Store-bought hummus makes an appearance at almost every casual get together these days, but you can up the ante by bringing a flavor-packed homemade version to this year’s Memorial Day cookout. It comes together in minutes, and DIYing it allows you to use fresh seasonal ingredients that may not appear in those little round tubs at the grocery store.Lemon Garlic Hummus
makes 3 cups
- 2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (use two or three cloves if you are less of a garlic enthusiast)
- 3 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- a few grinds of pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzle
- Set aside a big pinch of the lemon zest.
- Place all of the ingredients except for the olive oil and the pinch of lemon zest into the bowl of a food processor and process until combined. Through the feed tube with the food processor running, pour in the olive oil and process until hummus is smooth and creamy.
- Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the reserved lemon zest.
The jar of tahini will last for ages in the fridge, so if you keep garlic and a few cans of chickpeas on hand, you’ll find yourself throwing this together all of the time with whatever you have in the house. Jarred roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, ghardiniera peppers, chipotles, artichokes, and olives all make great versions, and the recipe is easily halved.
recipe and photos by the aesthete and the dilettante
Last month I wandered into Williams-Sonoma in need of a new paring knife. The Shun’s unusual blade and gorgeous wood handle caught my eye, but I almost passed it by as the price was almost double that of the other paring knives. I asked the sales associate if Shun was really twice as good and she was emphatic about the quality. “Try it,” she said. “You’ll be back for the chef’s knife in a week.” She was wrong. I told my family I wanted it for Mother’s Day, so technically I waited two weeks. Not only do they feel amazing in your hand, they are as sharp as a surgeon’s blade. (So sharp, in fact, that after my first week with the paring knife I had Hello Kitty Band-Aids wrapped around three of my fingers.) Now that I have the chef’s knife, all I want to do is chop things. I literally cannot wait to make dinner just so I can get my hands on the knife. I’m obsessed.Weck Jars are my other new obsession. I’ve been stashing leftovers and decanting pantry staples into them, loving how they look stacked up and that they are dishwasher safe and chemical free. Yesterday I put the knife and one of my new jars to good use by making a favorite summer marinade. It’s a flexible recipe for just about anything you throw on the grill, and it does double duty as a dressing for simple greens or grilled veggies. Herbs are the only things ready to eat in my newly planted garden (the strawberries are close!), so I snipped basil, parsley and a smidge of thyme to use in the recipe, though most any combination of herbs would do.
Lemon Garlic Herb Marinade
makes 1 1/4 cups
- 2 lemons, zested then juiced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and/or parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl or add all ingredients to a jar and shake to emulsify.
all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
Last weekend during our outing to Little Goat Diner, Hannah ordered the All-American Burger – complete with special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. Everyone at the table tried it and loved it, so I decided to surprise them with a version we could enjoy at home. I started by Googling “Big Mac Special Sauce,” and there it was – the original recipe. But gack! It was pre-bottled, sugary, preservative-laden stuff. Consequently, I set about making a healthier version (and by healthier I do not mean low-fat, simply not so processed) that would still taste like the real deal.
My homemade version of a Big Mac.
My trip to the store was somewhat amusing because, I have to be honest, I was a little embarrassed to put iceberg lettuce in my cart. Seriously, when was the last time you bought iceberg? 1995? Not to mention American cheese! But with potential comments about inauthenticity looming in my mind, I did what any semi-rational/semi-ridiculous woman would do – I put the lettuce and cheese in the cart and buried them under oranges and bananas so no one but the check-out guy would see them. (I even felt compelled to explain to the check-out guy that I was trying to replicate a Big Mac so he wouldn’t be all judgy over my vitamin deficient lettuce. What is wrong with me?!)
Anyway, back to the burgers. I am thrilled to tell you that they received rave reviews and I even had requests for the leftover Special Sauce (recipe below) to be used on turkey sandwiches for lunch the next day. It probably didn’t hurt that I served the burgers with whipped cream-laden strawberry milkshakes and that I didn’t try to sneak veggies onto their plates save for the fries (which are loaded with potassium, are they not?).
Homemade Big Macs with Special Sauce
- 1 pound ground chuck, gently formed into four patties
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cut into shreds
- 1/2 small white or yellow onion, finely minced
- 4 sesame seed buns
- 4 slices American cheese
- jarred pickle slices
- 1/2 cup Veganaise or Miracle Whip (I used Veganaise and it is worth seeking out – in the refrigerated section)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (I used Wickles)
- 2 teaspoons finely minced shallot or use 2 teaspoons of the onion you minced for burger topping
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper
- Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together.
- Season the formed beef patties with salt and pepper and grill or pan fry to desired doneness. Melt cheese on burgers in last minute of cooking.
- Assemble and enjoy!
Recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante. Original Big Mac sauce recipe here.
