Edamame Dip with Asian Flavors

A simple spread


I have a tendency to wait until the last minute to get things done. I usually chalk it up to my spontaneous nature, but I know it’s really a symptom of literally having too many things on my plate.

Last night we had some friends over for dinner, and as usual, I left the idea of an appetizer up in the air. Coming up with the perfect little nibble before the main meal is served can be tricky – you don’t want to put out too much food since it’s better to keep your guests a tiny bit hungry, but at the same time, there should be something available to help absorb the alcohol from the welcoming cocktail or first glass of wine. Plus there’s always some other thing that needs to be done, like making salad dressing or setting the table.

I usually solve the problem by putting out little dishes of olives or roasted, spiced nuts. They’re both satisfyingly salty, not too filling and will please the vegetarians and omnivores alike. But after going through my freezer yesterday and finding some half-full bags of peas and edamame, I thought I’d use them up to serve with crackers when our friends arrived.

This turned out to be a great idea – I created a quick, last minute homemade appetizer recipe instead of serving the usual tub of hummus dip, with most of the ingredients already on hand in the freezer and pantry. It could be that we were all hungry, but this disappeared in no time.

Edamame Spread with Asian Flavors

8 ounces frozen, shelled edamame
8 ounces frozen peas
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
1 crushed garlic clove
1 teaspoon wasabi powder dissolved in water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Fine sea salt, to taste

Drop the edamame and peas in a medium saucepan of generously salted boiling water.

Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking water before draining.

Puree the edamame and peas together in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to make a smooth, creamy consistency.

Sprinkle a little more cayenne over the spread before serving with rice crackers or flatbread.

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Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food

Mediterranean Barley Salad with Roasted Eggplant

A hearty salad full of Mediterranean flavor

This salad recipe is one of those that gets passed around from friends to potlucks and back again – a keeper. I first made it to bring to a picnic dinner at my neighbor B’s house last Labor Day. I think it went over well; she’s made it multiple times since then and is doing her best to spread the love around the neighborhood. She’s good at that.

The basic recipe came out of this one from Gourmet.

I omitted the zucchini and olives from the original (I’m not a fan of either) and substituted cherry tomatoes, which lend their own sweet roasty, juices to the tender eggplant and toothsome barley. This is easily made vegetarian-friendly by using vegetable broth or water instead of chicken broth.

Make it once and pass it around…

Mediterranean Barley Salad with Roasted Eggplant
makes 8 side-dish servings

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, diced
4 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped green onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups pearl barley
2 1/2 – 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion, soaked in cold water 10 minutes; drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425┬░F.

Toss eggplant with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Repeat with tomatoes on a second pan. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until eggplant is golden brown and tender and tomatoes are brown and wrinkled, 20 to 25 minutes total.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer barley to baking pan with roasted tomatoes and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, about 20 minutes.

Whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add barley and tomatoes, eggplant, onion and mint to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.

Sprinkle cheese over the salad and serve.

Make ahead note: Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.

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Happy Hour: Passion Fruit Caipiroska

Cool Cocktail

Tomorrow is the last day of school, the community pool is open for the season, and I have my first dozen mosquito bites. Summer’s here!

I made a big batch of these delicious Brazilian-style summer drinks for a Memorial Day bash last weekend. I only allowed myself one, but I’ve been thirsty for another. Passion fruit has an intensely tropical candy-like taste that I love, and this drink is a perfect foil for the vodka – you don’t really taste it. Which can be a problem. Sometimes.

Have one or two in the backyard while fending off those bloodthirsty insects, and you’ll be a happy camper.

Passion Fruit Caipiroskas
makes 6 drinks
from Food and Wine magazine, June 2006

3/4 cup frozen pure passion fruit puree, thawed (Note: I use Goya brand frozen fruit pulp from my international grocer)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1 1/4 cups vodka
Garnish: 6 thin lime slices

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher until sugar is dissolved.
Pour over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime slice.

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