Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Total Smartie

I am in a bookclub.  That means I can read.  And, that means, I can talk.  That also means that I am very smart.  See, the women in my bookclub are very smart.  And smart people like to associate with other smart people.  So, by default, I'm smart too.

Last night we had bookclub meeting at my house.  Since it was at my house, I got to chose the book we were to have read.  The book was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  This book is about the decades of scientific research done on the HeLa line of cells, which were taken unknowingly from a poor tobacco farmer.

I told you we were smart.  There are no cheesy romance novels on our book list.

Since I got to host bookclub last night, I got to prepare snacks and dessert.  Because my greek hummus dip was such a hit on Easter, I made it again.  It went over really well with the smart bookclubbers.

7-Layer Greek Dip
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened (I used low-fat)
  • 1 tsp. dill weed or Greek seasoning (salt free–go for a mix that just has herbs)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 c. hummus
  • 1 c. seeded, diced cucumbers
  • 1 c. seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 c. chopped green onions (about 3 green onions completely chopped)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/8-1/4 c. minced fresh parsley

1.  With an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, seasoning, garlic, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. 
2.  Spread in the bottom of a pie plate or a small, shallow baking dish. 
3.  Then spread a layer of hummus. 
4.  In order, create layers by sprinkling the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, Feta cheese, and parsley. 
5.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with pita chips, fresh vegetables, and/or flatbread.  

I also made a sundried tomato basil and brie spread.  This was very easy to make.  I am not a fan of brie at all, so I did not love this spread.  However, the bowl was empty, so I think the smart bookclubbers must have a much more sophisticated palate than I do because they seemed to enjoy it.
Sun Dried Tomato, Basil, & Brie Spread
  • 5 ounces brie cheese, room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped 
  • 1 sprig (4-5 large leaves) fresh basil 
  • Coarse sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.  Remove as much of the rind from the brie as possible.  (Easier said than done!)
2.  In a small mixing bowl, stir together brie, sun dried tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish. To store, chill in an airtight container.
3.  Serve at room temperature with crackers.

The final dish I made was a citrus salad with mint.  This was so delicious, I had three servings, which everybody knows is very rude to do at your own party.  I couldn't stop myself, this was amazing!
Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta, Onion and Mint
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons red onion, cut into tiny bits
  • 4 pieces of citrus, preferably a mix of grapefruits and oranges (I used minneola orange, clementine orange, and grapefruit.  In a perfect world, I would have found blood oranges and used those too.)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 
  • 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • alt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers

1.  Place your red onion in the bottom of a medium bowl. Nest a strainer over the bowl.

2.  Prepare your citrus fruits by beveling the stem end of one, cutting enough off that you reveal the pith-free flesh of the fruit. Repeat on the other end. Rest your fruit on one of its now-flat surface and begin cutting the peel and pith off in large, vertical pieces. You want the fruit’s exterior to be “white”-free.  (Don't have a clue what that means?  Yeah, me neither!  Basically, use a knife to cut all the peel off of the fruits.)

3.  Turn the fruit back on its side and cut it into 1/4-inch thick wheels, removing any seeds and thick white stem as you do. 

4.  Place the wheels and any collected juices from the cutting board in the strainer over the bowl with onion. Repeat with remaining citrus fruits. (As the extra juices drip over the bowl, it will soften the raw onion bite.)  

5.  Spread the fruit slices out on a platter. Scoop out the onion bits (a slotted spoon or fork does the trick) and sprinkle them over, leaving the juice in the bowl. 

6.  Whisk one tablespoon of juice (this is all I had accumulated) with red wine vinegar, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the citrus, sprinkle with feta and mint, adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

SIDENOTE:  I cut my fruit up ahead of time and stored them fruit slices in a bowl in the fridge.  So, when I made my dressing I had several tbsp of fruit juice.  I put the fruit slices, onion, mint, and cheese on a platter on the table.  Right before we ate, I drizzled the dressing over the salad.

Dessert last night was a huge hit and perhaps the easiest dessert ever.....chocolate mangoes.  I came up with this idea after a long day at gardening class a few weeks ago.  

Chocolate Mangoes
  • dried mangoes (HIGHLY recommend finding real fresh dried mangos)
  • dark chocolate
  • kosher (or sea) salt
1.  Melt dark chocolate in double broiler (or microwave).
2.  Dip mango in melted chocolate.
3.  Lay on sheet of parchment paper.
4.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then sprinkle with salt.

It was a great night!  Looking forward to our next meeting!

ONE QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT:  I have gotten lots of emails that people can't comment on the blog.  I have changed the security settings and everyone should be able to comment now.  Let me know if it doesn't work!