The “I can’t believe it’s not Buddha” dinner: Feisty feta dip and (really, really good) pizza

A few months ago I recreated one of my favourite Sudbury restaurant dishes at home. My version of the Laughing Buddha’s chick pea salad garnered a number of comments from both local readers and those from elsewhere on the web. It also inspired a request:

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As expressed in my replied comment, I had never tried the feisty feta dip before, but am always looking for an excuse to try more food/visit the Laughing Buddha. Since September when I began my “initial testing” I have tried the feisty feta dip probably four times, and have purchased feta cheese almost the same amount, intending to one day recreate the promised dish. Every time I ate it at the Buddha, I would survey the people at my table – what do YOU think is in it?! What do you like?! I need to know because I am making my own version! Well, I finally got around to it.

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I really shouldn’t say that as if it were a real undertaking. This is one of the simplest appetizers I have ever created, and one of the most tasty, too. The ingredients were primarily ones I already had in my kitchen, and are common items you can get pretty much anywhere.

My one complaint about the Buddha’s original feisty feta dip was that it’s a little too, well, feisty. It was SPICY, holy smokes, and was perhaps deliberately made so in order to persuade you out of necessity to buy another beer (it worked) or have you request a pita re-stock. RE: beer. Despite not being at the Buddha, Jen, Ian and I stuck with the spirit of the place and tried out some new Ontario craft brews. The Smoked Oatmeal Stout tasted downright awful to me (but like Scotch to Jen and Ian, apparently), but I did enjoy my Crosswind Pale Ale from Lake of Bays Brewing Company in Baysville, wherever that is. (Unrelated, but I’m disappointed the local LCBO didn’t sell my new favourite beer, Muskoka Brewery’s Twice As Mad Tom IPA)

beer collage

Back to the feisty feta dip. I knew when I made my at-home version that I wanted to keep the consistency the same, but to take the heat down a notch. You know, so that I’m not sweating at the dinner table. I bulked up my dip with some plain yogurt – something that’s brilliantly effective at countering foods that scream hot, hot, heat.

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It turned out great! Please note, when you stick your fingers in the dip to sample it straight from the food processor, that taste will not be a good representation of the amount of bite the final product will eventually force you to bear. The heat builds as the dip sits, something Jen and I attribute to the “slow releasing jalapeno juices.” Also, re: pita. We used a bread maker pizza dough recipe, rolled it out, baked it, and sliced it up into little triangles. Obviously, you can also simply buy the pita.

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Thanks to Ian for making the unbelievable pizza: pesto, cheddar cheese, portobello mushroom, tomato, yellow pepper…the best.

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Early Halloween: Pumpkin hummus!

Like many recent posts on Hilary Makes, this pumpkin hummus was inspired by friend and CBC web editor Wendy Bird.

Last week she brought in the newsroom snack of all newsroom snacks, a food so delicious it made me want to reconsider my life goals and trade all future ambitions for a vat of hummus. Not even a little bit exaggerating. While Wendy’s pumpkin hummus is getting all the attention in this post, I must also mention the accompanying chocolate pumpkin bundt cake. So moist and perfect, it made up for the fact that I had forgotten my lunch. In addition to feeding us, the treats were brought so Wendy could chat with Jason, the host of our afternoon show, about all the great things you can do with those gosh darn leftover pumpkins.

But back to the hummus. After getting up from my desk at least two dozen times to stuff hummus-dipped crackers in my mouth, I finally swore I would make my own dip later in the week. And so I did, just in time for the pumpkin carving party we had on Sunday.

I was even able to convince the ever-thrifty Jen to sacrifice one half of our $1 miniature pie pumpkins so I could make it into a tiny gourd bowl. I used Ian’s badass Rambo-as-a-child knife to concavely carve the pumpkin into something that resembled a serving dish, successfully doing so while preserving all 10 of my fingertips.

I had a photo shoot on our wooden front entrance way. At one point I was so distracted by the positioning of my pretty shoes that I lightly kicked the unstable pumpkin bowl, almost giving way to a driveway full of hummus and a face full of tears.

