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Dips, Spreads & Sandwiches

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Ain’t no party like a sweet potato party. Or a crostini party. Or a tahini party. Or a Friendsgiving party. Or a Thanksgiving soiree with all your family members you see but once or twice per year and still don’t really know what to talk about besides sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

I can’t say I’m a fan of the word ain’t. (In fact, I had to look up its spelling just for this blog post.) But, I’m a huge fan of parties, even those semi-strange family ones, and I’m  equally a fan of all the ingredients listed above.

Tahini. Sweet potatoes. Honey. Toasted walnuts and baguette. Now that’s a party in a single, not-entirely-too-awkward bite to eat.

I.e., you’re going to want to put this guy on your Thanksgiving party plate list.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Toasted Walnuts and Tahini

Aside from crostini packages that offer a ton of flavor in one fork-and-spoon-free bite, I’m a huge fan of healthy appetizers. Let’s face it, parties aren’t always the most health-friendly activities, Thanksgiving included. In fact, recent research for my day job informed me that the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, or the equivalent of the calories you’d use to jog 10 hours straight. Yowza. That’s a party in which I’m not too interested.

Luckily, this recipe packs in the nutrition, sneaking in a little protein while it’s at it. That bean-powered protein and creamy sweet potato fiber will keep you satisfied till the main meal arrives, and keep you feeling good, too.

If that sounds great to you, I invite you to kick off your next party FFFreshAir style, and let this crostini start your taste bud tango. I promise, it’s got way better dance moves than I do.

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Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

Real talk here – emojis are one of the best attributes to ever appear in the smartphone world. It’s not infrequent that I’m texting half in emoji-speak, and dying in my bed from my own emoji-induced laughter.

Emojis are great, and so are the other goofs who can appreciate them as much as I do. Hopefully that’s you, otherwise you’re probably praying for my sanity right now.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

While I am forever anticipating the creation of a carrot emoji, I can say I frequently get down with the eggplant icon while I wait. Its purple radiance, with its bright green top, does wonders to add life to my muted text messages.

Eggplant emojis, for the win.

Japanese eggplant

You know what else is an eggplant win? When you add its roasted form to your hummus. You’ll find a recipe for that below, which is essentially a babaganoush meets hummus situation that can only be described as yum-o.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Toasted Cumin

By adding roasted eggplant into the chickpea mix, you create a slightly creamier spread to smear across your toasted bread or pita. I wanted to throw a little texture back in, so I toasted up some cumin seeds and added them, too. Like poppy seeds on a cracker, their small pop works well here, and really takes the spice infusion to another level. The toasty aromatics and nuttiness you derive from the whole form of cumin seed is worth the extra step.

Spread on pita with thinly sliced cabbage, spinach, and maybe some feta, too, or serve simply as is with warm, toasted bread and a drizzle of EVOO.

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Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

I don’t do a ton of dairy.

However, like s’mores around a campfire, butternut and brie is one of my all-time favorite autumn combinations. I don’t eat it often, but when I do, I’m a happy camper.

Butternut Brie Sandwiches with Caramelized Shallots and Arugula

There’s something about the natural nuttiness of butternut squash that lends itself well to the buttery, slight earthiness of brie. Melt the one onto the softness of the other, and magic happens.

Throw in some caramelized shallots and a crusty bread to offset that cream, and true sandwich sorcery is cast.

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Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

The best Saturdays are ones where you wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and immediately start scheming lunch creations with your friend. (Foraging figs, going on a photo adventure, and scheming up breakfast, all follow close behind.)

This was the first full weekend I’ve been completely free in awhile. Two Philly mornings in a row with no set agenda. No photo gigs. No work engagements. No client meetings, camping trips, or out-of-town excursions.

While I love all of the above, it felt great. And it felt even greater once this socca landed on my Saturday plate.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

On Friday night, I saw Aziz Ansari do stand-up. His act was hilariously relatable, to say the least, ranging from riffs on the factory meat industry to creepy boys to relationship vs. single life status. He hit all the right topics, and made my abs hurt from laughing so much.

Although, there was one joke with which I just couldn’t agree. And it had to do with carrots.

Carrots

You see, Aziz claims, you walk into a house and someone’s cooking bacon, and often you’ll say, “Plate me up a few pieces!” Aziz is convinced bacon exudes a pheromone-like lust that veggies just don’t have. He says, walk into a house where someone’s steaming carrots, and you won’t find anyone screaming, “Pull me up a plate of those.”

