Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Dip

Garden training session picnic, 9/19/12

This dip is a great new way to use fresh summer vegetables. Try it with raw vegetables, crackers, bread, or even as a sauce with chicken, pork, or beef.

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 large bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

OVEN METHOD (preferred): Preheat oven to 400. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and place cut side down on greased baking sheet. Place whole pepper on sheet. Roast until both eggplant and pepper are tender (the pepper may take a little longer).

MICROWAVE METHOD: Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and pierce the skin with a fork in a few places. Cut the top off the pepper and remove the seeds. Place eggplant and pepper on a plate and microwave on high for about 8 minutes, until both are tender.

Peel the pepper and eggplant: place hot cooked pepper in a sealed container for 20 minutes to steam. Afterwards, peel off the skin with your fingers. If roasted whole, remove seeds and stem. Peel the eggplant when it’s cool – you should be able to take the skin right off.

In a food processor or blender, combine cooked peeled vegetables and all remaining ingredients. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust salt as needed.

Yield: about 1 cup


Baba Ghanoush

Garden training picnic, 9/19/12

This Middle Eastern eggplant dip is smooth, creamy, tasty, and a perfect introduction to eggplant for people who can be put off by its unusual texture.

  • 2 medium eggplants*
  • 4 cloves garlic*, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parsley* leaves, chopped

Cook the eggplants directly on a burner (high heat) or on a hot grill. Continue to cook until the skin is completely blackened and the inside is completely soft, about 20-30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cut the eggplant in half, place it cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake at 450 until completely tender – less mess, although you miss out on smokiness.) Once eggplant is cooked, place in a tightly covered dish to steam for 15-20 minutes. Then, uncover and allow to cool. Peel cooked eggplant using your hands.

Into a food processor, add cooked eggplant flesh, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Blend thoroughly. Then, with the motor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. The baba ghanoush should become lighter in color and creamy. Add chopped parsley and pulse briefly to combine. Add additional salt to taste if needed.

Serve with crackers or pita.

*These items can be grown right in your garden.

Yogurt Chive Dip

Community garden training snack, 8/8/12 – served with fresh carrots, cucumber, peppers, and kohlrabi

This dip is a healthy, tasty, creamy way to dress up your vegetables or crackers. Chives and garlic can come right from your own garden.

  • 1 clove garlic*, finely chopped (or omit and use garlic salt – see instructions below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive, vegetable, or canola oil
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt, preferably greek-style or strained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or garlic salt – see instructions below)

If using fresh garlic: in a small saucepan, combine garlic and oil. Heat on medium-low for 3-5 minutes, until the garlic smells very fragrant and begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, chives, salt, and the garlic with its oil. Or, if using garlic salt, combine the yogurt and chives with 2 tablespoons oil and the garlic salt.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle, then serve.

Makes 1 cup.

*These items can be grown in your garden.

White Bean and Fried Herb Dip

Community garden training session, 7/11/12

This dip is delicious with fresh vegetables, crackers, or toasted bread. If you don’t have time to fry the herbs, just chop fresh herbs up and use regular olive oil. But if you do have time to fry the herbs, it makes a delicious difference.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 sprigs sage, rosemary, or a combination*
  • 1 can white beans or 1 1/2 cup cooked beans
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt

Frying the herbs:
Place a towel or paper towel over a plate.

In a very small saucepan, heat the oil. When hot (make sure you don’t let it smoke), add the herbs. Cook for about 30 seconds, until leaves are crisp but not browned. Remove the herbs immediately and place on towel-lined plate to drain.

Turn off the heat under the oil and allow it to cool.

Making the puree:
In a blender or food processor, combine the beans, the fried herbs (or use fresh, chopped – see note), the lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons of the cooled oil that you fried the herbs in (save the rest for another use – it is very flavorful and great in salad dressing). Blend thoroughly, taste, and add salt as needed.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

*Herbs can be grown in your garden. They’re expensive in the store, but when you grow them at home, they are a cheap and delicious way to brighten up many dishes.

Chocolate Pear Muffins

Committee meeting working lunch, 5/17/12

These muffins are chocolate-y enough to be delicious, but light enough to enjoy for a breakfast or snack. If pear is unavailable, you could use apples, berries, or other fruits. Or chocolate chips.

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pear, diced into very small pieces*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 regular muffin cups or 36 mini muffin cups.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, applesauce, milk, water, oil, and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Very gently stir in diced pear.

Fill prepared muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Bake until muffins spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes for regular muffins and 10-12 minutes for minis.

*Apples and pears can be grown here in Nebraska. You can even make and can your own applesauce.

Whole Wheat Olive Oil Crackers

Committee meeting working lunch, 11/29/11 – served with roasted garlic bean dip

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

This recipe is a bit more time-consuming than the others on this blog, since you have to knead the dough, let it rest, and roll out the crackers very thin with a rolling pin. If you want to impress people with something delicious and unexpected, though, homemade crackers are a great way to do it. These crackers last for up to 4 weeks in a sealed bag or container, without any preservatives whatsoever.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (can substitute regular olive oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil), plus extra for sprinkling

In a bowl, combine the flours and the salt. Add the water and olive oil and mix to form a dough.

Place the dough on a floured counter or cutting board. Knead, folding the dough over on itself and pressing it with the heel of your hand, until the dough is smooth, slightly tacky, and springs back when poked, 7-9 minutes.

Shape the dough into 4 balls. Rub each piece with a little bit of extra olive oil, then cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest one hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Dust two baking sheets with flour.

Take one ball of dough and, using a rolling pin on the floured surface, roll the dough as thinly as possible. Using a pizza wheel or a knife, cut into pieces of the shape and size you want for your crackers. Place cut crackers on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the three remaining balls of dough.

For puffy crackers, put directly into oven. To avoid puffing, poke each cracker a few times with a fork. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Roasted Garlic Bean Dip

Committee meeting working lunch, 11/29/11 – Served with carrots, celery, and homemade wheat crackers.

This dip can be made using dried or canned beans. Serve with raw vegetables like carrots, celery, peppers, and broccoli, or with crackers or bread.

½ cup dried beans, any variety (or one can of beans)*
1 head garlic*
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided use

If using dried beans, soak the beans overnight (up to 24 hours) in plenty of water. Then, rinse the beans, put them in a pot, and add water to cover by about 5 inches. Bring beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until beans are tender, 1-2 hours (taste them to see when they are done, and overcooked is better than undercooked in this recipe). (Can be done in advance – add a large pinch of salt to the water, cool, and refrigerate in the cooking water for up to 4 days.)

While the beans are cooking, preheat oven to 350º. Cut the top (pointed, gathered end) off of a whole heads of garlic, exposing the cloves. Place in a baking dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of salt, and cover with foil. Roast until tender when cloves are pierced with a knife, 45-60 minutes. Squeeze cloves out of papery exterior. (Can be done in advance – refrigerate until ready to use.)

In a food processor or blender, combine cooked beans (prepared as above, or start at this step using canned beans) with roasted garlic cloves, remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Process or blend until smooth, then add up to 1 tablespoon cooking liquid (or liquid from can) to reach a dip-able consistency. Add salt to taste.

Yield: approximately 1 cup dip

*Both garlic and beans can be grown in Nebraska and stored for long periods of time.