We ate the hummus (which, after many taste tests, Jen and I concluded was just garlicky enough) with a delicious homemade baguette.

And carved pumpkins and ate more Halloween candy before actual Halloween. Oh October, you gem.

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Greek bruschetta (baguette and hummus for dinner)

Two very, very dangerous things happened last night.

1. I learned how easy it is to make hummus.
2. I made the best bruschetta I’ve ever had (and this is saying something, because there is this restaurant in Sudbury that makes a TRULY delicious mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta…Please know that I do not take this title lightly)

As many meals are, this one was unexpected. After getting off work late Thursday night, I popped over to the grocery store with full intention to only purchase sugary ingredients to use in the caramel sea salt brownies (WOAH good, those are being blogged about next) that I was making for today’s newsroom treat.

When I arrived, it was 7:30 and past my usual dinner time, meaning that a walk through the grocery store was like a walk down temptation lane. I couldn’t just go straight to the baking aisle. I needed to buy dinner items.

I decided my meal would be based around the cherry tomatoes I got from a friend when he returned one of my many Mason jars (these jars are even better when they contain garden-fresh veggies!).

Since my mom had made a very delicious, Greek-style salad the other night and since it has been a year since I was in Greece, I decided on Greek bruschetta. This was one of my better life decisions. In the end, I didn’t actually have to buy that much – just a baguette, in fact. I did, after all, have leftover hummus ingredients to use.

So right, let’s talk hummus. I knew in theory that hummus was very easy to make, but I think I just thought that in application that must be a lie. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Super easy. I had tahini left from my last blog post, as well as a Tupperware of leftover chick peas. Add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne and we’re in business.

While waiting for baguette to toast, and in between chopping each of the bruschetta toppings, I ate huge slices of the remaining baguette and hummus. One piece, another, another…just one more. It’s a downward spiral, really. Making homemade tahini was my gateway snacking food.

Normally I write a rough version of my blog posts while eating, but I just couldn’t do that with this bruschetta. I was too busy double fisting the delicately topped baguette, like a savage who hadn’t seen food for ten million years. It was so delicious. Really, really great. The flavours worked together so well…the oilyness of the artichokes, the crunch of the toasted baguette, the juicy sweetness of the tomatoes and the sharp edge of the feta. Food teamwork at its best. Like most bruschetta (or food consumed by me in general), this meal was exceptionally messy. The remaining platter was scattered with tiny chunks of feta and a few slices of red onion that were waywardly cast aside during my barbaric eating session. As it rested on my keyboard, my right hand was slightly oily, a residue that I think must have been marinated artichoke oil.

Speaking of that…it’s not a real dinner with Hilary until a piece of technology and/or technology accessory gets some sort of food on it. My poor iPad case was subject to a bath of this marinated artichoke juice. I’m a disgusting human being, really.

I’m so happy I decided on this rectangular, white serving platter. Thank heavens it was easy to find – wedged in my closet between my saxophone and chest of drawers, underneath my three-tiered cupcake carrier. Typical.

I ended up writing this blog post while hanging out with my baby brother (who is off to university next week!!) and transferring 1,500 iPhone photos from his Macbook to mine via Dropbox. Don’t ask.

PS: NEW 50mm f.18 LENS!!!!! Can you tell!? Will give more info later.

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Cinco de Mayo 2012: Pico de gallo guacamole and beef and black bean enchilada bake

Hello everyone.

It has been quite the two weeks since we last spoke. Since my April 27 post (womp womp), I’ve moved 489 kilometres north, transferred four years worth of personal pack-rat belongings into my high school bedroom (which I promptly redecorated and rearranged as to not seem like I was back in grade 12. More on that later), and finished the first two weeks of my post-graduation “adult” job with CBC here in town.

Whew. Now that I’ve at least partially settled in, I hope to cook more for myself and family, and blog more as a result. I’ll be the first to admit that the past two weeks have come as a bit of a life shock. One Monday I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom in my pajamas laughing at The Devil Wears Prada and the next I was waking up early and donning my three-quarter-length “adult” GAP pants. Yes, that’s how I define adulthood. By the length of my pants. Clearly I have a lot to learn.

