Posts Tagged ‘salad dressings’

Vintage Bollywood poster. Bollywood movies are popular in the Middle East.

I adore dinner parties. Love giving them, love attending them, and love, of course, all of that wonderful eating and socializing. Dinner parties are such a civilized way to re-connect in our GO GO GO world. But let’s face it–dinner parties can be WORK.

My friend Khat and I at her brother's traditional Afghan wedding in April. She will be at my Bollywood dinner party. Her dress is a traditional Afghan getup, while mine's a more Bollywood style outfit.

I’m having one in a few days, and this time, I’ve resolved to let it come together in the most chill way possible. A little pre-planning will go a long way. I hope ;- )

It will be a Bollywood Night, complete with a campy Bollywood movie and optional glittery costumes (if anyone is so inclined to go there, wardrobe-wise. I know I am, having a couple of shimmery Bollywood style outfits I’m eager to debut).

In the spirit of keeping things chill, I have to say, “Sorry, guests, but no homemade cheese and bread from this kitchen, at least not this time.”  To combat the summer heat, our spread will be seasonal, with invigorating and cooling recipes and  influences from both Persian and South Asian cuisines.

Why South Asian specifically, besides the obvious Bollywood theme? Well, first of all, I just love the cuisines of India, Pakistan, and the many other countries in that whole amazing part of the world. Middle Eastern cuisine and South Asian cuisine have many elements in common, and have exerted their respective influences on one another for centuries. Plus, these cuisines have many wonderful recipes that are cooling. Perfect for steamy summer heat!

Plus, we happen to have a very fun Desilicous dance party to attend after our Civilized Dinner Par-tay. A Gay-Themed Bollywood party, if you will, all in honor of Gay Pride Week. Yes, love my gays. They kinda own my heart 🙂

Here’s what I have planned for our menu:

My Watermelon and Mint Cooler. Like a slushy, but much better for you, and better tasting.

A pre-dinner Cocktail (and Mocktail) Hour with my Watermelon Mint Cooler as the star.

A to-be-determined app, for which one of my friends has signed up to provide. (Key component of dinner parties: let others share in the fun, by either contributing an item of food or drink, or, if they’re so inclined, helping with light food prep or selecting music or lighting candles, etc. Keeps things interactive and who knows, it’s interesting to see what novel ideas our guests have about music or lighting or how to slice a scallion).

Salad of roasted golden beets on a bed of arugula with cucumbers and whatever goodies look appealing that day. Perhaps a yogurt or tahini based dressing. Something very simple, elegant,  and cool.

A summery Chilled Avocado Soup I haven’t tried this recipe out, but I simply can’t wait, as I’m in love with avocados and no longer afraid of the good fat they so generously provide!

Summer squash kuku sabzi, an Iranian omelette. Love this Persian souflee sans drama!

My Summertime Squash Kuku (Perfect for dinner parties, because it tastes great at any temperatures. Any late arrivals will feel well-fed, not deprived.)

Dessert will be So Delicious coconut-milk based ice creams. Because I’m seriously addicted to this stuff, it has that cooling, South Asian vibe thanks to the hint of coconut, and the company was nice enough to send me coupons to sample some of their product line. Thanks, So Delicious. You’ve just made my dinner party a heck of a lot easier, creamier,  and tastier.

I’ll be sure to snap some pictures of our festivities, and report back. Don’t wait up, my loves!


Read Full Post »

Just a little tahini-red pepper-cumin dressing that I whipped up in a blender, but it's an oh-so-tasty way to dress a salad.

We’ve talked before about how I eat a lot of salads. Love them! So dressing them properly and deliciously is of the utmost importance. Dressing a salad isn’t so different from dressing one’s self, I suppose. Now I’m much more foodie that fashionista any day, but there are indeed parallels when it comes to this dressing business.

Dressing a salad with a tasty, inviting option reminds me of donning a gorgeous outfit paired with the perfect accessories. Sometimes the accessories even steal the show and garner the most compliments!

