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
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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.

Cellar Soup,Thanksgiving Mishaps,and a $50 Wal-Mart Giveaway

It’s hard to believe our national day of thanks is next week. I chuckle when hear people stressing about, what to me is , a day of cooking for pure love and joy. And truth be told,  I prefer a cozy lazy holiday with just Certain Someone and I to indulge in good food, with no drama or timeline pressures. Not everyone has that luxury. This post is about mishaps on the big day. I can’t say I’ve had a serious mishap on Thanksgiving , but I’ve had them when entertaining for large crowds.The most recent ones have occurred over this past summer with the new  gas grill. We had two dinners planned for very important clients and colleagues of Certain Someone’s.  No one except the repair man on the adjacent property will ever know how my special juniper  cured pork belly were burnt to a crisp black ash.  I mistakenly left the temp on high on one direct burner as I rushed downstairs several floors below, to prep the other courses. The poor repairman kept knocking on the terrace door believing it was an one level apartment and I couldn’t hear him. By the time I came up to check on my supposedly slow grilled bellies, they were a lump of black coal and the man was smoked out while trying to do bis job on the  terrace next door. He didn’t even turn the knob to cut it off. I panicked for a second, and went to plan B, taking a frozen belly out , cleaning the grill, and starting over. The party and the food went well. Lesson to this is font sweat the small stuff and just carry on. It wasn’t the first time it happened. Imagine a similar scenario a month before with my hand made sausages.No matter how much you plan and stress, mistakes happen.
We chefs and cooks  take our successes and failures personally, because we put so much into what we do. But the key is to learn from the mistakes and move forward. Also, to be open to learning and  receiving tips from others. One Thanksgiving I roasted a gorgeous  crispy goose. I like to change it up from traditional turkey. Everyone was curious about my offering and how it would turn out. An older aunt called me the next day and asked me for the goose fat. I was perplexed as to why she would.want all that fat. This was years ago, and while I was  a good cook, not where I am now.She was quite upset that I discarded all that precious golden goose fat. Seems old southern folk lore  has uses such things as remedies, and not to mention cooking other great dishes . Goose or duck fat potatoes anyone? I learned a few things  from that incident . So listen to the wisdom.of your older elders, don’t stress, pay attention to details, pour a glass of wine and relax.Remember that scene from the movie Eat Pray Love when she prepares  a Thanksgiving for her Italian  friends . They cut into the eagerly awaited turkey and it’s frozen inside? No worries. They all chilled, put the bird back into the oven,drank, talked, and woke up to a marvelous turkey breakfast. That’s the spirit.

Tell me about your mishaps or approaches to holiday cooking. I will draw a winner for a $50 giftcard from Wal-Mart to help you with your holiday preparations. You have until the 21st of November to enter. Help spread the word. Who couldn’t use $50 with these high food costs?

If you want to read about some more Thanksgiving mishaps, check here. Wal- Mart has put together a great page of mishaps, interesting tidbits, and tips.

So now on to the cooking…
Here is a lovely restorative soup to serve at the big celebration. I call it Cellar soup, as it uses all sorts of root vegetables and apple’s to create a creamy rich soup.  I made this , froze it and gave quarts away to friends and family.They looovvvved it. Even Certain Someone who resisted because it sounded too healthy for him, gave it a thumbs up.

Cellar Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
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A rich creamy soup made from root vegetables.
  • 1 Acorn Squash peeled ,seeded, and chopped
  • 3 small apples peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 3 small yellow onion chopped
  • 1 sweet potato peeled and chopped
  • 3 parsnips peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery root peeled and sliced
  • 6 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons Grape seed oil or olive oil
  • 12 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, toss all the prepped ingredients and spiced with the oil.
  3. Roast until caramelized for approximately 45 minutes or more. Check frequently and adjust heat if necessary.
  4. Remove from oven and set atop stove .
  5. Turn heat to high.
  6. Add the water. Bring to boil.
  7. Reduce heat to simmer.
  8. Remove cinnamon stick.Set aside.
  9. Take an immersion blender and pulse until smooth and pureed.
  10. Add cinnamon stick back to to soup.
  11. Add chicken stock.
  12. Simmer for another 40 minutes until flavors merge, and soup is a nice creamy consistency.


