Farmers Market Vegetables with Old El Paso® Mexican “Hummus” Dip

Old El Paso® Mexican “Hummus” Dip and Simple Summer Entertaining

I don’t know about your summer, but mine has been a whirlwind of entertaining and being entertained. When shopping for clients, or traveling in new locals, I always love to visit the farm stands and Farmers Markets in addition to my usual purveyors. Out of all the markets I have been too , I have to say the Ferry Plaza one in San Francisco is one of my favorites. Chicago doesn’t slouch in that category either. Green City Market attracts locals and the movers and shakers of the culinary world . But my all time  favorite one is in Vienna , the Naschmarkt.

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There is nothing so pleasing to eye and taste buds than fresh produce and food, and the farmers and artisans, and chefs who present them. Simple , beautiful, pure taste. One thing I’m noticing from my clients and the parties I attend, is they simple classic down home fare.  Nothing complex, just the good food speaking for itself without any hocus pocus and additional fanfare. I went to a well known philanthropists annual birthday fete, and the most memorable dish was a simple shrimp and clam boil stand with new potatoes and fresh chucked corn. My clients have been requesting simple roasts, root vegetable gratins, fried green tomatoes sliders, artful salads, and fruitful desserts.

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In another assignment for Old El Paso, I was tasked with using Old El Paso products to complement the wonderful bounty form the summers Farmers Markets. Taking an everyday trendy staple, with Middle Eastern Roots, I played on the legume theme of a classic hummus , using Old El Paso traditional Refried beans instead. Forget Pita, and use Old El Paso Flour Tortillas , deep fried as your tasty chip sprinkled with Sea Salt. A sprinkle of sumac on top of the hummus and WOW. Be creative with your crudite. Give a quick blanch and ice bath to keep its crunchiness. Use various small glasses or verrines, and cutouts to make an artful display and impress your guests with a healthy starter .



Old El Paso® Mexican “Hummus” Dip and Simple Summer Entertaining
Prep time: 
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There is a beauty and nature and summers riot of vegetables available at the local Farmers Market. When we shop at them , we feel connected with our earth and community. The past decade, hummus, a Middle Eastern dish of pureed chickpeas, lemon, garlic and chickpeas has become a household staple in American homes and parties. Why not take this recipe and use Old El Paso Refried Beans for a tasty twist on this exotic , and healthy recipe? Serve it up in a spectacular arrangement of vegetables from the farmers market and deep fried soft Old El Paso tortilla wedges seasoned with Sea Salt. Your guests and family will be wowed!
  • Mexican Hummus
  • 1 can Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup Tahini
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 cloves garlic minced finely
  • ¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. The fruitier the better.
  • Additional olive oil for finish drizzle
  • 1 teaspoon Sumac for garnish ( found in Middle Eastern section of grocery)
  • Vegetable Tray
  • 1 head cauliflower (blanched and plunged into ice water)
  • 1 /2 lb green beans (blanched and plunged into ice water)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 Sweet Red Pepper
  • 1 pot of boiling salt water
  • Deep Fried Soft Tortillas Wedges
  • 1 package Old El Paso Soft Tortillas
  • Canola Oil For frying ( approx 2-3 cups )
  • Sea Salt
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  2. Make an ice bath in a large bowl.
  3. In a glass bowl combine all ingredients, except finishing oil and sumac, for the Hummus. Take and immersion hand blender and pulse until you have a smooth paste.
  4. Place in serving dish. Drizzle with oil and sumac. Cover loosely and keep refrigerated until serving.
  5. Prep and cut vegetables. Be creative and use cutters for carrots, ripple slicer for squash and zucchini, etc. Add cut vegetable to ice bath to keep color and crispness.
  6. Plunge cauliflower florets and trimmed green beans in to boiling water to blanch for a few seconds. Quickly remove from water with strainer, and add to the ice bath to stop cooking and retain color.
  7. Arrange on platter with dip.
  8. Heat up Deep Fryer at 350-375°.
  9. Cut small piles of soft tortillas into eights wedges.
  10. Fry in small batches until golden. Drain on paper towels and salt.
  11. Serve with vegetable platter.
Use your favorite vegetables that inspire you. Get creative with presentation. I use bud vases inside glasses to create a more dimensional serving effect. Add some spice of powdered chili instead of sumac, if you prefer your dip on the spicy side. Substitute fresh jalapenos for sundried tomatoes too. Keep it all chilled as the party goes on. Use trays on top of ice.