As for accessorizing my salads, I avoid the bottled stuff unless I’m in a situation where there’s no practical way to make my own dressing. Even the best bottled dressings don’t hold a candle to a good, homemade dressing, IMHO. Fighting words? Maybe!

Check out the accessories I chose to go with this outfit--gold heels and some fun bangles. Nope, wasn't going for the minimalist look that night at my friend's traditional Afghan wedding!

Yeah, dressings usually have fat, but can be good fat, especially in moderation and if the dressing motivates you to eat more salad and veggies. Here’s my latest salad dressing creation, with it’s brick-red color and the bold flavors of mellow tahini, sweet red pepper, and earthy cumin give it that Middle Eastern vibe I love so much. It has a hint of spice and a pleasant smokiness in the background.

Oh, and I even snuck in some super healthy flax seeds, which are great for, among other things, the skin and digestive system. Cuz I’m stealthy healthy like that ;-)!

You can bet we’ll be whipping up a batch of this brick red beauty this weekend at the Yoga retreat I’m hosting.

For now, mas-salama and shanti, ya’ll!

Tangy Tahini Red Pepper and Cumin Salad Dressing

In a blender, combine:

4 Tablespoons tahini paste

2 Tablespoons flax seeds

2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but worthwhile, as it gives a subtle cheesy flavor

2 large garlic cloves

3 scallions, chopped, or 2 Tablespoons of onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon of paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper paste, or 1/4 of a fresh or roasted red bell pepper

1 teaspoon of cumin (more if you want!)

Squeeze of lemon (optional)

Water for blending

Salt and pepper to taste (optional–I found I didn’t need any!)

1. Put all ingredients except water into the blender. Add enough water so that everything can move around when the blender’s on. Add more water as needed to create the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Read Full Post »

Marinated olives! Easy, quick, and tasty. Photo by Stacey Young.

Once, many moons ago, I didn’t like olives. Yes, I know, hard to believe, right, especially seeing as I pretty much live for them now! I think my dislike stemmed in part from the fact that up until a few years ago, most olives available in the United States were mainly canned or jarred and not so high quality. Too salty, to briney, sometimes too mushy. Plus, it didn’t help that the only olives I’d ever really seen were in martini glasses (chic, but not an everyday drink–at least not for me  😉 ) or embedded in bologna (ick).

A beautiful olive tree. To me, olive trees look like a cross between a shrub and a tree. Either way, they're gorgeous. Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com.

At a long-ago dinner party, though, all of that changed. My friend Amy brought some marinated olives to the gathering, and I decided to take a chance and try them. Boy am I glad I did. They were so fresh, and the herbs (rosemary and parsley, I think) and that extra dousing of olive oil really made their flavors sing.

Look at their silvery leaves! I think those leaves are so beautiful, not to mention the olives themselves.

During my trips to Syria and Spain, I fell a bit deeper in love with the humble yet mighty olive. Their trees are almost more like a cross between a shrub and a tree. They look so non-descript at first, with their cute little silvery leaves. Yet they’re so powerful. One might even say mythical. The amazing olive (and its branch) has played a role in history since ancient times. Even the Koran namechecks the olive, mentioning it six times.

Today’s recipe couldn’t be simpler.  Pick the most gorgeous olives you can find. Drizzle them with the highest quality olive oil you have on hand. Bits of garlic and herbs add color and punch. These marinated olives make a great dinner party appetizer! Remember to put them in the fridge if you don’t gobble them in one sitting.

Levant Style Marinated Olives

1 cup of olives of choice

Olive oil for drizzling

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Herbs of choice (I like parsley best)


1. Toss olives gently in a few glugs of the olive oil. Add in herbs and garlic, and toss again.

Read Full Post »

Double Cabbage Salad travels well and is so satisfyingly crunchy! This pic shows the salad naked, but it travels well when dressed. Love that.

