Planning a memorable Memorial Day menu
Photos: Tina Wasserman
Roasted Carrot and Bean Dip with Harissa
By Tina Wasserman

I entertained last night. No, not in the normal way that I often do. No one was allowed in the house, the family of three were at my garden table and my husband and I were at a card table six feet away. A dip and toasted pita were placed on their table and a duplicate of that assortment was placed on ours. Water was pre-poured and food was very hot off the grill. Nothing cold, no slaw or potato salad and, for dessert, baked apples and, again, two separate plates of cookies. At dusk when the mosquitos came to greet us it was time for distanced virtual hugs and clean-up. After handling all of the plates and loading the dishwasher we put all our clothes directly into the washing machine and showered. A little over-the-top? Not really, considering I am in that age group that all the commercials are talking about. In any case, I took the opportunity to try some new recipes to add to my usual hamburgers and Italian sausage (Jack’s kosher) so here’s a new recipe for chicken, dip and baked apples. Enjoy, but stay safe!

Roasted Carrot and Bean Dip with Harissa
Adapted from a recipe by Joe Yonan

I love spicy bean dips for their nutrition and flavor. This one is very easy to make and cooks fast especially if you are using canned beans. I used dry harissa but the jars of harissa are easy to find and have more depth of flavor. Either way the caloric value of the dish drops with the use of carrots and no peeling is required.

  • 8 ounces baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon dry or paste harissa
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, made into a paste
  • 1¾ cups cooked large white beans (Cannellini, Navy or Fava beans) or 15-ounce can drained (reserve the liquid)
  • ¼ cup lightly packed mint
  • Juice and zest of ½ lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees for convection ovens or 450 degrees for traditional gas and electric ovens.
  2. On a low-rimmed cookie sheet, combine the carrots, harissa, oil, and salt and mix well until all the carrots are coated with the oil and spices.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until carrots are somewhat tender. Do not let them burn.
  4. Scrape the carrots and all the particles of harissa and oil into the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10 times to break the carrots down.
  5. Add the garlic, drained beans, mint and lemon juice and zest to the work bowl and run the processor until the mixture is quite smooth. If necessary, add 2-3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid or can liquid to the mixture to thin it out if it is too pasty.
  6. Adjust salt, if necessary, and chill until ready to serve.
    Yield: about 2 cups

Tina’s Tidbits:
• Although all varieties of canned beans are readily available, a fresh batch of cooked beans adds a different level of flavor to a dish.
• I cooked a pot of white navy beans in 20 minutes using my pressure cooker. For those who don’t know, an InstaPot is the 21st century’s pressure cooker!
• If you have the time, soak the beans covered in water after they have been microwaved for 3 minutes. In about an hour or two (or overnight) your beans will be ready to cook for 30-45 minutes until tender. Or you can use canned beans.
• The addition of liquid from the beans helps make the consistency much smoother.
• Mixture can be refrigerated for a week if no one in your house has double-dipped into the bean dip!

Grilled Spiced Chicken Thighs
Many ingredients but most you already have in your house.

  • 1¼ teaspoons ground coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon star anise pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Korean Gochugaru or red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons sweet paprika, Moroccan or Hungarian
  • ½ cup dry red or white wine
  • ¼ cup peanut or corn oil
  • Juice of 1 medium orange (about ¼ cup)
  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 thighs and 4 legs
  1. Add all 14 spices to a dry 10-inch frying pan and heat over medium heat, stirring and shaking the pan until the spices are warmed and give off a fragrant aroma. Do not let spices burn.
  2. Add the wine and stir until a paste is formed and all the wine has evaporated. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool for a while.
  3. When cool to slightly warm, add the oil and orange juice and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least ½ hour.
  4. At least 30 minutes before grilling, rub some of the spice mixture all over the chicken parts and place on a tray.
  5. Heat a grill so that the heat is around 500 degrees or Medium on a grill gauge.
  6. Grill the chicken for 15-20 minutes, turning chicken over every 5 minutes to uniformly grill. Chicken is done when the flesh feels firm but not hard when gently pressed.
  7. Remove from the grill and let the parts rest for 5 minutes before serving so the juices are re-absorbed.
    Serves 4 or more if other meats are grilled as well.

Tina’s Tidbits:
• I keep all of my brown spices in the freezer to keep them from going rancid. This is especially important if you do not use a particular spice often.
• Try buying small quantities of unusual spices like cardamom or coriander and freezing them so that you can have them as needed without having spent a fortune purchasing them for one recipe. Many supermarkets have spice sections for your needs where you can spoon out more or less than what is found in small jars commercially made.
• Peanut or corn oils are recommended because they have a high smoking point and would be less likely to flare up when grilling. 

Baked Apples

This recipe was made VERY popular in the 1950s by Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers. I rarely drink soda and NEVER drink diet soda but this recipe works beautifully either lo-cal or regular. If you have been complaining that you’ve put on some weight while staying at home, here is the perfect dessert for you. Try it; I bet you will like it!

  • 4 apples (Honey Crisp, Fuji, Gala or Jonathan)
  • ¼ cup dark raisins
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 8-ounce or 12-ounce can diet or regular Coca-Cola
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  2. Wash the apples and core them, removing all seeds. Place the apples in an 11×9-inch glass baking dish.
  3. Using a small demitasse spoon, spoon some cinnamon into the cavity of each apple. Pack the cavity with raisins and then sprinkle some more cinnamon on top.
  4. Using diet or regular Coca-Cola, pour the soda over the apples and through each cavity. A pool of soda will form in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or longer until the apples appear soft and most, but not all, of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Serve warm with some of the syrup from the pan poured over the apple. If you want you can serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.
    Serves: 4

Tina’s Tidbits:
• I love the taste of Honey Crisp apples but many of you like Fuji or Gala better. That’s fine. Just keep in mind that a firm, crisp apple will never get super-soft and might require more baking time to get soft.
• If you like very soft baked apples choose McIntosh or Jonathan apples but NEVER use a Red Delicious! They have been bred to stay firm and bright red but are generally tasteless.

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