Today’s Recipes: Artichoke Squares, Roasted Mediterranean Eggplant Spread, Sweet Potato Hummus, Roasted Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Vegetables and Fontina Cheese.
Welcome to Super Bowl Week! Whenever I am planning to host a party, I start looking for new and interesting recipes. This year, in addition to our favorite fattening but yummy football treats, I am going to offer healthier options for my friends who are watching their weight and those who have vowed to eat more healthy food this year. Far be it from me to blow their New Year’s resolutions only a month into the year! If you have people in your life who scoff at vegetarian and vegan cooking, believing that there is no way they could be delicious, one bite of a well-made vegetarian dish will change their minds forever!
The Artichoke Squares might be considered similar to a crustless quiche. Found in one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The California Heritage Cookbook, it is a combination of chopped artichoke hearts, aromatics, and other vegetables which are added to beaten eggs and baked until firm. Cut into squares that are perfect finger food, they offer a lot of protein without any meat. These are perfect for parties or can be part of a brunch or breakfast spread. They are equally good served at room temperature or re-warmed. You can even make them a day ahead and reheat before serving.
The Roasted Middle-Eastern Eggplant Spread is a delightful way to explore world cuisines. Sometimes called Baba ghanoush (bah-bah gone-oosh) it is full of interesting flavors. Salting it ahead of time greatly reduces the bitterness of the eggplant. If you like the bitter flavor, you can skip this step, but in addition to removing the bitterness, it also reduces the moisture content. By removing the moisture and getting the eggplant thoroughly dry, it makes your final product less greasy. You can buy pita chips (often sold in the potato chip or foreign foods aisle) or make them yourself by cutting them into triangles, sprinkling lightly with olive oil and salt, then baking until crisp and toasted.
If you love hummus, the spread made with chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), you are going to go crazy for this version made with sweet potatoes! This recipe is from a wonderful chef and food writer, Sarah Britton. Sarah is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, the founder of New Roots Holistic Nutrition, and is currently working as a vegetarian chef at two organic restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark. The author of the My New Roots blog, she focuses on ways to increase our intake of healthy, nutritious foods, and educating others to be an active participant in their own health and healing. She proves that vegetarian and vegan cooking can be delicious as well as healthy!
One of the venerable favorites of dinner parties for many decades, stuffed mushrooms are a good choice for meat-free menus. This version is filled with a selection of winter vegetables, but feel free to change them for whatever is in season or that you already have at home. From Annie Somerville of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, one of our favorite restaurants and the first place I discovered that an all-vegetable meal can be filling and absolutely delightful. These mushrooms may well become a regular on your party circuit. As Annie writes, “This deeply flavored dish appears on our menu throughout the year, and we vary the vegetables with the seasons. The Portobello caps are roasted and heaped with a savory filling of mushrooms, fennel, peppers, leeks, and a little sun-dried tomatoes. The creamy Fontina and crunchy Garlic Breadcrumbs add the right flavor and texture.” This filling combination can also be used to stuff artichokes.
When I am composing party menus, I feature one or two main courses and offer a bunch of other options, mostly made from grains and vegetables. This fills everyone up without costing me an arm and a leg. One of my tricks is to not tell people what is in a dish before they taste it – generally all my friends are up for a fun game of “guess what’s in the food.” They have a blast guessing different ingredients, and arguing about the flavors they taste. Some have much more advanced palates than others, but they all have fun playing the game. So, this weekend while you are enjoying the Super Bowl and the commercials, treat your family and guests to some other fun and give them healthy and delicious foods to nosh on!
- 2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas (canned is fine, rinse & drain before using)
- Zest of 1 whole organic lemon, juice of 1/2 the lemon
- 3 small sweet potatoes
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 to 3 pinches sea salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- Place sweet potatoes (with the skin on) in a baking dish in a 400°F oven and bake until very soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. (You can also steam the sweet potatoes, but I find baking them is more flavourful.)
- Let the sweet potatoes cool down so that you can easily remove their skins - they should just peel off. Place them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend on high to mix.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of cracked black pepper, and whatever herbs you have on hand. It is wonderful with raw veggies, healthy crackers, or pita bread. This dip also doubles as an amazing sandwich spread. Will hold in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Don't get too hung up on the quantities of ingredients with this recipe - it's hard to make a mistake! Use more or less sweet potato than called for, more or fewer chickpeas if that suits you (or even leave them out!), omit the cayenne or throw in more if you like it spicy. Just work with what you have and what tastes good to you.