Happy Summer Eating. Visit the New Old El Paso site for other great ideas and see my recipes here.

Salad Nicoise in Belgian Endive Cups

In Chicago these days, it feel as if summer is here. My favorite things in summer are the lake, a chilled rose, gelato ,cold beer,and amazing salads. One of my favorite salads when I lived in Paris was a Salad Nicoise. I remember on sunny days, I would order one with friends at a sidewalk cafe near school and  watch the world go by, as I munched on crisp vegetables and salty briny anchovies, olives, and capers. Lately I’ve been toying with an idea in my head. Making a micro Salad Nicoise as a small plate starter or appetizer. Rather than using lettuce, I made” boats” of Belgian Endive.  The purists would say that’s not Salad Nicoise. Well Salad Nicoise  is open to interpretation. Usually one things of lettuce greens,boiled eggs, tuna, tomato, potatoes, green beans, anchovies, capers,and black olives. There may be onion, garlic, shallots as well. Some people use artichokes, red peppers, and never add cooked vegetables. Some people omit the tuna. It’s really up to taste how you want to compose this rustic country salad based on seasons. I thought the use of endive leaves and small quail eggs would be elegant. A guest can pop these in their mouth with two or more bites, or they can eat it with a knife and fork as a small amuse bouche or starter for summer brunch. It’s all about presentation.

Salad Nicoise as a Small Appetizer
Recipe type: salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: approx 24
A small plate version of Salad Nicoise
  • 1 small potato, peeled and boiled
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons shallots minced
  • 6 quail eggs boiled
  • ½ cup green beans blanched
  • grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can of oil packed tuna of good quality
  • 1 small jar anchovy fillets
  • 7 oil cured olives pitted and sliced into small quarters
  • salt packed capers
  • 2-3 heads Belgian Endive
  • For the dressing...
  • ½ cup Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel and Boil a small potato. Remove from hot water and carefully slice and cube.
  2. Add to a small bowl with the minced shallots, Italian Seasoning, Sherry Vinegar, and Olive Oil,salt and pepper. Set aside and chill.
  3. Boil Quails Eggs for approx 5 minutes and remove from heat. Peel and set aside and chill.
  4. Prep green beans by cutting trimming ends and cutting in half, then slicing lengthwise.
  5. Place green beans in rapidly boiling salted water for 1 minute . Drain and run cold water over them. Set aside and chill.
  6. Quarter the small cherry or grape tomatoes in bite size pieces. Set aside and chill.
  7. Pit and prep your olives.
  8. Wash the Belgian Endive. Cut off the flat ends. Gently pull each leave from top , and out to break away from the head. 2 heads makes approx 15 nice size "boats"
  9. Arrange your Mise en place with all the components ( potato shallot mixture, boiled quail eggs,tomatoes, olives, tuna, anchovies, capers)
  10. Make a vinaigrette emulsion with the olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. (Use a whisk or immersion blender).
  11. Carefully take a endive leaf.
  12. Add a small spoon full of the potato shallot mixture in oil. Spread evenly
  13. Add a few flakes of tuna.
  14. Carefully slice a quail egg and place a few slices on top
  15. Arrange 2 tomato quarters.
  16. Add 2 pieces of green bean.
  17. Cut an anchovy fillet in half and place a piece on top.
  18. Add a few slices of olive,
  19. Finish with a few capers.
  20. Drizzle with a bit of the dressing and serve cold.
All the components can be prepped ahead and chilled.



Cotechino and Lentils from Creminelli for the New Year and a Giveaway

I remember a  few years ago I entered a Twitter discussion with Divina Cucina on various ethnic culinary New Years traditions. Its interesting the similarities  and differences that can be found between a African American soul food and Italian fare. I grew up eating the mandatory southern influenced   black eye peas and greens to bring in wealth for the new year. The Italians celebrate with a gelatinous  fatty salami that is slow cooked and lentils, which represent coins.

So boy was I happy when a representative from Creminelli asked me if I was interested in sampling some of their products. A little back story here, earlier in the year I had the fortune to actually meet the owner Cristiano Creminelli at a intimate tasting of his products in a  local wine bar. It was very personal and the table got to hear his story of how his family , produced cured meats since the 1600’s in Italy. Cristiano ended up in Utah  to spread the wealth of his family’s knowledge and artistry to the American consumer. I  felt bad I didn’t write up a post that evening. I was late , my pictures were  bad, and the daily grind just overwhelmed me. Now I have a chance to do the brand justice ! I received some wild boar Mortadella and the Cotechiono in the mail to try.

So for the New Year I want to share a recipe and give you a chance to sample the amazing artisan products from Creminelli for the US market.  Now normally Cotechino is slow cooked for hours, but the Creminelli brand only requires 20 minutes of poaching in its plastic pouch.

Cotechino and Lentils from Creminelli for the New Year
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
An Italian New Year's dish of a boiled salami and lentils
  • 1 8 oz bag of lentils
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon duck or chicken fat
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • Bay Leaf
  • 2 cups or water or stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Creminelli Cotechino
  1. Cook the Cotechino according to the instructions. It should be boiled for 30 minutes in its plastic pouch and set aside until ready to plate.
  2. In a skillet heat the duck fat.
  3. Add the diced onion, garlic, bay leaf . Saute until softened.
  4. Add the dry lentils and stir to coat with the fat and minced onion, garlic.
  5. Add the liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover.
  6. Cook until tender about 30 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary.
  7. Remove the Cotechino from it's plastic pouch and remove the casing.
  8. Slice and place on the platter of lentils.
  9. Serve warm with mustard.
I did not pre soak my lentils as there is no need to. Many recipes call for the lentils to be soaked for 24 hours. Lentils really don't require soaking and cook very fast.


I will be giving away a Gourmet Artisan Salami Mix from Creminelli. Just leave a comment  sharing your culinary  New Years traditions and spread the word  and follow me via twitter as well. If you already follow me that’s great too! Just  Tweet  ” I just entered to win a Salami Mix from @glamah & @creminelli ”  and post the link for a chance at a second entry and leave a separate comment below. Each comment counts as one separate entry( the New Years tradition and the tweet).

  • This giveaway is only open to US residents.
  • The winner will be chosen randomly .
  • The salami mix will be shipped by Creminelli and will consist of  Barolo, Tartufo and Wild Boar salami (1.5 lbs) a $45 value. One basket per giveaway.
  • No shipping to PO Boxes or overseas due to the sensitive nature of the products.

To all my readers Certain Someone and I would like to wish you a  blessed New Year full of light and peace. Thank you for reading Coco Cooks throughout the years.

Shrimp Risotto

I made this recipe for shrimp risotto a few months ago when Fava Beans were full on in season. If you made it today I suggest perhaps substituting fresh shucked peas or maybe even fresh garbanzos . I see the fresh garbanzos in the local Latin markets all the time. If one were to tabulate the top all time carb loaded comfort foods, risotto would be right up there. The beauty of Risotto is that’s a vessel for all sorts of protein and ingredients. The possibilities are endless. With fall approaching imagine the butternut squash risottos coming along. One of my favorite risottos is one made with Barolo wine with shavings of cheese. I must make that for the blog one day. I’m getting into an Italian frame of mind as Certain Someone and I are leaving for Rome  next month. I’m literally counting the days and hours. Aside from a sleepy border town on my way driving to Lugano, I have never really been to to Italy.

A proper Risotto, which is actually Northern Italian in origin, requires a semi soft grained rice like Arborio, Carnaroli, or less common Vialone. These rice varieties are high in starch content and more glutenous. For this Risotto I used Carnaroli, which is pricier than Arborio, but preferred for risotto. The grains cooks soft , yet retain their shape and firmness throughout the process.The key to Risotto is to slowly simmer your rice and ingredients while slowly adding small batches of liquid stock, while constantly stirring.The effort yields a rich, creamy and satisfying dish. Yet its not complicated at all. I like to use leftover risotto to make a breaded fried rice ball called Arancini. Imagine a dinner al fresco with some cold crisp Prosecco to wash it all down with.