Anyways.

Yes, as this post suggests, this meal was indeed made last Saturday, a full week from today. I am hanging my head in shame, (and simultaneously lapping up a mug of coffee, a liquid which BAM, I have become addicted to. I’m a real journalist now. FYI I also measure adulthood by the amount of coffee one must consume).

This is the first meal I made upon my glorious return, and it happened to correspond with two events: Cinco de Mayo and my dad’s birthday. I’ve informally celebrated the former ever since taking spanish in grade nine, and love the day because it gives me an excuse to sing and dance to this song while cooking (I think I link to this tune in every Mexican-style meal I make…). As for my dad’s birthday…well Tex-Mex style food is one thing my entire family can agree on. So here we are.

When scribbling out my grocery list for dinner, I was terribly worried. In Ottawa, it’s likely that all things Mexican would have been sold out/in low demand at the grocery store because all the yuppies in my neighbourhood would be having themed taco nights. Then I remembered: I live in Sudbury now. People do not care about themed holiday meals. More tortillas, jalapenos, and avocados for me!

The first two courses of the Cinco de Mayo/dad’s birthday fiesta turned out perfectly. My dad kindly volunteered to be the hand model for these photos, so long as he got to eat each styled, guacamole-filled chip. Every ounce of credit for the dip’s success goes to this brilliant Pioneer Woman Cooks recipe. She is a goddess.

Dad hand. I am of the impression that he deliberately created several blurry photos, just so I would have to re-shoot them with different chips.

Oh boy, the enchilada bake was awesome too. It didn’t collapse and sink in upon cutting, nor did my plate fall off the deck when I took the picture you see at the bottom of this post (this is actually a serious risk!!!). Tiny celebrations.

Enchilada layers, illustrated. A four-storey Tex-Mex tower

Oh right, also regarding the enchilada bake: I used a February 2012 Canadian Living recipe, but my kitchen obedience pretty much stopped there. I was worried the original ingredient amounts wouldn’t make enough, so ended up tossing in some quinoa, extra black beans and corn. All resulted in me stuffing my 8-inch casserole dish to the maximum capacity, and pressing down on the tortilla layers as saucy bits came bubbling up. BUT IT WORKED.

My dad said it was exquisite. I don’t think a knock-off Tex-Mex dinner has ever been described in such a way, but hey, I’ll take it.

Next up: A whole pile of carrot cake. And then a post about how I’ve decorated my bedroom, because, you know, I have nothing better to do except take pictures of my ceramic elephants and marble collection.

After that: Mother’s day. May is fun.

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Power-necessary caprese bruschetta

Oh man, words cannot begin to express how much I love my new camera.

Seriously, seriously love. The pictures. They’re stunning (I think).  I love, love, love, love, LOVE it. It will accompany me around Europe, photographing many a pastry, pizza and bowl of pasta. Oh the things that camera will see in the upcoming month. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out part two of my bruschetta making extravaganza: caprese bruschetta.

This was the second type of bruschetta I was supposed to make on Sunday night, before Mother Nature swooped in and kicked Hydro Ottawa’s ass.  I was so concerned on Monday evening when I got home from work – the electricity was still out, and my Art-is-in Bakery baguette wasn’t getting any fresher.

My worrisome bruschetta fate led to me attempting desperate measures:

To my great relief, the power came on before I was forced to bring my cheese to another location.  My friend Ben was kind enough to offer his fridge, however, and so I brought him and his girlfriend Sara the leftovers.

Anyways, back to the actual bruschetta.  I discovered that this appetizer is actually the only way I like eating uncooked tomatoes.  Normally I hate them, but there was something about the combination of high quality mozzarella, basil and oregano that made it all okay.

In the recipe I adapted my version from, the cheese wasn’t supposed to be melted.  To that, I say all cheese is better melted.  I let it broil on top of the garlic oil-soaked bread and scattered the leftover cheese on top.  Omnomnoms were achieved.

PS: Bruschetta is the most unladylike appetizer to eat. I thank my lucky stars that I was sitting on the porch alone wearing biking clothes when I ate this. A mess was made.

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