If you’ve been craving bright, fresh, seasonal ingredients that taste like Spring, I have the perfect salad for you. Sweet strawberries, creamy avocado and crisp shaved fennel are layered on delicate bibb lettuce leaves and dressed with a lime-ginger-mint vinaigrette. Finished with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of sea salt, this salad makes a light, satisfying lunch or delightful first course for a Spring inspired menu.
Strawberry Avocado Salad with Fennel and Mint
- 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzle (replace honey with 2 teaspoons agave if making vegan)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
- 1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves torn into large pieces
- 1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and shaved thin with a knife or on a mandolin
- 2 avocados, halved and sliced thin
- 8 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
- Whisk oil, lime juice, honey, ginger, shallot and mint together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Layer fennel, strawberries and avocado on lettuce leaves on four plates and dress with vinaigrette. Drizzle each salad with honey and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Garnish with fresh mint.
recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
I am really, really crazy about salmon. I eat embarrassing amounts of it sashimi style, make it once a week for my family, and until recently I would order it whenever we went to Francesca’s, craving the fabulous crispy sear that eluded me at home. But guess what? I have discovered the salmon searing trick and now I’m sharing it with you. When you try it (and you really should) you’ll fall in love and wonder how you ever did it any other way.I’ve prepared salmon this way several times now, and paired it with everything from spiced lentils to noodles in a coconut curry broth. You just can’t go wrong. This time I came up with a creamy, lemony leek and mushroom sauce and spooned it over soft polenta, but mashed potatoes or pasta would be pretty fantastic, too.
Seared Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Mushrooms
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, chopped, and broth reserved
- 3 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise then cut into 1/4 inch segments and sloshed around in cold water to remove grit
- 1 pound fresh baby portabello mushrooms, sliced (though any variety of fresh mushroom would work)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauv Blanc)
- 1/2 cup reserved mushroom broth
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 6 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
-For the Creamy Leeks and Mushrooms:
- Rehydrate dried shiitakes: place dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour one cup boiling water over the mushrooms. Let steep for half an hour. Remove from the bowl and squeeze excess moisture from the mushrooms back into the bowl. Set mushrooms on cutting board and strain mushroom liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with paper towel to remove grit. Reserve liquid and chop rehydrated mushrooms.
- Heat butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add washed and chopped leeks to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until leeks have softened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in fresh mushrooms, chopped shiitakes, tarragon, wine, 1/2 cup reserved mushroom broth, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is gone, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low, stir in half-and-half and lemon zest, and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup lemon juice and remove from heat.
-For the Seared Salmon (learned from this recipe):
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Pat dry salmon fillets. Rub fillets with olive oil and season tops generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a dry, heavy oven-proof skillet (I used cast iron) over high heat for four minutes. Add salmon fillets flesh side down and cook for two minutes without moving fish.
- Flip salmon fillets over, place pan in oven and cook for 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook!
To finish the dish, place salmon on a generous helping of polenta, mashed potatoes or pasta and top with creamy leeks and mushrooms.
recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
Nothing makes me happier than having time during the weekend to experiment in the kitchen. These lemon buttermilk pancakes take longer to put together than your basic buttermilk pancakes, but they are definitely worth the effort. They are light-as-air, cakelike confections that soak up the warm homemade compote or maple syrup for those who don’t like blueberry. (Not to throw unnamed family members under the bus, but who doesn’t love blueberries? How can you NOT love warm, syrupy blueberries?! Somebody please explain this to me.)
Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Lemon Compote
makes 16 small pancakes, serving four
- 2/3 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup almond meal (you can skip the almond meal if you do not have it and substitute with 1/3 cup all purpose flour or gf all purpose flour, bringing your flour total to 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or melted coconut oil
- Whisk all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil together.
- Pour wet ingredients in to dry and stir until combined.
- Beat egg whites in a stand mixer or with hand beaters until soft peaks form.
- Fold egg whites into pancake mixture until incorporated.
- Heat your griddle or nonstick pan on medium heat and add enough coconut oil or canola oil to thinly coat.
- Pour 1/4 cups of batter onto your hot pan and cook until edges are set and tops have bubbles. Flip and cook until done.
- Keep finished pancakes warm in a low oven and make compote (recipe below).
Blueberry Lemon Compote
- 1 six ounce container fresh blueberries or 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- zest of a lemon
- Cook all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until blueberries have cooked down and sauce has thickened (about 10-12 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Serve warm over pancakes or ice cream.
pancake recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, compote recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
I spent a fair amount of time thinking about food during my juice cleanse, including what I wanted to make when it was finally over. A Thai inspired meal was at the top of my list as crunchy, bright, full-flavored ingredients were what I craved most while abstaining from “real” food. (To be honest I was also craving a burger like mad, but didn’t want to ruin my good behavior in one fell swoop.)
