November 26, 2010

Sides in the Middle

Hope that everyone had a successful and filling Thanksgiving! Hope you're reading to start thinking about cooking again...

There used to be a restaurant near my house where you could order a dish called "Sides in the Middle" where you could pick some sides and they would serve it to you on one plate as your meal. If you know my sense of humor, you'll  understand why that stuck with me.

Here are some fantastic and super simple recipes for a meal that Damiano made the other week, all of which could be side dishes but which all go great together as one meal. It was a combination of a lot of little dishes, like mezze in the Middle East. It's a great and easy way to put together a dinner. For ours, we had roasted eggplant salad, carrot spread, homemade hummus, sauteed broccoli, brown rice, a baguette and brie cheese. It was delicious and every dish was bursting with its own flavors. I've included the recipes for the eggplant salad, carrot spread and hummus below the jump. I would highly recommend any one of them!

Roasted Eggplant Salad

This is also great with some yogurt mixed in at the end. Feel free to improvise by adding other spices or fresh herbs. It can be eaten immediately but is best served cold with bread, pita or as a dip.

-2 medium eggplants, skinned and cubed in to 1 cm. cubes
-1 small red onion, finely chopped
-1 clove garlic, finely chopped
-juice of half a lemon
-5 T. olive oil
-1 T. balsamic vinegar
-1 T. harissa (type of hot chili) or paprika (if using paprika use only a teaspoon)
-2 T. chopped Italian parsley, optional 
-salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375. 

Coat the eggplant in 2 T. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes until the eggplant is baked through but not falling apart. 

While the eggplant is baking, make the dressing by mixing the onion, garlic, lemon, the remaining 3 T. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, harissa or paprika, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper. 

When the eggplant is ready, place in a medium bowl and coat with the prepared dressing. Enjoy!

Carrot Spread

-5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
-1 clove of garlic, peeled
-4 T. olive oil
-salt and pepper

Boil carrots until just tender (you should be able to pierce them with a fork). 

Remove the carrots, reserving 3 T. of the water. 

Place the garlic in a blender or food processor and blend. Add the cooked carrots, 3 T. of the carrot water, the olive oil and salt and pepper. It should be a little thiner than hummus. Serve at once or store in the fridge for future use.

Homemade Hummus

Making hummus at home makes such a difference, it's thick, creamy, and super flavorful. If you've never tried it before I would highly recommend it. If you don't have a food processor or blender, you can just mash everything up with the back of a spoon or other mashing device, which is what we do at Wesleyan (just chop the garlic first). Hummus is all about getting the right proportions of the ingredients, so be sure to taste as you go and adjust accordingly. 

-1 15 oz. can chickpeas 
-2 cloves garlic, peeled
-1 t. salt
-juice of half a lemon
-1/2 cup olive oil
-2 T. sesame tahini (sesame paste, available in most grocery stores)

Using a food processor or blender, puree the garlic and salt. Add the chickpeas, lemon, and tahini and blend. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until fairly smooth. Season with salt and pepper. I like to leave mine not completely pureed, but you can do yours however. Adjust salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil to your liking.