- 2 medium eggplants, peeled
- 2 red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
- 1 large onion, peeled and root end removed
- 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 3 tbsp good olive oil
- 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 5 drops Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce, optional
- 1 tsp tandoori seasoning
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp dry white wine or dry vermouth, optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Cube eggplant and toss with 2 tsp coarse salt. Place in a paper towel-lined colander and set over bowl to draw out the moisture and bitterness. Leave undisturbed for an hour. Remove and discard paper towel and rinse eggplant thoroughly to remove the salt. Firmly squeeze cubes to remove excess liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a large bowl.
- Cut bell peppers and onion into 1" cubes and add to the eggplant cubes. Toss them with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, tandoor seasoning, cardamom, and cumin. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, stirring twice during cooking. Cool slightly. Remove garlic and red pepper peels.
- Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomato paste and wine and pulse a few times to blend. You can leave it chunky or puree until smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Excellent served with pita chips, crackers, or sliced and toasted baguettes.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- Seasoned Breadcrumbs
- 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp dried savory
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp dried tarragon
- Artichoke Squares
- 3 (6 oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts in oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup chopped onion or green onions
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs (from above)
- 1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce
- Watercress or parsley sprigs for garnish
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9x9-inch baking pan; set aside.
- Make Seasoned Breadcrumbs: Combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 1 cup.
- Make Artichoke Squares: Place the oil from 1 jar of the artichokes into a 12-inch skillet, and using moderate heat, gently heat the oil. Sauté the garlic and onion in the oil for 5 minutes and set aside.
- Drain and discard the oil from the remaining artichokes. Chop all the artichoke hearts finely and set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs until foamy and blend in the breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Add the finely chopped artichoke hearts to the egg mixture and stir gently to blend. Add the cooked onion and garlic. Again mix well and spoon into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting into 2-inch squares.
- Before serving, place squares in a 325°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes to reheat, then place on a warmed serving platter garnished with watercress or parsley sprigs. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- Garlic Breadcrumbs
- 1 loaf rustic artisan bread such as levain, ciabatta, or sourdough Italian
- Garlic oil, for brushing
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- 1/2 cup Garlic Breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
- 4 large portobello mushrooms, about 1 lb, stems removed
- Garlic oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lb white mushrooms, quartered, about 2 cups
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 medium leeks, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, sliced and washed, about 2 cups
- 1 fennel bulb, halved, cored, and outer leaves removed, cut into large dice, about 1 cup
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice, about 1-1/2 cups
- 6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, diced, about 1/4 cup
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as, flat-leaf parsley, chives, thyme and oregano
- 2 oz Fontina cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup
- 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated, 2 to 3 tbsp
- Make the Garlic Breadcrumbs: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut the loaf of bread into thin slices and place on a baking sheet; brush with garlic oil, generously or lightly, as you like. Bake until golden and very crisp, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Break up the bread with your hands and pulse in a food processor, leaving the texture a little coarse. Serve right away or store for a few days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- Breadcrumbs keep indefinitely in the freezer, but you’ll need to crisp them for a few minutes in a 325°F oven before using. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Prepare the Mushrooms: Brush the mushrooms with garlic oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and place them gill side up on a baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes, turn them over, and roast until tender, about 10 minutes more. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.
- Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large sauté pan and add the quartered white mushrooms, half of the garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper. Sauté over high heat until the mushrooms are tender and golden, about 5 minutes, adding a little water if needed to keep them from sticking to the pan. Add the wine to deglaze and cook until the pan is nearly dry. Transfer to a bowl.
- Return the pan to the heat with the remaining oil and add the leeks, the remaining garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the leeks are wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the fennel and red pepper and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes more. Add the mushrooms and the sun-dried tomatoes and cook everything together for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool. Add the herbs, the Fontina, and the Parmesan to the vegetables.
- Heap the filling in the mushroom caps, firmly cupping the top to make a dome. Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the garlic breadcrumbs over the mushrooms. Bake until the filling is heated through and the top is crisp and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
For Appetizer Servings:
- Buy small brown Cremini mushrooms which are actually baby portobello mushrooms. Follow the same directions as above, chopping the ingredients more finely, and use just enough filling to fit the smaller mushrooms. Place on an oiled baking sheet and roast until warmed through, cheese is melted, and the tops are crispy.
- Yield: 4 main course servings or use smaller Cremini mushrooms for appetizer servings.
- In summer, use grilled or roasted onions and summer squash or zucchini instead of the leeks and fennel. You can use roasted tomatoes in place of sun-dried tomatoes. Almost any flavorful cheese works; Asiago or Manchego are particularly delicious.
Thanks for sharing some healthier choices for Super Bowl! The Roasted Mediterranean Eggplant Spread and Sweet Potato Hummus sound especially good!
Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook
My pleasure Jeanette! I love to balance the traditional snacks with healthier options. I hope you enjoy them!!