Hummus with Jalapeño Pesto and Marinated Olive And Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter at all and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden or picked up at the farmer’s market during one of our leisurely Sunday strolls. I look forward to the farmer’s market (and my favorite fruit stand) opening all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, it’s been a regular weekend tradition and somehow signifies to my brain ‘summer is just around the bend.’

This idea, of course, is ridiculously preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss on its very best year, not to mention not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. But never mind that. My point is that my adoration for our wonderful agriculturally rich Valley goes into overdrive and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, growing and ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas to add additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smokey, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad.

Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp buttery chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal I can think of.

Hummus

• 2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup tahini

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic

• Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

• 1 bunch cilantro

• ½ bunch parsley

• 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces

• 1 jalapeno chili, stem and seeds removed

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic

• Juice of 1 lime

• Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 1 ½ cups olive oil

• 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)

• 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

• 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.

Spring Salad Flatbread

As the weather begins to shift, my taste buds seem to be doing the same. I don’t want the soups and roasts that sustained us through the winter. I’m ready for fresh, light and bright flavor.

A friend of mine visited a few weeks ago and as our kids ran through the house laughing and playing, we decided we should probably feed them (and ourselves) at some point. I started rummaging through my fridge looking for things the kids would want to eat. I pulled some naan bread from the freezer and we made the kids easy cheese pizzas. Naan bread, if you aren’t familiar, is a Middle Eastern flatbread similar to a pita bread. It is soft and chewy and makes an excellent pizza crust stand-in. You can certainly make it at home but you can also buy it at your local grocery store in the bakery section. I typically keep a package in my freezer for quick meals when we need them.

We eat a lot of pizza at my house. It seems to be our go-to meal. I’m sure it has something to do with having three young kids in the house but I also like experimenting with flavors and ingredients. I’ve been dreaming about an wood fire pizza oven. We’re planning on updating our patio space a little but my husband wants a Traeger. Which, in all fairness, I could probably make some mean pizza on that too. We’ll see. It’s fun to dream about summer nights spent outside. Pizza oven or not.

I decided to take a stab at an artichoke and lemon flatbread recipe I had bookmarked as a light dinner for my friend and I. We devoured our dinner, loving the bright lemon finish with the tangy artichokes and creamy mozzarella. I set out to tweak the recipe until I got it ‘just right.’

As much as I love to make my own pizza crust when I have the time, for this recipe, the naan bread works beautifully. Artichokes marinated in olive oil (store bought in a jar), goat cheese, mozzarella and a heavy sprinkle of lemon zest create the foundation for the flatbread. When it comes out of the oven bubbly and cheesy, you pile an arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and lots of black pepper high on the pizza. The combination of the lemony greens with the artichokes and tangy goat cheese is essentially spring in a bite. Even better, if you have the ingredients on hand, this quick meal comes together in 15-20 minutes including prep and cooking.

Spring Salad Flatbread

  • 1 Naan flatbread
  • 4-6 artichoke pieces, slightly drained, rough chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon (you will need the juice and zest)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the naan bread on a baking sheet or metal pizza pan. Spread the artichokes evenly across the flatbread. Sprinkle the cheeses, basil and red pepper flakes evenly over the flatbread. Zest half the lemon and sprinkle lemon zest on flatbread. Set lemon aside. Cook the flatbread for 10-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheeses are bubbly and melted. While the flatbread cooks, make the arugula salad. In a small bowl toss two cups of greens with lemon juice (squeeze the lemon over the greens) and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper.

When the flatbread comes out of the oven, pile as much (or little) of the salad onto the warm pizza. Slice and enjoy.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad

It’s official. I’m ready for spring. I’ve got patches of green grass in my yard and tulips sticking an inch or two out of the ground in my flower beds. There’s a seed catalog on the table next to my bed and I’ve started making notes on what I want to grow this year.

I’m thinking lots of tomatoes and basil, zucchini, bell peppers of every color, lots of herbs and my favorite: giant sunflowers, dozens of them if possible.