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

But Aziz, I must tell you, you’re wrong. This carrot-loving [weirdo?] individual would far prefer carrots to bacon. And no, not for health reasons. For taste.

Carrots are hands-down my favorite, and since the mention on Friday night, my Saturday morning mind inserted them straight into that afternoon’s lunch plans.

Roasted carrots? One of fall’s best assets, if I have to say so myself. Perhaps steaming wouldn’t do the trick, but throw carrots on a baking sheet and into the oven, and I bet at least a few would be enticed by the caramelized smell they give off. Plate me up, please.

Black lentils

With the orange beauties in mind, my friend and I got to work on this fall-inspired socca pizza.

Here, carrots are roasted up, and then pureed into a slightly sweet, slightly spicy curry sauce that lends itself perfectly to a flavorful flatbread destination. Topped with salty feta, fresh cilantro and some crispy baked onions, this is a better-than-restaurant-quality meal, fit into a single cast iron pan.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You’ll find multiple steps below in making this recipe. Don’t get intimidated. Each is simple, and you can get going on many of the layers simultaneously. For instance, as the carrots roast, prep everything else.

Roasted carrots

Far better than bacon? A definite. Stemming from carrots? Heck yeah.

Roasted Curry Carrot Socca with Lentils & Feta

You tell me – what healthy fall ingredients are on your mind? Any featuring veggies that you know could out-do bacon in a heartbeat? Please share!

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Tofu Banh Mi Collard Wraps with Wasabi Peanut Sauce

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

Certain neighborhoods of Philly are infiltrated with Banh mi. The classic Vietnamese sandwich essentially acts as the Chipotle of the Asian food world, but even cheaper. You walk in, select your “meat”, and leave within 5-10 minutes with an aluminum wrapped, $5 foot-long sandwich, ready to be eaten. It’s a great feeling.

Scallions

Since it’s so easy to pick up a Banh mi around Philly, I rarely take the time to make it. Yet, it’s hands-down one of my favorites of the sandwich world, and so on the occasion that I’m getting a simultaneous desire for both Banh mi and a chef’s knife in my hand, I put on my cooking hat and grab my own tofu to be canvassed.

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

When Banh mi making is going down in my kitchen, you can nearly guarantee it’s going to have a little flair to it. What’s the point of making the original version when I can grab that anytime, with little detriment to my bank account?  Besides, if I’m recreating a dish, I’m always about finding further ways to maximize its flavor since the ingredient make-up lays entirely in my hands. No doubt, that’s going on with this recipe. Wassuppppp wasabi?

Tofu Bahn Mi Collard Wraps

I don’t eat a ton of white bread, but when it comes to Banh Mi, a chewy white roll will always oust a whole wheat counterpart. This is one instance where whole wheat just won’t work. The flavor is unfortunately just too overpowering.

Collard wraps, on the other hand, those can create some Banh Mi magic.

CollardWraps_blog11

Here, collard wraps are able to balance the delicate freshness of the traditional Banh mi composition, while adding an even extra layer of freshness on top of it all. It lightens up the whole meal, while enabling more flavor to shine through. Peel back that one-inch layer of bread, and the notes of deliciousness from the slaw, cilantro and other jamboree of ingredients are able to reach their fullest potential.

Shredded carrots

Be patient with the tofu, and make sure it gets a nice crisp so it can add that contrast to the creamy peanut sauce you’ll place beneath it.

For a fun, spicy twist, this peanut sauce receives a generous punch of wasabi that’ll make it stand out among other sauces. I love the flavor it brings to the subtle sweetness of the peanuts and the carrots.

CollardWraps_blogmontage

True to the grab-and-go nature of banh mi — but more so with the intention to make your wrap-eating a little less messy! — envelope your collard packages in aluminum foil. This will seal in all the flavors so they don’t end up on your shirt. Although, if you’re like me, that’ll probably happen anyway.

I brought that big pile up above into work last week, and served it with a slide of Asian slaw for my coworkers. Two thumbs up, all around.

Since these are destined for pre-packaging, this will makes a great recipe for your own workweek lunch. While best the first day, the wraps can certainly withstand being rolled up the night before and kept in the fridge till you head out.

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