Summer rolls are one of those snacks I always pick up at the market (and eat in the car on the way home) but never take the time to make from scratch. They are wonderfully versatile – just fill with what you love or have on hand. I used shrimp, red bell pepper, scallions, cucumber, carrots, and thinly sliced jalapenos. Avocado, bibb lettuce and lightly blanched asparagus would be great additions as well. Just don’t leave out the mint and cilantro – they are the ingredients that will elevate your rolls above the ones from your corner grocer.
Thai Summer Rolls with Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks. If you’ve never cut veggies into matchsticks, watch this quick tutorial on how to julienne here (a julienne cut is a smidge thinner than a matchstick cut but it really doesn’t matter).
- 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into 4 inch matchsticks
- 4 scallions (white and light green parts only), quartered lengthwise
- 2 jalapenos, seeds and white membranes removed, cut into very thin slices
- 1 bunch mint, leaves removed from stems
- half bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems
- 16 rice-paper wrappers (available in the Asian food section of most stores)
- Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
- Add shrimp to a pot of boiling water and cook until opaque, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Drain shrimp in colander and run under cold water to stop cooking and to cool completely. Dry with a paper towel, then carefully slice each in half lengthwise with a paring knife (you can do this on the cutting board if you prefer, but I find they wiggle around too much).
- Fill a large bowl with hot tap water and spread a clean damp dish towel out next to the bowl.
- Soak one rice-paper wrapper in the hot water until soft and pliable (about 15-20 seconds).
- Lay wrapper flat on the damp kitchen towel and place a few mint and cilantro leaves in a row across the middle of the wrapper, leaving an inch or so on each side.
- Lay three shrimp halves in a row on top of the cilantro and mint leaves.
- Lay three thin slices jalapenos in a row over shrimp, and add 1/16th of the the other vegetable matchsticks on top of jalapenos.
- Fold top half of wrapper over filling, then fold in the two sides. Fold bottom part of wrapper up snugly but gently to close, then pat to seal. Place pretty side up on a damp paper towel-lined platter and cover with another damp paper towel.
- Repeat steps 4-8 until all sixteen are complete, leaving room between each on platter so they do not stick.
- Make dipping sauce.
Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons chile garlic paste
- 4-6 tablespoons water
- Whisk together all ingredients except water in a bowl. Whisk in 4 tablespoons water one at a time and blend until smooth, adding more water until desired thinness/consistency is reached.
I was also really craving something creamy and sweet, so I made toasted coconut cashew sundaes with caramelized pineapple. They were INSANELY good, and not just because I was dairy and sugar deprived. See recipe below.
Cashew Coconut Sundaes with Caramelized Pineapple
- 1 ripe golden pineapple, peeled and cored (if the bottom smells like fragrant pineapple and you can easily pluck a leaf from the top, it is ripe)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup cashews, chopped
- 1 cup coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
- vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread chopped cashews and coconut in a sheet pan and bake for 6 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring a few times while baking, being careful not to burn.
- Remove cashews and coconut from oven and carefully move oven rack to top position.
- Turn oven to broil.
- Cut pineapple into 8 lengthwise spears, pat dry and place on a foil lined baking sheet.
- Pack each spear with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
- Broil for 2-4 minutes, turning pineapple over and rotating tray at least once. Remove when most of the sugar has melted but before it burns. This happens quickly!
- Place 1 warm pineapple spear in each bowl (cut in half if necessary), reserving extra pineapple for another use. Scoop ice cream onto pineapple and sprinkle each with warm coconut cashew mixture, reserving extra for your morning yogurt or oatmeal.
P.S. I’m thinking a splash of rum on each sundae would be pretty fantastic. I wish it would have occurred to me then!
recipes and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
This weekend, we enjoyed a casual dinner at home with two of our dearest friends. Feeling in need of a cozy late winter meal, I made succulent pan seared lamb chops with dried cherries and port (recipe here), oven roasted Brussels sprouts over toasted pecan and pearl onion studded wild rice, and a lemon tart with fresh whipped cream. While I do love to go out, nothing beats spending a leisurely evening by the fire with good friends and a great bottle of red.
The lamb could not have been simpler to prepare, and the dried cherry port wine sauce was divine. If lamb is not your favorite, the sauce would be wonderful with pan seared duck breasts or pork tenderloin.
I’ll post the lemon tart recipe later this week. It was my first entirely successful gluten-free crust (meaning it rolled out beautifully, held together like a dream, and had the taste and texture of a traditional crust) so I must share it with you.
I know what you’re thinking. Are the style posts ever coming back? Or is it going to be cookies, crepes and carrot cakes from here on out? They will be back in rotation this week – scout’s honor. But I want to talk about Sunday morning first.