I think all this dreaming of spring got started when we ate dinner at my sister-in-law’s house over the weekend, she made the most quintessential spring meal. We had barbecued salmon and a shaved Brussel sprout salad with the biggest fruit salad I’ve ever seen. For dessert she made a lemon tart that just screamed summer days and warm evenings on the patio. We savored that lovely meal and talked about summer plans. We dreamed about hot summer days spent at the pool and fun hikes to take the kids on.

I know I’m jumping the gun a little, but a girl can dream…right? With all that talk of spring, I was in the mood for something light and refreshing. I am always looking for way to convince (trick?) my kids into eating more greens and this salad did just that.

Mixed greens and spinach are dotted with homemade sourdough croutons and a dash of grated parmesan cheese. The Caesar dressing is quick and easy to put together. It’s just tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard and a hint of garlic. The dressing is fresh, light and full of bright lemon flavor.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons

Croutons

  • 2-3 cups cubed sourdough bread (cut 4-5 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher sea salt

Salad

  • 5 ounces mixed salad greens (spinach, kale, romaine…whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Fresh ground black pepper

To make the croutons, preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cubed bread evenly in one layer on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and toss well to combine. Put the tray in the oven and toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring the bread at least once so that the croutons cook evenly. This is a fast process, don’t walk away from your oven or the croutons will burn. About 2 minutes on each side.

For the dressing, mix the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt in a jar. Stir until well-combined. Slowly add the water until you get your desired texture. I like a thinner dressing so I add the full 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in black pepper to taste.

To assemble your salad, combine the salad green, parmesan cheese and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle the salad with dressing. I used about half the dressing and saved the rest in the refrigerator for another day. Toss gently. Garnish with a lemon wedge (squeeze lemon juice over individual salads). Salad serves 4-5 side salads or two generous dinner salads. A piece of grilled chicken or salmon on top the salad would make a complete and delicious meal.

Grilled Corn and Jalapeño Salad


To try and beat the smoke and heat we’ve all been enduring the last couple weeks, I’ve been loading up my kids and heading out on adventures in Chinook and White Pass. As someone who has always loved the outdoors, these last few weeks of exploring and playing with my kids has been the highlight of our summer.

I stopped in at the Naches Ranger Station on Highway 12 last week and found the staff helpful and enthusiastic. I haven’t hiked much with young kids and had no idea the access and availability to hiking and walking trails all around our region. The station has a plethora of maps, guide books, activities for kids and lots of other resources.

Our first hike was up to Boulder Cave in Chinook Pass. An easy hike for all ages, my kids had so much fun exploring the cave and nearby waterfall. A friend recommended we hike down the river where we could find a small natural waterslide. We spent hours sliding down the rock slide and splashing through the river. We ate lunch on a big rock while our shoes dried in the sun and finally drove home hours later, tired and happy from such a fun day together.

It was the simplest day but one I think we will remember for years. The adage of less is more proves true over and over again in life and certainly in cooking, especially when the ingredients are local and in peak season. My local fruit stand has corn on the cob, four for a dollar, and my family can’t get enough of the crunchy sweet vegetable.

We grill it on the barbecue and slather it in butter, or use it to make a variety of salads. A family favorite is corn, red bell pepper, fresh basil and a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and a dash of sugar and olive oil. To me nothing says summer like fresh corn.

My absolute favorite flavor profile is sweet and savory together (I will always always say yes to fruit on pizza) so when I started thinking about a corn salad recipe I knew it needed to have a little heat to compliment the sweetness of the corn. After perusing lots of corn salad recipes and thinking about some incredible street corn I had last summer, this salad is what I came up with. Crunchy sweet corn gets a little heat from jalapeno but stays cool with avocados and a creamy lime dressing. Serve alongside whatever you’re grilling and everyone will be thrilled.


