Friday, August 21, 2009

Summertime Picnic Feast

I love snacks. I love them more than elaborate meals with huge portions. The Spanish have it spot on with tapas.

Over the weekend, we had a hankering for a snack smorgasbord. It was the perfect meal for a hot summer afternoon. I also think these dishes would be great for a summer eve cocktail party with sangria. You can make all of the dishes ahead of time, and are all delicious served at room temperature. Don't forget to scatter the platter with lots of fresh, raw vegetables and crusty bread sticks or crackers for dipping.

(Eggplant & Tahini Dip):
Courtesy of Karen Srour of Food Network

1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise and put upside down on a greased foil lined pan. Put under a broiler until the outside skin is charred black and the pulp inside is soft (15 to 30 minutes). Scrape out eggplant and put in bowl to cool, preferably in refrigerator for several hours. Pour off extra liquid before using.

In a food processor, mince garlic, and scrape down sides. Add eggplant, salt, and 1/4 cup tahini. Pulse the food processor to mix. Slowly add lemon juice. Taste. Adjust salt and lemon or tahini.

Serve on a shallow platter and garnish with chopped parsley, miniature eggplant, tomato or radish roses. Serve with warm pita bread or crackers.

2 or 3 celery stalks, halved
1 can of good Italian tuna, packed in olive oil
½ a lemon, juiced (and zested, optional)
Handful of fresh basil or mint leaves, coarsely chopped (or combo of both)
¼ cup fresh fennel, chopped
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

To a mixing bowl, add drained tuna, basil (or mint), fennel, olive oil, lemon juice (and optional zest). Stir, breaking up the tuna. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill/marinate in the fridge for an hour.

When ready to serve, pack tuna into celery stalks and place on a pretty platter.

1 medium-sized eggplant
Salt & pepper
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil for cooking, plus olive oil for brushing eggplants
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ a roasted red pepper (pimiento), chopped
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cumin
¼ teaspoon dried cayenne pepper or hot sauce
½ lime, squeezed
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice a medium-sized eggplant into thick rounds. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place rounds on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or so, until eggplant is lightly browned. Flip the rounds and bake another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the 1/8-1/4 cup oilive oil. When pan is hot, sautee the onion till transluscent, about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and spices and sauté for a couple minutes. Add red pepper, beans and lime juice. Cook until beans are heated through. Stir in cilantro.

Scoop the bean mix onto the eggplant rounds with an ice cream scooper (about ¼ cup). Return the baking sheet to the oven for about 10 minutes, so the beans become a little browned on top.


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