I love salads. Yes, I’m quite aware that some people might not believe me when I say this. That’s understandable. In too many instances, salads are a lame side dish or something to be “gotten through” en route to the main meal.

Let’s take a moment, though, to open our minds to the possibilities. Salads can be so creative, so colorful, and satisfying enough to serve as a meal. Plus, they’re so energizing–full of vegetables and whatever other goodies your imagination can invite to the party. I eat a large salad for lunch several times a week. I do this for many reasons–it’s healthy, filling, and, assuming it’s the right kind of salad, the meal can be made ahead and travel well.

Yes, salads can travel well. Today’s salad, for instance, travels like a real champ. With the right kind of container, you can take the Double Cabbage Salad on the road already dressed. In fact, the cabbages are so sturdy that they hold up well to dressing, and even taste better after having soaked in the dressing for awhile. It’s like a bit of marination on-the-go.

Get creative with the ingredients and toppings for this salad. I love to chop up an avocado right before serving and top the salad with it.

My Yoga amiga Renee inspired this dish. She brought her own cabbage salad to a raw food dinner party some mutual friends threw recently. We all raved at the crunch and amazing taste. Once home, I created my own spin on this salad.

Today’s recipe is deliberately imprecise. Feel free to get creative with the ingredients. I sure do! Every time I make this salad, it’s a bit different. Today, for instance, I was out of celery, so I left it out. But I did have red bell pepper on hand, so I tossed in a few pieces for a sweet flavor and gorgeous color. Ok, here we go with a basic template for a Double Cabbage Salad. Feel free, by the way, to post your ideas on what  you’d add in the comments section.

Double Cabbage Salad With Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

For the Salad:

Equal parts chopped savoy and purple cabbage

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup walnuts (toasting optional)

Few tablespoons chopped herbs of choice (the salad pictured uses cilantro, parsley)

Optional topping ideas: Avocado chunks (right before serving!), tempeh, fava beans or chickpeas.

Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Dress with dressing of choice. Cover tightly to store.

For the Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

1/4 cup tahini sauce (if you don’t have, try a nut butter like almond butter)

Juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

Filtered water to thin dressing if needed.

Directions: Blend all ingredients together in a blender, adding filtered water as needed to thin dressing to desired consistency.  Store dressing or use immediately on top of salad of choice.

Read Full Post »

No need to chop anything for today's recipe. Just rip the parsley and cilantro leaves right off of their roots, wash, and toss into the blender with all of the other ingredients.

Think whipping up a fantastic salad dressing with just a few ingredients can’t happen unless you work in a chemistry lab of a Major Food Company? Think again. After reading today’s post, you may never see making your own dressing in quite the same light. Today I’m showing you how to put together a healthy, clean, and very herbal salad dressing. In fact, once you get the hang of making your own dressings, you’ll start to see the store-bought stuff as sooooo not worthy.

I have a love-hate relationship with one of today’s key ingredients–fresh herbs. Love the taste, love the flexibility, and of course, LOVE their invigorating color. But my inability to keep them alive in planters has me walking around with some sort of a complex, convinced I have a black thumb. What kind of woman can’t grow her own herbs? (Feel free to insert your obvious growing-your-own-herbs joke here).

This inability to grow my own food may or may not be the case. Herbs can be quite delicate, I’m told. (Except mint. . .that stuff just holds on and on and on!) Other herbs? Sometimes they even have the nerve to go a dry up on me a day or two after purchase, even when kept in a glass with a bit of water feeding them. Whaddup with that?

Cilantro (fresh coriander) makes a killer dressing, whether fresh (as in this photo), or sad and drying (as mine was).

So today I noticed the cilantro (fresh coriander) I bought not two days ago was looking dry and sad. So was the parsley. Instead of tossing them, or tossing them and feeling guility about the fact that I don’t (yet) compost, I decided to make herb dressing out of herbs.

This was a real “use it up” moment–I even tossed in the last of my current bottle of apple cider vinegar to make way for the new bottle I got on sale earlier in the day. A quick whir in the blender, and voila! A light, fresh dressing that will make every salad this weekend (and maybe a couple beyond) taste bright and, well, herbal.