Grilled Corn and Jalapeno Salad

• 6 ears of corn, grilled

• 1 jalapeno, finely diced

• 2 medium avocados, diced

• 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

• 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (cojita or feta work great too)

• ½ cup plain greek yogurt

• The juice of 2 limes

• ½ teaspoon cumin

• ¼ teaspoon chili powder

• Dash of cayenne

• Dash of smoked paprika

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

Start by peeling the husk off the corn. Over medium heat, grill the corn on each side for about 2 minutes until the corn turns deep yellow and grill marks begin to appear. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a knife to shave the kernals off the cob into a large bowl. Gently stir in jalapeno, goat cheese, avacados and cilantro.

In a small bowl mix together lime juice, yogurt, chili powder and cumin. Pour over the corn mixture and stir until well-combined. Salt and pepper the salad, tasting to make sure the proportions are right. Add more salt or an extra spoonful of yogurt if needed. Lightly sprinkle cayenne and smoked paprika over the salad before serving.

Hummus Salad

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We are in the dog days of summer at my house. Is that still a term? It’s very hot outside and as much as I’m a sun-loving summer girl through and through, the warm wind that picks up in the evenings has never been more appreciated.

My children run wild through the house; building forts, making ‘experiments,’ eating endless snacks and alternating between begging me to take them swimming and crashing on the couch in pure exhaustion.  They smell like chlorine and their cheeks and shoulders are always a touch pink. My lawn is a little brown from the high temperatures regardless of how often the sprinklers run and popsicles are not just a special after-dinner treat but an appropriate breakfast, lunch or dinner.

With young kids in the house, we alternate between trying to take advantage of every glorious spare moment of summer and giving each other the side eye as we stare down the barrel of another free day together. I grudgingly flipped through the paper calendar hanging on the wall a few days ago, and couldn’t believe summer break is halfway over already. I’ve got more adventures planned for those crazy kids of mine, and if you’re like me, and the heat and busyness of summer is getting to you a little bit, then this is the dish for you.

I don’t know how this idea never occurred to me before but considering we eat an excessive amount of hummus at my house, this was a quick, fresh dish that doubles as an appetizer or an easy dinner when it’s just too hot to even think about turning on the oven. Homemade hummus is easy to make and even easier to tweak to fit your personal preferences. Use this recipe as a guide. The same goes for the salad toppings. I’ve made this dish a couple times now and every time I use slightly different ingredients for the salad. Last week I added Kalamata olives and crumbled feta. As always, you could buy store-bought hummus and layer the salad on top of that for a quick crowd-pleasing dish.

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Hummus Salad

For the Hummus:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup water, or more if needed

Using a food processor, blend all the ingredients EXCEPT the water until smooth. Add in the water and continue blending until the hummus reaches a nice smooth consistency, adding additional water if necessary. Allow food processor to blend ingredients for a full 2 minutes so that the hummus is very smooth and creamy.

For the Salad:

  • 1 medium English cucumber, chopped into ½ pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a medium bowl combine cucumber, tomatoes, roasted peppers and shallot. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Gently mix in fresh herbs. Taste and add more salt or herbs if needed.

On a plate, spread hummus evenly. Layer salad over hummus. Serve with naan bread, baguette or chips and crackers. Salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day but is best served immediately.

Grandma’s Potato Salad

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My grandma was famous for her potato salad. It’s a simple recipe, but something about the way she made it was special. She had a giant vintage white bowl dedicated specifically for this salad and anytime my dad would walk through the back door of her house and see it sitting out on the counter, he would cheer in delight. If he happened to walk through the back door and it wasn’t on the counter, he would rummage through the refrigerator checking for it. If potato salad wasn’t on the menu that night, well I think you can imagine the (good-natured) teasing and pouting that my grandma had to deal with from her grown son and whoever else happened to be invited to dinner.

My grandma made potato salad for family and friends well into her eighties, always a double or triple batch served from her special bowl. My parents have the big white bowl at their house now and my mom makes the recipe a few times each summer. In the last couple years, I’ve tried my hand at making the salad.

