and remove the peel. Run your knife through the garlic once.

2.  In a food processor, add the chickpeas, garlic, splash of oil, and a big pinch of both the salt and the pepper.  Run the food processor until the garlic has been incorporated into the chickpeas and the chickpeas have broken down.

3.  Add the first 3 tablespoons of tahini, the juice of 1 lemon, the cumin, and another splash of olive oil.  Run the food processor until these combine and the mixture begins to look creamy.  Taste and add, according to your own tastes, more tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, or oil (or all of these).  Run the food processor until the mixture is smooth and at the desired consistency.  To serve, sprinkle the hummus with paprika and chopped parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and present it on a platter with warm wedges of pita bread.

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

Every Thursday, Dexter & Dinah will feature a new crafter/artisan whose works are handmade.


It is C-O-L-D COLD in Seattle right now!  I've been watching the snow flurries outside my window all day (thankfully nothing has been sticking, this city shuts down when it snows!).  I'm hankering after soft woolen things as a result.  I like this uncomplicated orange "scarfette" from Etsy seller trishafern - the one wooden toggle makes for an interesting detail, and this would be perfect under a mandarin-collared jacket (which makes a regular scarf, with all of its bulk, tough to pull off).


Dark Pumpkin Scarfette


I never did learn how to do a cable knit - maybe a good resolution for the new year!


Happy Thursday, Crafters!  Stay warm out there!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Work and Christmas prep took over this month, and blogging got put on the back burner!  Before the day is completely over, here's a picture of the Christmas tree that Alyse and I decorated - my first real tree in over a decade.  I hope you all had a happy and safe holiday, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about the cooking and crafting we've been up to in the days to come and the new year!  


Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday Feature: Coveted Crafts

What?  It's Friday?  Erm...well, just pretend it's Thursday, for the purpose of this post.  I'm a smidge late with this one, but it is too good not to share!


Our good friend Vanessa has officially reopened her Etsy shop!  Hubuh is a delightful place to find clever cards and bright prints from Vanessa's original art.  I particularly love this card:


Please Forgive Me Note Card


I can totally see a guy giving this to a girl after putting his foot in his mouth.  Or you know, vice versa.  


I'm always looking for good every day cards, for when you want to send someone a note to let them know you are thinking about them, but not something so sappy that it feels forced.  This card fits the bill, in addition to being smart:


Hello Note Card


I'm also fortunate to have an original painting of Vanessa's hanging in my house.  Vanessa sells lovely prints of her work, such as this one:


The Spanish Bride Print


For those of you in the Seattle area, Vanessa is currently showing her art in the Forgotten Works Challenge in Pioneer Square, at the Tashiro Kaplan Building, 115 Prefontaine Place South.  For more information, click here.


Happy "Thursday," crafters!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turkey Stock

Well, hello there!  Why yes, I did survive Turkey Day!  The food was delicious and well-received by all, the house looked well enough, and both my family and my boyfriend's family got along!  It truly couldn't have gone any better.

And, in true don't-waste-anything-if-you-can-help-it fashion, I made some tasty turkey stock!  I hope all of you out there with Turkey carcases did or are planning on doing the same!  Here's my basic poultry stock recipe - homemade stock is great for risottos, soups, stews, gravy, you name it.  Works with rotisserie chicken bones, too!  I usually just keep a freezer bag of vegetable peelings in the freezer for when it comes time to make the stock, and throw those in.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday, and even that if you didn't, the stress has hopefully subsided now!


Basic Poultry Stock


Turkey or chicken carcass, meat and skin removed (a little skin is okay)
1 onion (or, the skin and ends the onion)
2-3 large carrots, unpeeled (or, the peels of several carrots, and their tops)
3-4 stalks celery
1 handful parsley, stems and all (great when you have extra parsley that's getting a little yellow)
1 handful dill, stems and all (optional)
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (great way to use up those extra herbs from the holiday feast!)
5-6 whole black peppercorns

Add all ingredients to your largest stock pot.  Fill to cover with water; place over medium-high heat and let simmer 3-4 hours, until vegetables are completely cooked through and the stock is a lovely golden color.  Occasionally skim the scum off the top with a spoon.  Strain the stock into a bowl to collect the solids (all the vegetables and bones); discard the solids and place the stock in the fridge overnight.  Skim the rest of the fat off the top of the stock the next day.  Place stock in the freezer for homemade stock whenever you need it!
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