My daughter and I watched Julie and Julia (loved!) which inspired us to make crepes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Six simple ingredients were whipped together in a blender, chilled, then swirled into a hot pan, each cooking in mere seconds. We even decided to try our hand at tossing the crepes in the air to flip them over. I was expecting disaster but it worked! We giggled in sheer delight over them actually landing in the pan. I was so proud of her. And it felt really good to laugh.
adapted slightly from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
makes about 25-30 crepes, 6-7 inches in diameter
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 cup cold milk
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- canola oil
- Pour water, milk, eggs salt, flour, and melted butter into a blender in that exact order. Blend at top speed for 1 minute. Scrape down inside of blender with a spatula and blend a few seconds more.
- Pour batter into a bowl, cover, and chill. The book says to chill for 2 hours. We were impatient and made them after only 45 minutes and they were just fine.
- Heat skillet or crepe pan with a 6 1/2 – 7 inch diameter bottom over medium to medium high heat and brush with canola oil.
- Fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup two thirds of the way, remove pan from heat and hold handle in one hand while pouring batter into the middle of the pan with the other hand, then swirl it around immediately to coat the pan in a thin layer of the batter. To quote Julia, “This whole operation takes but two to three seconds.”
- Place pan back on the heat. When batter sets and underneath is light brown (peek by lifting with a spatula), flip crepe over by tossing or by pulling edge closest to you up and over with your fingers (carefully!). The book says it takes 60-80 seconds for one to reach light brown, but it took ours only 45 seconds. Just keep your eye on it – you’ll know.
- Cook on other side for only a few seconds. This second side will not be pretty and will have brown spots, but you’ll make this the side no one sees, so don’t worry.
- Stack cooked crepes in a lidded dish, cover, and keep warm in a low oven.
- Fill with cinnamon apples (recipe to follow), Nutella, or ham and cheese. Or anything else that strikes your fancy!
serves four (filling 8 crepes)
- five apples of any variety, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
- the juice of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- After slicing apples, place in a large bowl and pour lemon juice over apples. Stir.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced apples and stir to coat.
- Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, then pour over apples and stir.
- Let apples cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes until apples are softened and a thick syrupy sauce has formed.
Homemade Whipped Cream
- 1 cup cold whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk cold cream with a mixer just until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
For Nutella crepes, warm a few tablespoons of Nutella in a small bowl in the microwave for 25-30 seconds to soften, then spread on crepes and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
For a ham and cheese crepe, place a cooked crepe back in the pan over medium-low heat, layer with bits of ham and shredded cheese, then cover with a lid and heat until cheese has melted.
Couldn’t resist including this picture of the hound, giving me the stink eye for not sharing my ham and cheese crepe.
all images via the aesthete and the dilettante
This is a very special day for me. Not only is this my 100th post (who knew I’d have one hundred things to talk about?) but today also marks the one-year anniversary of the aesthete and the dilettante. To celebrate the occasion, I have created a sinful recipe using some of my favorite ingredients. Sweet, caramelized cauliflower, applewood smoked bacon, and lots of garlic come together with creamy fontina and nutty, earthy gruyere in a dish totally worth the splurge. And one more very important thing. Thank you for reading. It brings me great pleasure to share my discoveries with you.
Fusilli with Bacon, Gruyere, and Roasted Cauliflower
- 1 and 1/2 heads cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch florets
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced into thin lengthwise pieces
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 ounces (3-4 slices) bacon, chopped into pieces or thin strips (Nueske’s applewood smoked is THE best if you can find it)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 12 ounces fusilli pasta
- 8 ounces (1/2 lb) fontina cheese, grated
- 8 ounces (1/2 lb) aged gruyere cheese, grated
- 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Place the cauliflower florets and sliced yellow onion on a baking sheet, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground pepper. Stir to coat and place in preheated oven. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, for 35 minutes or until caramelized and tender. Remove from oven.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente (stopping a minute or two before package directions). Reserve 1 cup of hot pasta water before draining.
- While cauliflower is roasting in the oven, saute the bacon pieces in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for 6 or 7 minutes or until crisp.
- Add the 4 cloves minced garlic to bacon and saute 1 more minute.
- Turn heat to medium-low and whisk the flour into the bacon and garlic and stir for two minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the cream and milk, stirring occasionally until sauce is thick, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the shredded fontina and gruyere, stirring until melted.
- Slowly whisk in the reserved pasta water until sauce is perfectly creamy (I used 1/2 cup, but you may need more).
- Season to taste with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
- Stir in roasted cauliflower and onions and the hot, drained pasta.
- Serve in warm bowls with a good sprinkle of parsley and any crispy onion pieces left on the baking sheet.
recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante