Ajvar

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Ajar is a  delicious Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread. It’s really simple to make, too.  Vine Vukicevic, my Pilates coach, introduced me to ajvar.  She is from Bosnia and tells me that no house in the former Yugoslavia is ever without this tasty spread.  She always looked forward to arriving home after school and enjoying it as a snack, spread on bread and sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese. Once I learned to make ajar, it quickly became a popular appetizer at my house – I spread goat cheese over toast triangles or crackers and top them with a good dollop of this instant, positively ambrosial treat. 

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Parsnip Soup Shooters

How’s this for cold-weather hospitality? If you are entertaining on a chilly night, start the evening with a welcoming shooter of hot soup. I serve this parsnip soup in espresso or demi-tasse coffee cups before a glass of wine. It makes about 16 shooters.

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Chile-Spiked Chocolate Pots

This is an updated version of classic French pots de crème. You won’t taste the chile, but it adds appealing depth to the flavor of the chocolate. Served with a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is a welcome indulgence.

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Spinach and Tomato Dal

 

Dal can be pungent or very tame, and it plays a significant role in Indian cuisine. This mildly spiced version makes a delicious main course over hot cooked rice; it can also be served as a side dish.

 

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Middle Eastern Walnut Dip (Muhammara)

 

 

Depending upon the source you consult, this roasted red pepper and walnut dip is Armenian, Arabian, Turkish or Syrian in origin. In any case, it is healthful, delicious and a welcome addition to any mezes platter. I like to serve it with warm pita bread or cucumber slices. If you are not meat-averse, this dip can also be used as a sauce for kebabs.

 

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Thai-Style Grilled Chile Salsa (Nam Prik Num)

 

This recipe hails from northern Thailand. It is a kind of all-purpose sauce: you can use it as a dip for rice crackers or raw vegetables, or as a topping for plain rice or noodles, or stir-fried vegetables. Depending on the chile you use, it can be a bit fiery—that’s to be expected, as it is Thai, after all.

 

Thai-Style Grilled Chile Salsa (Nam Prik Num)
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Ingredients
  1. Grill basket or baking sheet required
  2. Food processor required
  3. 5 hot banana peppers
  4. 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
  5. 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  6. 8 oz cherry tomatoes (about 11⁄2 cups/375 mL) 250 g
  7. 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro 30 mL
  8. 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 30 mL
  9. 1 tbsp fish sauce 15 mL
  10. Salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat barbecue to high or preheat broiler
  2. 1. Place banana peppers, shallots and garlic in a grill basket on preheated barbecue or arrange on a baking sheet and place under preheated broiler. Grill or broil, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking, until shallots and garlic are blackened and pepper skin is blistered, about 8 minutes for garlic and shallots, and 10 minutes for peppers.
  3. 2. Transfer peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate and let cool enough to handle. Remove stems and lift off skins. Transfer peppers along with accumulated juices to food processor fitted with the metal blade.
  4. 3. Add shallots and garlic and pulse until chopped and well combined, 5 or 6 times. Add tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and fish sauce and pulse until chopped and well combined, about 5 times. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and let stand at room temperature until the flavors are melded, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
  5. Makes about 2 cups (500 mL)
Notes
  1. Tips
  2. You want a relatively large and not-too-hot chile for this salsa—that is the best substitute for the prik num chile that would likely be used in this recipe
Judith Finlayson http://judithfinlayson.com/

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Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup

 

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In Chinese medicine, which is fundamentally based on the balancing principles of yin and yang, heating foods are those that warm the body, feeding it with energy. Balance, which includes establishing equilibrium among the five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami), helps the body’s vital spirit, called qi, to flow freely and support excellent health. Need I say more? Hot, sour, salty, sweet and loaded with umami from the soy sauce and mushrooms, which are also known to strengthen the immune system, this soup has all the makings of a restorative tonic. And it tastes good, too!

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Mexican-Style Tomato Juice (Sangrita)

Whip up this Mexican-inspired spicy tomato-citrus juice during the dog days of summer, when tomatoes are abundant and in season. It’s a delicious nonalcoholic refreshment, but if you want to liven up the experience, add a dash of vodka or (as they often do in Mexico) a splash of tequila.

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Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

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If you have the ingredients on hand, this tasty dip can be ready to serve in about 5 minutes. Serve it with crudités, crackers or pumpernickel rounds for an elegant appetizer at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

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