Mezze Platter

Mezze is an assortment of small dishes or appetizers commonly found in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diet.  What dishes are included in Mezze differ from region to region.  Hummus, pita and breads, various salads, cheeses, olives, dolmas, sausages, vegetables prepared in various ways, dips, etc….  are common components of a Mezze Platter.

My Mezze Platter Included:

Hummus, pickled turnips, toasted pita bread, feta cheese, pepperocini peppers, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and black olives.

Quick Hummus

  • 1 can (16 ounces) chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • olive oil
  • water

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Add olive oil and water -a little at a time- to get desired consistency. You can add other ingredients (like herbs or roasted red peppers) for something a little different. My favorite addition is cilantro.

Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Soup

From April 4, 2007:  I made this for lunch today and liked it.  I used Uncle Ben’s Original Recipe Long Grain and Wild Rice mix.  I also used dried shiitake mushrooms.  The can of evaporated milk I used was pretty small, but I’m not sure the exact measurement.  I think prepared wild rice would be a bit more nutritious than a box of processed seasoned rice.  I’ll try that next time.

Asparagus and Wild Mushroom Soup

1 (6 oz) box of long grain and wild rice blend, prepared
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Prepare rice according to directions. Set aside. Place dried mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Strain, reserving the water, and chop mushrooms. Set aside, along with soaking water.

In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add asparagus and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and rice, and stir well. Add reserved mushroom water and vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat. In small bowl, whisk cornstarch into evaporated milk, and pour into pan.  Bring back to a boil and boil for 3-5 minutes, until thickened.  Remove from heat and serve.

Apple Salad

From October 28, 2006:  I’m still looking for ways to use up all the apples in my house.  This nice little sweet salad is a twist on Waldorf Salad.  I used fresh pineapple instead of canned crushed and put in about 1 cup.  This salad keeps well.  I think I took it in my lunch everyday this past week and it was as crunchy on Friday as it was on Monday (the marshmallows didn’t hold up that well though).

Apple Salad


1/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. water
1 tbsp. butter

Mix all ingredients for dressing in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool.

3 red apples, cored, diced but not peeled
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. drained crushed pineapple
1/2 c. chopped celery

When dressing is cool, pour over fruit mixture and toss lightly. Refrigerate overnight. Will keep for several days in airtight container.

Candied Pecans

I made these candied pecans to add to salads.  They are excellent on a salad of mixed greens, fresh fruit (strawberries, mandarian oranges, pears), goat cheese and sweet poppyseed dressing or raspberry vinaigrette.  They are also wonderful for snacking. 

Candied Pecans

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

In small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and cayenne.

In medium skillet, combine butter and sugar mixture. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar has melted.  Once sugar has melted, add the pecans and stir until the nuts are coated.  Pour onto a sheet of aluminum foil and let cool completely.

Veggie Pasta Salad

This is an easy pasta salad that is open to interpretation. It is great for parties.  Play around with the pasta shapes and the types of veggies added.  If I don’t have Salad Supreme, I’ll add a few shakes of Mrs. Dash instead. My mother-in-law makes this pasta salad using spaghetti. It’s the best thing she makes.

Veggie Pasta Salad

1 16 oz. pkg. small shell (or fusilli or rotini) pasta – cooked, rinsed and drained
8 oz. Wishbone Italian dressing (or your favorite italian dressing)
4 T. McCormick’s Salad Supreme (this has cheese in it…so you could leave it out or use something else)
5 cups of assorted raw vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces
some veggies you can use:
cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
broccoli florets
carrots, peeled and sliced
grape tomatoes, halved
red onion , chopped
bell peppers (any color), chopped
black olives, sliced

Combine all ingredients and marinate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Fish Baked with Vegetables

This is one of our favorite meals.  It’s easy, healthy, satisfying, and worthy of serving to guests.  And because the fish and veggies are baked in foil packets, there isn’t much clean-up (that is always a good thing). 

There are endless possibilities for this recipe. By mixing and matching different types of fish, vegetables, and seasonings, you can create something different each time.  Some combinations (aside from my favorite combination – tuna or tilapia with onions, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and capers with basil and thyme) I have tried include:  halibut with carrots, onions, and yellow squash seasoned with dill; catfish with carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes and green olives; salmon with leeks, capers, lemon juice and dill.   

When the fish and veggies are done cooking, I usually pour the contents over a serving of orzo on a plate.  While the fish and veggies cook, they create a wonderful sauce that the orzo soaks up…it’s a pleasing combination.

