When I turned 13 years old, my grandparents gave me the gift of a summer in Israel in honor of my bat mitzvah. I lived on a kibbutz, worked in the orchards and the chicken coops, and learned to love foods I'd never tasted before, like pomegranates, which we plucked from our own trees, and falafel, and hummus. It's so easy to make your own hummus. All you need are canned chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), garlic (essential), olive oil, and a food processor or blender. Add whatever flavorings you have in the pantry. I love this sun-dried tomato and basil hummus; if you have your own slow-roasted tomatoes, substitute those for a more intense tomato flavor.
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When Kathy sent me this recipe, passed along from a friend who got it from an old New England cookbook, she warned me that it was good. Really good. Addictively good. So I wasn't entirely surprised when she and I tested a slightly lightened-up version of the original shrimp appetizer with tarragon, substituting Greek yogurt for half of the butter, and the two of us ate all four portions for lunch. We used shrimp labeled "jumbo", the 16-20 per pound size, so, yes, we each scarfed down eight (okay, ten) shrimp, and mopped up every last drop of sauce with slices of crusty bread. This is the kind of appetizer or light lunch entrée you can serve at a fancy dinner party or for any special occasion. For us, an abundance of French tarragon in the herb garden provided ample reason to celebrate.
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Cantaloupe, casaba, crenshaw, canary: I adore melon, and not just the orange-fleshed ones. Squirt some fresh lime on chunks of ripe, juicy melon, and I'm in breakfast or dessert heaven. Still, I'm in a shake-it-up mood these days when it comes to old favorites in the kitchen (remember the maple cinnamon matzoh brei). So, inspired by mint coming up in my garden, I decided to try slices of melon with a lime, peanut and mint topping. You'll see fish sauce in the list of ingredients; before you turn up your nose, let me assure you the topping is not fishy. It's just pleasantly, vaguely Thai, and the balance of the tart sauce with the sweet melon will make you wish every Thai restaurant in your neighborhood had this dish on its menu.
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Just in time for holiday weekend entertaining, here's an easy roasted eggplant spread (or dip, or side dish, or sandwich stuffer or pasta topper) with garlic, red bell pepper and onions, that takes less than ten minutes of work time and can be made in advance. It's vegan, gluten-free, and finger-lickin' good. Who could ask for anything more? The pairing of eggplant and red pepper might remind you of caponata; the addition of cumin echoes the flavor of baba ghanoush. Two Facebook friends suggested using this spread in lasagne or in a wrap -- both great ideas that show off the versatility of the recipe. I've gone with fresh parsley here, because it's always available in my local market, but later in the summer, when I have abundant herbs in the garden, I'll substitute with basil or mint, or some of each.
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