New Appetizers!

From Daniel’s Files

1 cup  mayonnaise
1 cup  Parmigiano-Reggiano (cheese), grated
1/2 cup  onion, finely chopped
13 3/4 ounces canned artichoke hearts, drained
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste – as much as 1/2 teaspoon)
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 teaspoon  olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Stir mayonnaise, cheese, onion in medium bowl.  Pulse artichoke hearts in food processor until finely chopped, then add to cheese mixture with juice and pepper.   Combine well.  Scrape into a small baking dish.  Combine and sprinkle the crumbs and olive oil over the dip.  Bake until the top is browned – about 20 minutes

This one is a little spicy and uses Ajvar, the wonderful eastern European pepper/eggplant spread that I put on nearly everything.  It was only a matter of time before I combined it with a little cheese as a dip for warm pita bread or pita chips.   We have several brands and they’re all good.  My favorite happens to be Zergut Hot Ajvar.  Using the 5-star Thai restaurant scale, the heat in this variety is in the neighborhood of 2 stars.  The cheese cools it down a lot.

Combine one 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 6 ounces (by weight) of Ajvar in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse until thoroughly combined and the cheese is a bit fluffy.  You can mitigate the radiant pinkness of this by garnishing with chopped fresh herbs, olives or lemon.   I have made this with feta cheese (Bulgarian works best) and have had very good results.   Leave off the added salt, obviously, if you use feta.

This is not so much a recipe as it is a preparation.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Coarsely shred the cheese. I use Parmigiano-Regianno, but any good grating cheese (Asiago, Pecorino, Kefalotyri or even a fairly old gruyere) would work. The amount of cheese you use would, of course, vary depending upon how many of these things you want to end up with. 4 ounces makes roughly a dozen, give or take a few.

Working in relatively small batches, line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick liner (silicone). Combine the grated cheese and a bit of freshly ground pepper (I use about 1/4 teaspoon for every 4 ounces of cheese).

Measuring about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture at a time, arrange the mixture about 4 inches apart on the parchment or liner. Spread and flatten each mound evenly to make a 3 or 3 1/2 inch round. Thinner is better. Thick Frico are chewy rather than crisp.

Bake sheets individually in the middle of the preheated oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Leaving the frico on the baking sheet, cool them for about 2 minutes before transfering each crisp with metal spatula to rack to cool completely. These guys are fragile so be careful.

These are terrific crumbled on vegetables or in salads. They’re a great garnish. Also, by pressing them while still warm into mini-muffin cups you can make little Frico cups that can be filled with all kinds of savory things for delicate, wonderfully-self-contained appetizers.

You can play with these things a lot, actually. You can add herbs and spices, for instance. Try rosemary or thyme. I like adding a little smoked paprika to the mixture. I’ve seen a very interesting recipe that uses cumin seeds. I haven’t tried it yet but it sounds lovely.

14 ounce package of Black Kabuli Chick Peas, from Timeless Natural Foods
1/2 to 1 ounce of raw, peeled garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
2 – 3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
3/4 cup Moomtax Koura Extra Virgin Olive Oil
juice of two lemons, freshly squeezed
1 cup Al-Wadi tahina

Wash the chick peas thoroughly. Place them in a pan with at least 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the flame. Simmer for at least 2 hours. We found that three and a half hours was about right for hummous. Drain the chick peas, reserving about a cup of the bean liquor (the water the beans were cooked in – just in case).

Cool the chick peas completely.

In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade, pulse the chick peas, the garlic, the lemon zest, the salt and the Aleppo pepper until they resemble the texture of coarse corn meal. With the food processor running, add the olive oil and the lemon juice. Then, with the food processor still running, add the tahina. At this point, if the hummous is too thick, you may add, tablespoon at a time, the bean liquor until the hummous acheives the desired consistency.

Serve at room temperature, garnished with olive oil and sliced cucumber, with warm pita bread, feta cheese and olives.

The yield is approximately 5 cups, depending upon how much liquid you add to acheive the consistency you desire.

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