Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve Appetizers, Part I

Hummus, tzatziki and pita
That's right, I'm dividing this post into to parts. Why? Because I made 5 new recipes for New Year's Eve and thought it would be overkill to share them all in one post. Two just sounds a little more digestible.

In this first post, I will share the Greek-style recipes I made. First I need to share with you all a little bit about my time studying abroad in Poitiers, France.

Once upon I time, I spent 9 months studying French in Poitiers, France. I was 21/22 years old at the time. I went over with a group of about 20 students from various Oregon universities and we all lived in different situations- some of us with families, some in apartments, and some in a combination of the two (I was one of the latter). We Oregonians were a fairly loyal bunch, sharing classes, activities, and meals together. One such meal was lunch. When not eating in the cafeteria, some of us frequented a tiny little Greek restaurant called Le Petit Grec. It was run by a French woman and her Cretan husband, and their specialty was pitas. There was pita poulet (pita with chicken), pita souvlaki (lamb pita), and pita kefte (meatball pita), among others. The pitas were prepared with one flat pita (the soft kind, not the pocket kind- which I detest), topped with the best tzatziki in the world, covered in lettuce and some onions, and then the meat on top. It was delicious, and for five Euro, you could get a pita with frites (fries). We Oregonians became regulars at this little hole-in-the-wall and the owners seemed to enjoy having us there. Sadly, it no longer exists, but I still remember that tzatziki- it was the stuff of dreams...

But now that dream can be made real once again! I have finally found a recipe for tzatziki that rivals that of Le Petit Grec. It's in my new cookbook, Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. This cookbook was a Christmas present from my grandma, and I have to tell you it's one of the best gifts I've ever received, reasons for which I will explain as this blog develops and I make more of the recipes within. The tzatziki recipe in this cookbook calls for Greek yogurt and it has you salt and drain the cucumber before combining everything, two requirements that I believe make this tzatziki so thick and creamy. As for the taste, I think the dill gives it a flavor reminiscent of Le Petit Grec. If you're a tzatziki fan, look no further than this recipe, posted below.

The other recipe I will share with you in this post is the hummus recipe. My hummus turned out thick, but I could have added more liquid if I'd liked. The garlic flavor actually took some time to develop, even though I made it the night before the party. The party part I will talk about in post number two. All in all, I was pretty happy with both of these recipes.

from Around My French Table

1 can (16 oz) chickpeas, drained (reserve the liquid), rinsed, and patted dry
2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, chopped
1/3 cup well-stirred tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

     Put the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice in a food processor and whir until smooth. With the machine running, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid a little at a time until the hummus is a nice, thick, scoopable texture- you'll probably need about 4 tbsp of the liquid. Add the cumin, if you'd like, tasting to get the amount you want, then season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if you think it needs it.
     Scoop the hummus into a bowl or refrigerator container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, and chill until serving time.
     When you're ready to serve, taste again for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Note: I added maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil to my hummus because I like olive oil.

Mmm, tzatziki!
from Around My French Table

2 cups Greek yogurt (nonfat is okay)
1 cup finely cubed seedless cucumber
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and minced
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
2 tbsp minced fresh mint
White pepper to taste

     Toss the cucumber into a bowl, sprinkle with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stir, and let sit for 30 minutes.
     Drain off the liquid in the bowl, put the cucumber in a clean dish towel, and dry it by twisting the cloth and squeezing. Return the cucumber to the bowl and stir in all the remaining ingredients, including the yogurt. Taste for salt and white pepper, and, if you've got the time, chill for a few hours before serving.

Note: I have no idea what "split, germ removed" means in reference to the garlic. If you do, please fill me in.


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