Fish Baked with Vegetables

fish fillets or steaks (I usually use tuna steaks or tilapia) – 1 fillet or steak per serving
julienned veggies of choice (I usually use carrots, onion, and celery)
*yellow squash
*bell peppers
cherry tomatoes, halved (or diced fresh tomato, or even canned diced tomato, in a pinch)
capers (could use green olives) (I use about 1 T. per serving)
thyme (dried or fresh)
basil (dried or fresh)
salt and pepper

For each serving:
Place a pat of butter on a piece (about 12 x 12-inch) of foil.  Top with fish, julienned vegetables, tomatoes, and capers.  season fish and vegetables with salt and pepper, thyme and basil.  Top with another pat of butter.  Sprinkle 1 T. of water (or white wine) over the fish and vegetables.

Fold edges of foil up and together in a double pleat to seal. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Serve with orzo, rice or pasta, a side salad and crusty bread (to mop up the juices).

Watermelon Granita

Watermelon Granita

1/3 cup sugar
5 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes (about 4 pounds), seeds removed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with 1/3 cup of water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Transfer the syrup to a blender or food processor, add half of the watermelon cubes and the lime juice and pulse until smooth. Add the remaining watermelon cubes and blend until smooth.

Pass the puree through a coarse strainer, pressing down on the solids. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch nonreactive (ceramic or glass) baking dish and freeze, stirring every 30 minutes with a fork, until all the liquid has frozen completely, about 3 hours. Spoon the granita into tall glasses or bowls and serve.

The granita can be frozen for up to 2 days. Stir before serving.

Portabella Mushroom Sandwich

From June 1, 2004: i love portabella mushrooms. they are very earthy, hearty, and a great meat substitute. one of my favorite ways to eat portabellas is by making a sandwich with them.

for the sandwich: clean the mushroom (you can remove the gills, but i usually don’t) and then marinate it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, italian herbs, salt, and pepper. while the mushroom marinates, prepare the rest of the ingredients – slice tomatoes, wash baby spinach leaves, toast some sort of artisan-type bread (sourdough is my favorite, a crusty boule bread is in close second) and prepare a dressing..

sometimes i dress the sandwich with a brown mustard, other times (depending on motivation and mood) i prepare a sun-dried tomato mayonaise. for the sun-dried tomato mayo,  reconstitute sun-dried tomatoes in warm water until soft. finely chop and add to a bit of spectrum canola oil mayonaise along with salt and pepper.

once all the ingredients are prepared,  grill both sides of the mushroom in a hot grill pan on the stove. when it is cooked through and tender,  remove the mushroom and slice (sometimes i leave it whole depending on the shape of the bread).

to assemble the sandwich:  spread some mustard or sun-dried tomato mayo on the toasted bread, layer the mushrooms on top of the slice and then top with spinach and sliced tomatoes. i like to drizzle a little of the marinade on top of the veggies before adding the top piece of bread.

this sandwich is messy to eat, so make sure you have lots of napkins!

Nutella Panini with Strawberries

From October 12, 2008: I bought myself an indoor grill/panini press/griddle appliance this weekend.  So far I am pretty happy with it.  I have used the all-in-one gadget to make pancakes, grill eggplant and zucchini, toast two types of paninis, and do eggs-over-easy. The first thing my son and I made with it was these yummy dessert paninis.  We got the idea from the menu of a local wine bar called Kybecca in downtown Fredericksburg, VA.  We used store-bought Sara Lee pound cake for this recipe.

Nutella Panini

slices of pound cake
Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
sliced strawberries (bananas or raspberries would be good too)
powdered sugar
whipped cream

Preheat grill or pan (medium heat).
Spread (about a tablespoon) Nutella on each slice of pound cake.  Arrange strawberry slices on top of the Nutella on one of the slices and top with the other slice (so that the strawberries are sandwiched between the Nutella).
Place sandwich on the grill and toast for about 2 minutes (or until warmed through).
Dust panini with powdered sugar and serve with a dollop of whippped cream.

Lentil and Barley Soup

This hearty soup is so delicious.  I had it for lunch with toasted pumpernickel bread and a dilled cucumber salad.  It’s pretty thick, so add more water (or vegetable broth) if you like your soup more brothy.

Lentil and Barley Soup

2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups water
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup medium pearl barley
2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup thinly sliced carrots

In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, saute the celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add water, tomatoes, lentils, barley, bouillon, oregano, rosemary and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils and barley are almost tender. Add carrots; simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots, lentils and barley are tender.