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April, 2009

Time For A Dip?

By Mark Mulcahy

Spring is here, so lets put on our shorts and let the entertaining begin. Obviously, April offers many opportunities for Melissa’s produce to play a role in your social calendar.

Organic Fennel, portabellas, and potatoes on the grill, oranges and mangoes for breakfast, or a fruit salad, strawberries for snacking, and cut carrots, cucumbers and peppers for dipping. Well, you get the point. But your veggies can play a bigger role than just holding the dip — they can be the dip itself. Here are some great-tasting and easy-to-make vegetable dips to try at any of your social or holiday events. Let’s start with basil. After all, it is often sprinkled over vegetables to bring out their flavors in cooking; just think what it will do as a dip. This high-protein spread is simple to make and great to have on hand for all kinds of uses. It’s a fantastic addition to a grilled veggie platter; a wonderful sandwich spread or even rolled up in steamed Melissa’s organic chard leaves as an appetizer.

Organic Garlic
BASIL HUMMOUS

1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained
2 crushed garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
½ cup fresh basil leaves

Purée all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until creamy. Add additional oil if necessary for desired consistency. Next up is the often under-appreciated beet, which is too bad, because beets are great-tasting, a rich source of folate, and the natural red pigments indicate that they are a good source of antioxidants. A very light and refreshing dip to serve instead of bean-based hummous or other dips. It tastes a bit sweet and creamy and it only takes a few minutes to make.

Red Beets
BEET HUMMOUS

You’ll need:
1 organic beet root, cooked
2/3 cup unsweetened yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve chilled with crackers. If you buy a bunch of beets, then either make a double or triple version of this recipe or try some raw, peeled beets tossed into a salad or perhaps lightly cooked with a bit of onion, olive oil and your favorite herbs. You’ll be surprised just how sweet they are. Don’t throw the leaves and stems away as they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and would be the perfect start to a vegetable stock or broth. If the nights are still a little cool where you live, consider turning on the oven and making this hummous recipe.

ROASTED VEGETABLE HUMMOUS

If you love hummus (and I do), this is one you’ll make over and over. Its roasted vegetable flavor is rich and pleasing.

Red Bell Pepper

You’ll need:
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked (drained if you are using canned)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sesame tahini
3 teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons kalamata olives, pitted
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the eggplant, bell pepper, onion and tomatoes in a bowl with the tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread them in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are very lightly browned and soft. Cool slightly and measure out 2 cups for this dish. Save any remaining roasted vegetables for another recipe, such as on a pizza for your lunch. In a food processor, place 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, garlic, sesame tahini and 4 tablespoons olive oil. Process until the beans and garlic are almost completely ground. Add 2 heaping cups of the roasted vegetables to the processor along with the cumin, olives, salt and cayenne pepper. You can add more or less cayenne to suit your family’s taste buds; I usually add at least another 1/4 teaspoon to ours. Process until almost smooth, leaving some texture and small bits of the roasted vegetables and olives showing through. Add more olive oil or some vegetable broth if you want to thin it out a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature. Serve with toasted pita bread or on your favorite veggie burger with lettuce and tomato. It is sure to become a new favorite topping! I guess the question now is not hummous to make, but hummous to eat!

Mark’s tip of the month
During the spring, you probably love to buy lots of Melissa’s fresh organic produce, but what do you do with the chard stems and other trimmings you have from normal preparation? If you compost them, then good for you, but if they just go in the trash, you may want to consider making stock or broth from your trimmings. You can freeze it for future recipes and save money too! Is there a difference between the two? Yes, there is a difference. STOCK is made from roasting vegetables and therefore, has a deeper flavor. It is great for gravies and sauces in which you want a rich flavor. It generally has very little salt or spice added. BROTH is made by simmering vegetables in water that has been seasoned (including salt). You could drink broth as a clear soup but wouldn’t want to do that with stock. Broth is best for soups and cooking grains.

Happy Earth Day, Mark

Sources Roasted Vegetable Hummus, www.nourishingnutrition.com;
Basil Hummus, Stock and Vegetable broth information, www.nourishingnutrition.com;
Beet hummus, www.nourishingnutrition.com;