I am back with some savory ideas for you this week! With it being Super Bowl Sunday yesterday, all I had on my mind was snack food. Initially, I planned on going in the dip direction, because dips are super easy to enjoy without having to pay much attention if your eyes are glued to the action on screen - just put a plate on your lap with your dipping items and the dip, and make certain you place your hand where the chips or veggies are! With that in mind, I actually chose to go in spread direction instead, which means I basically prepared exactly what I was planning on making, but I pre-plated it to avoid any food accidents. And I was able to use my favorite food appliance these days - the mini food processor!
I use this tiny machine (also known as a robot coupe) whenever I can - it is pretty powerful, great for purées, pestos, nut butters, mousses, brownie batters, and grinding - I literally used it once every dish for a three-course dinner just the other day; I am on a food processor high! While I initially thought its small size would be a hinderance, I actually prefer it over a larger one for it fits perfectly on the counter and helps with portion control (yet I still tend to make too much because I am afraid I won't have enough to actually process and of course end up with extra!). You can get about two cups out if you are going for maximum volume, which usually serves at least four people. Yes, the holes are very tiny if you are trying to make an emulsion or need to pour a consistent stream of liquid, but that is not very often, so I would give it a 10/10! If you are interested in the specific one I have, you can check it out here.
After a private Zoom class Saturday, I had a few miscellaneous components leftover, so I made it my mission to use as many as I could in order to create my game day hors d'oeuvres:
Umami-esque caramelized onion and sundried tomato purée became more of a romesco (there were almonds included too, so I set myself up quite well for this transition).
Subtly-spiced cooked lentils were transformed into a lemony yogurt spread with cumin, coriander, and chili flake.
Excess celery - while I did not use any on Saturday, we have lots here, so I made a celery, artichoke, and ricotta spread and rounded it out with the yummy garlic mustard aioli from Trader Joe's.
Classic quinoa seasoned with shallots, garlic, and parsley were formed into crispy cakes with leftover aquafaba as a binder (if you don't have aquafaba around, the next time you open a can of chickpeas you can save the liquid in the freezer for such a use, or open one for this recipe and either snack on or put the chickpeas aside for a dish later!). I kept a neutral flavor so they would pair well with each spread.
While the spreads are all creamy and have some sort of acidity and spice, each one is still very different in its texture and flavor profile, so a cool activity would be to prepare them all in the same day like I did and then have a spread tasting/flight paired with three different wines or beers! Even though these quinoa cakes and spreads are fairly simple and casual, you can still treat them like the stars that they are and fancify them up in this fun way!
Additionally, though these spreads are great as the central focus of a snack, they could also accompany vegetables or proteins in a more complete dish and serve as the sauce; you could use them as a dressing for a salad or on a sandwich too! I love how versatile they are, so I would highly suggest making a lot and then experimenting with more uses throughout the week!
I hope you are ready to put your baby food processor to work! And if you don't have one, maybe you will be inspired to invest in it. You might not think you really need a robot coupe right now, but once you find yourself using it every single day, you will see how valuable it is. In fact, you will probably start coming up with dishes just to take advantage of this machine! Not only does it allow you to expand your repertoire in so many ways, it is just so satisfying watching numerous ingredients blend into an incredibly concentrated and scrumptious bite - many times very unrecognizable as to what it includes by sight, but totally representative and worth the effort when you taste it!
Game Day Spreads and Quinoa Cakes
Special Note: These spreads should be seasoned to taste, which is why I did not include exact measurements for the spices. Instead, I provided you with guidelines on what the outcome should resemble so that you can produce the same result but with more confidence in your cooking. After all, I desire to empower you to feel more comfortable in your kitchen, and I think the recipes below are a great way to practice!
Caramelized Onion and Sundried Tomato Romesco
Yield: 1 cup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 White Onion, sliced thin
¼ cup Sundried Tomatoes, chopped
½ cup Sliced Almonds
In a small pan, toast the almonds until they are golden brown. Remove and set a small handful aside for garnish, then caramelize the onions with a little oil over low heat. When they are brown, add the sundried tomatoes, the larger amount of toasted almonds, a little water to deglaze, and salt. Cook until the water evaporates.
Blend in a food processor, adding 3 more tablespoons of water so that it becomes smooth. Season with sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, and salt - although the tomatoes are acidic, their sweetness is very present here, along with the sweetness of the onions, so you will want a decent amount of vinegar and smoked paprika to infuse even more life into this spread. If you are going to enjoy it right away, keep at room temperature so the flavors are more pronounced.
Lemony Lentil Yogurt Spread
Yield: 1 cup
¼ cup Yellow Lentils
½ cup Water
2 T Greek Yogurt
2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Cilantro, loosely packed and rough chopped
Lemon Zest (for garnish at the end)
Cook the yellow lentils in a small pot with the water until they are a soft mash. Let them cool slightly.
In the food processor, blend the lentils, yogurt, and lemon juice until smooth. Add in the cilantro, then process until well-dispersed.
Season with onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, chili flakes, and salt - it should have a warming essence with a light spice that creeps up at the very end. If you are going to enjoy it right away, keep at room temperature so the flavors are more pronounced.
Celery, Artichoke, and Ricotta Spread
Yield: 1 cup
3 stalks Celery, save a few leaves for garnish at the end
1 cup Artichokes, frozen (can use canned as well, just will not need to roast them)
3 T Ricotta
1 tsp Garlic Mustard Aioli (Trader Joe's - can also use Dijon and then 1 small clove of garlic if you do not have)
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Chop the celery into small pieces, then place on a parchment-lined sheet tray with the artichokes. Roast until soft and slightly browned, about 30 minutes.
In the food processor, combine the roasted veggies, ricotta, and garlic mustard aioli. Blend until smooth - the texture will be creamy but feathery.
Season with champagne vinegar, salt, and black pepper - you will need a decent amount of all three to make this creamy spread pop. If you are going to enjoy it right away, keep at room temperature so the flavors are more pronounced.
Crispy Quinoa Cakes
Yield: 24 cakes
1 cup Quinoa
3 cloves Garlic
¼ bunch Parsley
1/3 cup Almond Meal
1/3 cup Aquafaba
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Cook the quinoa in a small pot with 2 cups water. Let cool.
Chop the shallots, garlic, and parsley fine, then combine with the quinoa.
Mix in the almond meal and aquafaba - you should be able to form small patties that hold together.
Season with salt.
On a parchment-lined sheet tray and with a 2-inch ring cutter, form cakes about ¼ -inch thick. Bake until crispy and slightly golden brown, about 25 minutes.
To Serve: While the cakes are still warm, dollop the room-temperature spreads on top and garnish as follows: toasted almonds for the romesco, lemon zest for the lentil yogurt, and celery leaf pieces for the celery artichoke. Serve and savor them right away!