Shrimp Risotto

  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli  rice
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups fish or vegetable stock *I made my own from leftover fish bones and heads after filleting.
  • 1 lb fresh , deveined, shelled shrimp  coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup shelled Fava beans or peas
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • White Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  1. In a skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat until melted.
  2. Add minced garlic and soften.
  3. Add Carnaroli rice and heat for a few minutes to allow the flavors of the garlic and oils to coat to the grains. Stir while cooking.
  4. Add salt, pepper,thyme.
  5. Add about 3/4 cup of the stock as it slowly simmers while stirring. The rice will absorb the liquid.
  6. Add the raw shrimp that has been chopped coarsely, broccoli, and shelled fava beans or peas. Stir into rice mixture and add another cup of fish stock.
  7. Continue to add the remaining liquid slowly , as the rice absorbs the liquid as you stir constantly.
  8. The shrimp will lose its opaqueness and turn pink as the rice cooks slowly and takes in the liquid.
  9. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese


Spring Garlic Oil Poached Tuna with Cannellini and Fava Beans

Certain Someone and I just spent an amazing long weekend in San Francisco. My head is still reeling from all the sensational tastes, sights, and sounds of our trip. San Francisco and the whole Bay Area is truly a culinary inspiration, and no wonder so many great chefs gravitate to the region. Can you really be  a bad cook in San Francisco with all the great offerings? It’s insane. I have so much to write about this short little visit, but that will come later. One thing I was itching to do was get back to my kitchen and experiment with some of the goodies I brought back.One item being the famous heirloom cult like Rancho Gordo Beans, of which I have heard about , but have never seen. I also stuffed some fantastic bulbous Spring Garlic I purchased from the Farmers Market at the Ferry Plaza. Resembling a red onion, I have been using these babies all week, thinly sliced like scallions from the bulb to the tops.  I decided to make an oil poached tuna as a riff on Cannellini beans and tuna as a salad. Instead I decided to make a warm dish and throw in a few seasonal Fava beans for color. While at Cafe de la Presse , which my new buddy Denise from Chez Us recommended and you can see below, I noticed they made their own tuna confit for the Salade Nicoise.That little nugget of information served as even more inspiration for me.

Spring Garlic Oil Poached Tuna with Cannellini and Fava Beans
The Beans
2 cups  Dry Rancho Gordo Runner Cannellini Beans
1 Shallot sliced in half
1/2  Spring Garlic Sliced Thin
1 cup chicken stock
olive oil
sea salt
Ground Black Pepper
Bay Leaf
The Oil Poach
1/2 Spring Garlic sliced thin
2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp  dried Thyme or a few sprigs of fresh
A few slices of organic lemon
2  red tuna fillets
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
Fava Beans ( shelled and par boiled)
Soak your dried Cannellini Beans in cold water for 6 hours. Rancho Gordo says soaking isn’t always necessary but cooking time will be longer. However I was advised at purchase, not to soak overnight  or for longer periods. Place beans and water in a pot with the shallot sliced in half, spring garlic, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Simmer for a few hours until done( 2-3 hours). Season with salt and pepper towards the end of cooking.
Shell and parboil your Fava Beans, removing the second waxy casing after the par boil. Set aside.
Season your tuna steak with sea salt and pepper. Set aside and keep cool in the refrigerator.
In a small sauce pan layer the slices of spring onion, thyme , salt and pepper ,and pour in 2 cups of the olive oil. Heat up the oil to 130 F until hot. Take off heat and add the lemon slices. Allow the garlic and lemon to infuse the oil for at least 15 minutes. Gradually heat oil again and keep on a very low heat. Add the tuna steak and carefully spoon the oil over the tuna. Slowly poach for 10 minutes on a very low heat.Turn tuna over half way. Do not allow the oil to bubble on high. The tuna will be slightly pink, but more to the done side, not rare.
With a slotted spoon , dish the Cannellini Beans, and some Fava Beans onto your plate. Place  the tuna,and drizzle the infused olive oil over the tuna and the beans. Garnish with the  Spring Garlic within the poaching oil.
Serve with an additional squeeze of lemon juice
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