How do food lovers give good wishes to someone who leaves work to go on an overseas trip? Well, we have an international potluck of course! Today, we did just that and so I decided to make a couple of Mediterranean contributions to the event. I decided to make two items for this simply because I had several leftover ingredients I knew I could use before they reached their expiry dates. Also, I recently got a new Cuisinart food processor for a birthday present and so decided I would make good use of my new kitchen addition (so far, I love that thing!).
For my first dish, I decided to make some hummus. Hummus is a delicious and satisfying vegetarian side and dip, originating in the Levant that is normally made with a base of chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice. This was my first time making hummus, and so I employed the recommendations of Viviane along with those from several recipes I reviewed on the internet and ended up whipping up the following recipe:
- 2 cans of organic chickpeas/garbanzo beans (drained)
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 3/8 cup organic lemon juice (no preservatives)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 cloves of garlic (pounded in with a mortar and pestle)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp paprika (for garnish)
1. Pound the garlic into a paste-like consistency using a mortar and pestle and scrape into the food processor with the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and salt.
2. Blend ingredients until smooth and transfer it to a serving bowl.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and sprinkle lightly with the paprika.
I served up the hummus with some Lavash bread and Falafel chips for dipping. I have never gotten so many compliments on a dish that was not a dessert! The difference between the taste of this fresh hummus and the store bought hummus is staggering! I would recommend anyone to try this out. the preparation only takes about 10 minutes and the result is one you will surely not regret!
My second dish was an Italian-style cheesecake. For this, I improvised on a cheesecake recipe I saw created by Giada Laurentiis. Basically I used her recipe for a Honey-Ricotta Cheesecake, but I replaced half of the cream cheese with mascarpone cheese and used a shortbread crust instead of using the biscotti. I also chose to slow cook the cheesecake on low temperature instead of using the water bath method during baking. The recipe as I prepared it is here:
- 12 ounces shortbread cookies
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 (15-ounce) container nonfat ricotta cheese
- 1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese
- 1 (8-ounce) container of mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup clover honey
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 4 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Finely grind the shortbread cookies in the food processor. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool the crust completely before going on.
Blend the ricotta in a clean food processor until smooth. Add the cream cheese, the mascarpone cheese, and sugar then blend well, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl. Blend in the honey and orange zest. Add the eggs and pulse until just blended.
Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Bake at 250 degrees F until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 20 minutes (the cake will firm up when it is cold).
Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold (at least 8 hours). Cut the cake into wedges and serve.
I have made this cake before and it was delicious! It is a nice representative of an Italian cheesecake for those of you that are used to the New York/American style cakes. Normally I do not add the orange zest though, and to be honest I think in this one it was a bit too potent of a flavor for the mildness of the mascarpone. One person at the potluck mentioned the strong flavor of orange, but in the end there were still only 2 small pieces of it left. If I made this again however, I would omit the zest.