All amounts below are extremely approximate, and flexible. Feel free to adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your taste. Also feel free to play around with the herb combo. It’s not like I’m coming over to your place to make sure you’re only using cilantro and parsley 😉

Weekend Use It Up Cilantro Parsley Dressing

1 small bunch cilantro (aka fresh coriander)

1 small bunch parsley

3 large garlic cloves

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar of choice)

3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon agave nectar or honey

Pinch each of salt and pepper

Filtered water as needed


1. Toss all ingredients except water into a blender. Add enough filtered water to blend. You can always add more water to thin it out if needed. Blend until smooth.

2. Taste, adjust seasoning, and re-blend as needed.

3. Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Remember to shake well before each use.

The final product looks a lot like this. I’ll get my own photo up here soon. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Read Full Post »

The weather is cooling down where I live, and when this happens, I generally prefer that my food have a nice roasty and toasty flavor. Which makes now the perfect time to post the other version of muhamarra dip–the much-loved red bell pepper, walnut, and pomegranate dip popular throughout many countries of the Middle East.

In a previous post we explored the taste of Raw Muhammara by making the dip with all raw ingredients–bell peppers, garlic, walnuts, and so on. The raw version looks something like this:

Raw muhammara dip

Raw Muhammara dip has a lighter color than the cooked version of the dip. Both are beautiful!

For today’s version, you can roast your own bell peppers (not the best idea if you have, as I do, a tendency to walk away from the stove in an effort to multi-task). Or you can grab some jarred roasted bell peppers. Just make sure to rinse them well before using, and leave any brand that includes corn syrup in its ingredient list on the shelf. Here’s the jar I currently have on hand:

Roasted jarred bell peppers.

If roasting bell peppers by hand isn't your thing, pick up a jar at the store. Make sure to rinse well before using.

I’ve also included an optional ingredient that can really boost the smokey flavor of the dip. Personally, I like a smokey flavor in this dip. It reminds me of evenings in front of the fireplace when I was growing up. The ingredient? Liquid smoke. It’s pretty cool. Or should I say, warm? The brand I prefer is, and I quote

all-natural. . .Vegan, contains no animal byproducts, and is gluten free.

How do they make it?

Colgin Liquid Smoke is not a chemical or synthetic flavor – but genuine wood smoke “liquefied.” The wood is placed in large retorts where intense heat is applied, causing the wood to smolder (not burn).

I swear this isn’t a shameless product endorsement. The folks at Colgin haven’t greased my palm for mentioning their product. Here’s what it looks like.

Yummy liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke. All natural, believe it or not! A little of this goes a long way, so one bottle will last quite awhile.

For the record, there are many other great brands of liquid smoke on store shelves. It varies from region to region. Look on the aisle of your local store where spices and extracts are sold.

Now for the recipe.

Muhamarra Dip–Lightly Cooked Version

3-4 Large pre-roasted bell peppers (from a jar), rinsed thoroughly

11/2 Cups walnuts pieces or halves. Unsalted is best.

2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, or paste or molasses

2-3 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon of ground cumin

Pinch of salt (to taste)

Drizzle of olive oil (a Tablespoon or two)

Dash of Liquid Smoke (optional)


Lightly toast the nuts and the whole garlic cloves on the stovetop in a skillet over medium low. Turn the nuts and garlic frequently so they don’t burn on one side. When their color deepens and the nutty fragrance begins to come through, they’re ready. Remove them from heat immediately.

Or, alternatively:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Spread walnuts and the garlic cloves  in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant. (The scent will tell you when they’re ready). To be on the safe side and avoid burning, you can set a timer for 5 minutes and check them, turning them at this time.

Optional step for an extra smokey flavor–mix in the ground cumin and toast for 30 seconds before removing the skillet from the heat or the pan from the oven.

Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth and silky. Adjust seasoning, lemon, and olive oil to taste.  Re-blend if needed. That’s it!

The dip will thicken if refrigerated. Serve with pita bread and/or raw or roasted veggies.

NOTE: You might be tempted to add more liquid to get the ingredients to meld and blend. If you choose to do so, just go very slowly. You can always add more liquid, but it’s hard to get the dip to thicken up if it’s become too watery. Hey now–Don’t toss it if you find it too watery. Give it a chance to thicken up in the fridge. Or use it as a sauce, sandwich spread, and/or salad dressing.


Read Full Post »

I love dips. They’re such fun. Great for sharing, great for eating alone. And hey, eating them alone means it’s okay to double dip! They’re wonderful for an energizing and tasty snack and perfect as part of a meal. Sometimes the ingredients that make up a dip are truly beautiful together. Separate them, and perhaps they’re lovely in their own way. Maybe. . .

Today we’re making a Raw Muhamarra dip recipe. (More on that later). First, confession time: I’m generally not a huge fan of one of today’s dip’s main ingredient. Bell peppers.

Beautiful, but not always my fave

Beautiful, but not always my fave

To me, their flavor tends to dominate a dish. If I order a veggie pizza or a salad, for example, I’ll ask them to leave bell pepps out of the mix if at all possible.  Even bell peppers that aren’t organically grown seem to have that dominating taste fully intact.

So why then, do I love them so much in today’s dip, Muhammara? Maybe because they marry so well with fresh walnuts, pomegranate, and a dash of cumin. Perhaps the other ingredients bring out the best in the peppers, and maybe even vice versa. What can I say? Life is full of mysteries, no?

An aside. It’s funny to think of how strong that bell pepper flavor can be, especially when you consider how other garden goodies often lose their taste completely when they’re mass-produced. True story: Until visiting Syria, I was under the impression that I hated apricots. To me, they were flavorless, mealy, and bland. A total waste of time! A season of locally grown Syrian apricots disabused me of that notion. They were similar in texture to a ripe peach or nectarine, and so fragrant and juicy! But back stateside, such tender and tasty apricots are nearly impossible to find, at least in my experience.

So this is my convoluted way of saying: Bell peppers must be pretty darn strong to resist the forces of mass production. Other produce isn’t so lucky. Paging tomatoes and store-bought apples!

The one place where I truly LOVE bell peppers is in Muhammara dip. Today’s version looks something like this. Google around, and you’ll see that some recipes are darker in color.

Muhammara dip. A great use of bell peppers.

Muhammara dip. A great use of bell peppers.

This dip is a staple in countires like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan. Here’s my recipe for a fully raw Muhamarra dip. I’ll post the (lightly) cooked version soon, so that you can compare and decide which one you like best. For the record, this dip makes a fantastic salad dressing when thinned out with a bit of water.

Bonus: Bell peppers are in season now, and I got mine from the farmer’s market. They were so sweet and almost too beautiful to eat!

Raw Muhamarra Dip

3 Cups red bell pepper chunks (usually from about 2 large peppers, or 4 smaller ones)

11/2 Cups raw walnuts

2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, or paste or molasses (if using the paste or a store-bought, jarred pom juice, it’s not strictly raw, just FYI)

2-3 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon of ground cumin

Pinch of salt (to taste)

Drizzle of olive oil (a Tablespoon or two)

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth and silky. Adjust seasoning, lemon, and olive oil to taste.  Re-blend if needed. That’s it!

The dip will thicken if refrigerated. Serve with raw veggies. Slices of fresh zucchini are my favorite.

NOTE: You might be tempted to add more liquid to get the ingredients to meld and blend. If you choose to do so, just go very slowly. You can always add more liquid, but it’s hard to get the dip to thicken up if it’s become too watery. Hey now–Don’t toss it if you find it too watery. Give it a chance to thicken up in the fridge. Or use it as a sauce, sandwich spread, and/or salad dressing.


Read Full Post »