Archive for the ‘ Condiments ’ Category


Summer time means basil, and basil means pesto.  But this isn’t a recipe for pesto –  I make mine different every time – no, this is a recipe that takes pesto and makes it something more, something special.  How do you make pesto, already chock full of robust herbiness and garlic, better? Two words: goat cheese.   Think of this humble sandwich as a stage. If the grilled chicken, marinated in garlic and Italian herbs, is the lead, the pesto goat cheese spread is the supporting role who steals the show.  The chicken we clap for; the spread gets a standing ovation.

Metaphors aside, this is a solid summer sandwich, just right for a weekend lunch or casual weeknight dinner and fairly easy to make, too. Even the harshest critics, are sure to give it rave reviews.

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Looking for good falafel in San Francisco can leave one feeling like Goldilocks.  In a town with so few options to choose from, compared to a city like New York, finding real, quality falafel around here can be hit or miss.  Oftentimes too dry, frequently too large and almost always too dense, my misadventures in the quest for the perfect fritter have lead me to create a recipe that produces perfectly light, moist and delicious falafel every time.  In Goldilocks’ words, these are just right.

Dehydrated chickpeas are soaked overnight and ground with onions, parsley and garlic then seasoned with aromatic spices before being fried to a rich, golden brown. Top with a drizzle of garlic and lemon spiked tahini sauce and you have a version that I’d bet rivals some of the best you’ve ever bought.

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Another day, another classic Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern dip, this time Tzatziki, or Cacik as it’s known in Turkey. (It’s certainly not Irish, but at least I’ve got some green going on!)  Whatever you want to call it, this dip stands out as one of my all-time favorites.  Cool, thick Greek-style yogurt is combined with crisp, refreshing cucumbers and laced with pungent garlic and mint for a concoction that is as good on the humble pita as it is on spicy grilled meats.

Good tzatziki is all about texture.  Yes, balance of flavor is always important, but when it comes to this specific herb-inflected spread, I like mine thick and creamy. Here, liquid is the enemy so my version calls for not one, but two ‘purges’ of moisture (once for the yogurt and once for the cucumbers) in an effort to control the final consistency of the dish.  Now, you can go out and buy thick, Greek-style yogurt at the supermarket, but if you’ve been swept up in its recent trend then you’ve probably already noticed that their not exactly giving that stuff away.  That’s why I buy plain, whole-milk yogurt and drain away the excess whey overnight in the fridge — less money, more moisture control.

This stuff is so refreshing that I’m sure once you try it you’ll be making it for dolloping and dipping throughout the spring and summer months. Plus, once you get the technique for straining the yogurt down, you  can forgo the savory addition of garlic and cucumbers and try drizzling it with honey, stirring in fruit or topping it with granola for an exceptionally delicious breakfast or snack.

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Sure, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and while I could offer you a few variations on classic Irish dishes like corned beef and colcannon, something has me craving Middle Eastern food instead.  So, this week I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes from Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, all culminating in a dish that will be able to take advantage of each flavorful offering in the group. How about a dip to start?

Like its cousin hummus, baba ganoush is now offered by a myriad of producers and can be found at almost any major grocery store.  While most of it is good, I’ve found that nothing quite compares with a batch of the homemade stuff.  An essential component of any good mezze platter or vegetarian plate at most restaurants, this eggplant dip is as healthy as it is flavorful. For those who’ve never tried it, imagine a smoky spread that is as at once creamy and light, tangy and sweet and as good with warm pita bread at is with crunchy crudite.

At its best, baba is always a contrast of flavors and textures, but the exact ratio of lemon juice to tahini, the consistency from rough chopped to food processor smooth, the addition of a lot or a little garlic, etc. is in the eye mouth of the beholder. And of course, there is no way quite as effective to ensure that a dish is made to your tastes than to make it yourself. So, while I’ve included a handful of measurements in the recipe, keep in mind that they are merely guidelines that can easily be adjusted to suit your own taste, and that technique is what’s most important in creating a outstanding eggplant dip.

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Listen, there’s nothing wrong with sour cream out of a tub, but man can that stuff ever be thick.  That’s why I love crema — the rich, delicately sour, slightly thickened cream used in Mexican cooking.  Just look at how that stuff drizzles!  I like to think of it as a thinner version of crème fraîche. Unlike sour cream, crema Mexicana won’t break or separate when heated, making it ideal for stirring into warm sauces.  Sure there are a few good brands out there, but making it yourself at home couldn’t be any simpler.  All you need is some heavy cream, a cultured dairy product like buttermilk or yogurt and some culinary cajónes.  That’s right, in order to get this stuff to the right consistency you’re gonna have to leave it out on your counter overnight…unrefrigerated.  But don’t worry, considering the resilience of the ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream sold in most supermarkets, it’s gonna take a lot more than a night on your counter to spoil.  I too was a bit worried the first time I made it, but trust me, this recipe works like a charm.  The finished crema is complex, nutty and has a beautiful pourable texture, perfect for spooning on tacos, enchiladas or even a simple baked potato.  Or, do what I do and drizzle it on a plate of loaded, cheesy nachos — it certainly beats a thick glob of cold sour cream.

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