White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta DipIt’s party season which, yay!!! So much fun. But also, boo!!! So much work. That’s why it’s great to have a few easy, fast and inexpensive recipes to fall back on when the hungry hordes arrive (auto-correct keeps changing hordes to whores. So if your house is full of hungry holiday whores, all the power to you!). Ahem, *adjusts glasses*.

Dips! Dips are great. Everyone loves dips. They can sometimes be a little boring though, right? I love a good onion or spinach dip, but sometimes I want to shake it up a little bit. This White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip is basically like a Hummus but, to me, a whole lot tastier. It’s creamy from the yogurt, tart from the lemon and feta and plain old delicious from the roasted garlic. Awww yeah.

Best part? I bet most of the ingredients are in your pantry and fridge right now. Maybe not the feta cheese, but everything else is probably there. I’m right, aren’t I? Go look!

White Bean, Roasted Garlic and Feta Dip

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Cranberry Sauce with Cointreau

A cranberry sauce holds the Thanksgiving dishes together but you don’t want to spend too much time on it. Our recipe is quick and delicious.

Cranberry Sauce with CointreauHappy Thanksgivukkah everyone!

This is going to be a quick post because we’re in the midst of Thanksgiving cooking madness and if I’m gone too long, Matt will glaze the dog and confit the chickens.

If you haven’t made your cranberry sauce yet (don’t panic, there’s still time!), this is a very simple, tasty recipe that is ready in minutes. You’ll want to cool it before serving and next year, you can make it up to 4 days ahead.

This is a great place to use Cointreau (orange liquor) if you have it, but Triple Sec is a fine, much more affordable alternative.

You’re aiming for a balance of tartness (more berries) and sweetness (more sugar) – it’s not a bad idea to have extra of both on hand in case you decide you want to shift the taste either way.

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Make Ahead Turkey Gravy with Calvados (Apple Brandy)

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy with Calvados (Apple Brandy)

For the last few years, my Thanksgiving philosophy has been “Everything that CAN be made ahead SHALL be made ahead”. I developed this philosophy (religion?) several years ago when Matt and I decided to make Thanksgiving for 13 people in our teeny, tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Our oven could barely fit a normal-sized turkey, let alone anything else at the same time.  We made just about everything we could possibly make days ahead and heated things up while the turkey was resting.

Now we have a normal (ginormous, for us) kitchen, but the make-ahead strategy is still as useful as ever. That is what I love about this gravy (besides its heavenly flavor). I don’t know about you, but for me, the 10 minutes before serving Thanksgiving dinner are the most chaotic and I really don’t want to be measuring flour and reducing stock right at the last minute.

That’s why I really like this method. A few days ahead (or even a week or two), I make stock and from that stock, I make the gravy “base”. Then on Thanksgiving day, I reheat it (the longer it simmers, the better) and when the turkey’s done, I deglaze the roasting pan with some wine and add it to the already simmering gravy. Done! So much easier, seriously.

This gravy has a delicious touch of apple-y sweetness from the Calvados and apple cider. You could substitute Apple Jack, which is a really nice American equivalent and is a lot more affordable. I adapted a Barefoot Contessa recipe which has finely chopped onions in the base. Obviously this will give the gravy some texture so if you like it perfectly smooth, just use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree it.

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Spiced Pickled Grapes

Spiced Pickled Grapes
Spiced Pickled Grapes

Spiced Pickled GrapesAt the risk of sounding like a Portlandia sketch, I am a little obsessed with pickling. You take something yummy, plop it in some vinegar, sugar and spices and it tastes even better. And lasts longer! Win-win, right?

When Matt and I lived in Brooklyn, we used to go to this great place called Buttermilk Channel (I say that like we could just waltz right in, la di da, but there was almost always a line down the block. Damn you, Brooklyn!). Anyway, they have a chicken liver mousse that they top with two perfectly sweet/tart pickled grapes. Divine. Since we don’t live stumbling distance from them anymore, I decided to try to make it myself. I know it sounds weird but pickled grapes are really good.

If you swing that way, do yourself a solid and make this easy and delicious Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy and put a couple of these bad boys on top. You can thank me later (or invite me over and we can giggle maniacally about how good this combo is). You could also just put out a bowl of them and eat them by the handful. They would be great alongside a sharp cheese or even in a cocktail.

Spiced Pickled Grapes

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Vietnamese-Style Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese-Style Dipping SauceI’m not sure what it is about fish sauce but it’s kind of like flavored crack to me. It’s salty and fermented and shouldn’t be addictive but I’d sneak this sauce into rehab and drink it in the bathroom if I had to. What? Stop looking at me like that.

[It’s worth pointing out that we like Squid Brand fish sauce – other sauces may be available, but we like to stand up for the cephalopods in this household. They can’t stand up for themselves, after all – Matt]

It works really well with Thai Shrimp Cakes or anything that needs a salty/sweet/sour kick. Ready in seconds.

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Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta Yogurt Sauce
Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

For me, lamb is definitely hit or miss. I either really enjoy it or really, really, really don’t. There is very little middle ground. If it’s too gamey, I don’t like it. Overcooked, blech. Undercooked, even worse! Needless to say, I’ve made some expensive lamb mistakes.

What I’ve realized though, is that ground lamb is not only much less expensive than other options, but it’s also a lot easier to handle. Matt loves lamb chops, so I’ll make them once in a while on a special occasion, but lamb burgers are a much more affordable indulgence.

I used to make lamb burgers with more of a North African flavor thing going on (lots of spices like cumin, cinnamon and paprika) but the way I like them best is more Mediterranean. Lots or herbs, like rosemary and mint. Very lemony.

To be honest though, the star is this Feta-Yogurt Sauce that is so simple to make, but so good. I always make extra so we can have it on grilled vegetables (it’s killer with roasted eggplant). We’ve used it as a dip with pita chips or sliced cucumbers. This recipe makes about 2 cups, which is enough to top 4 burgers with maybe a little extra. If you happen to have a tater-tot on hand that accidentally falls into a bit of this sauce, you’re in for a treat.

***WARNING*** This will be your dog’s face as you eat this burger. Do not give her any (because burger is too good and onions and garlic are poisonous to pups!) She MAY have captured a tater-tot though.

Arya Lamb Burger watcher

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