This recipe is completely from memory and taste; as so many of the most special recipes usually are. I don’t think my grandma ever wrote her recipes down. She was an intuitive home cook, with zero training but an arsenal of recipes her family and friends loved and requested time and time again.

My dad always has a few pointers based on what he remembers and whenever I make the salad for him, I try and do it exactly the way my grandma made it. But when I make a batch to take to a barbecue or just for my little family, I tweak it slightly by adding more fresh herbs to make it my own. The only real secret to this very simple recipe is patience and high-quality ingredients. Let your potatoes and hard-boiled eggs cool completely. Don’t rush this step or the texture won’t be the same. Also, use the best quality mayonnaise you can.

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Grandma’s Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds baby red and yellow potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons, finely chopped dill
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, boil washed and cut potatoes for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are fork tender but still firm. Drain completely and set aside to cool. Hard-boil eggs. I put room temperature eggs into a pot of cold water and cover with a lid. Using my gas stove, I turn the heat to high and boil the eggs for exactly 11 minutes (set a timer). When the timer goes off, remove from heat and drain the water from the eggs. Set the hard-boiled eggs aside to cool. When the potatoes and eggs have cooled completely, you are ready to assemble your salad.

Start by chopping the celery, herbs and eggs. My grandma always diced the eggs and celery in smaller pieces than the potatoes. In a large bowl, mix together potatoes, eggs, celery, green onions and herbs setting aside a teaspoon of chopped dill. Using a spatula, gently mix the mayonnaise with the vegetables. Salt and pepper liberally and taste to make sure the ratios are how you like it. Add a little more mayonnaise or salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with the last teaspoon of dill. Cover and refrigerate if you aren’t going to serve immediately.

Summer Couscous Salad

Here is this week’s post for the Yakima Herald. I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation on the proposed downtown plaza this week in addition to attending several wonderful events in the heart of the city over the last couple weeks. As easy as it is to criticize the places we live (Yakima or anywhere really), I’m challenging myself to look at where I live with a new lens, looking for the good and positive, because it doesn’t take much to start seeing it everywhere I go.

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My husband and I happened to be downtown on Thursday evening to meet friends for dinner. We were on our way to Crafted, a new restaurant, which just opened on First Street in the old Barrel House. As we drove down Yakima Avenue I was blown away to see how many people were out and about that night. Families were walking into and away from the Downtown Summer Nights concert series on North Front Street, restaurants were spilling over with people sitting on patios enjoying the beautiful weather and we even had to circle once in the parking lot before finding a place to park.

I’ve never been so happy to have to look for a place to park. It was good to see downtown bustling with people. It felt downright urban in the loveliest small-town way, of course, but a breath of fresh air nonetheless. With several restaurants newly opened with rumors of more on the way along with activities like the free weekly concert series, live music at various wineries and coffee shops downtown and the Farmer’s Market on Sundays, the place to be is downtown Yakima.

This summer couscous salad is a little like downtown Yakima. Surprisingly lovely, fresh and fun but easy to pass over unless you give it a try. Whole wheat couscous is cooked in chicken broth and fresh ginger, cinnamon and turmeric and then mixed with vegetables, dates, raisins, chickpeas and heaps of fresh parsley. Fresh lemon juice at the end adds a lovely little zing to every bite. This is the perfect dish to make on Sunday after a trip to the Farmer’s Market and keep in the refrigerator all week for easy lunches. Add some grilled chicken to make this salad a complete meal.

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Summer Couscous Salad

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 14oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • The juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot stir together the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off, mix in the couscous, stir well. Cover with lid and set aside for 15 minutes. When the couscous is fully cooked, stir in raisins and dates. In a large bowl combine zucchini, carrots, onion, red pepper, chickpeas and almonds. Fluff the couscous with a fork and mix it into the vegetables. Whisk together the remaining olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the salad. Garnish with fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Taste to see if the salad needs more seasonings and add whatever you like to get the flavor you’re looking for. Serve at room temperature or cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.