I’ve been counting my enormous blessings this season, and want you readers to know how thankful I am for your support and encouragement, especially during these years of  change.

Thank You.
Disclosure. Wal-Mart is sponsoring this post with $50 gift card provision’s for myself and the selected winner. My opinions are my own.

Guinness Braised Lamb Stew with Herbs de Provence and Roasted Parsnip Crust

Artizone Chicago and My Daily Find Chicago is having a Flavors of Fall Cooking Contest. I created this Guinness Braised Lamb Stew  with Herb De Provence and Roasted Parsnip Crust using my surprise contest box. I picked the Slow Cooked Category and received the most beautiful large parsnips and a bag of aromatic herb de Provence.

After a week of challenging myself to come up with a creative recipe, I put together this hopefully winning combo. But I need your help. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the recipe is, I need to popular vote to get the next round, before the serious food judges look at it. Can you help me out?

Please go here to vote for me.

Don’t you want to see me on TV demonstrating this fantastic recipe that will wow your dinner guests?

Lamb shanks, minced red onion and bits of parsnip are gently braised with Guinness Stout and aromatic Herbs de Provence until tender for a few hours. Strips of large parsnips are sliced paper thin , lightly tossed in olive oil, formed into a crust in a mini spring form pan, and filled with the lamb stew to roast until crispy on top and tender as a bottom crust. The sweet parsnip, the mild American Lamb shanks,aromatic herbs de Provence, and the rich slightly bitter Guinness all form together for the simple,elegant fall entrée that will impress your guests.

Guinness Braised Lamb Stew with Herbs de Provence and Roasted Parsnip Crust
Recipe type: Entree
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Serves: 4
An elegant roasted parsnip crust filled with aromatic tender lamb stew.
  • 1 tablespoon Pommace oil
  • 2 lbs American Lamb shanks cut in half ( total 4 pieces)
  • 1 cup chopped cubed parsnip
  • ½ red onion minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
  • 11.2 oz bottle of Guinness
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 -3 very large wide parsnips
  • oloive oil for brushing
  • herbs de provence for garnish
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the oil.
  2. Add the lamb shanks and season with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides.
  3. Add the red onion and chopped parsnip.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to very low, cover and simmer for 1 hour until tender.
  6. Remove lamb shanks from pot, and remove meat from the bone.
  7. Add the meat back to to pot with the by now reduced liquid.
  8. Add the Guinness.
  9. In a separate small fry pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir constantly as the butter and flour form a roux. Cook until deep golden in color.
  10. Remove from heat and add the lamb and vegetable stock.
  11. Stir the mixture and and cook for 15 more minutes until thickened.
  12. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  13. With a mandolin carefully julienne very thin strips of peeled parsnip .
  14. Toss the various pieces of parsnip with olive oil , kosher salt an pepper.
  15. Take mini spring form pans and line with parsnip along bottom, sides, etc. Take the larger pieces and tuck into side to overlap the pan, like a flower. This is not precise, but you want to cover the top of the " pie" by using the various sized strips.
  16. Sprinkle with herbs de Provence.
  17. Wrap bottom of forms with foil and place on a baking sheet.
  18. Roast at 400 F for 5 minutes until edges satrt to rapidly brown. Reduce temp to 350 and roast for another 40 minutes until deeply caramelized and bubbly.
  19. Carefully unlock spring form and release upwards the pie onto a plate. ( works better if it sits for a few minutes to cool down).
need 4 small spring forms mandolin


Slow Roasted Red Cabbage and Apples with Balsamic Glaze

Being a November baby, my inner Scorpion awakens when presented with Falls bounty.Red Cabbage and apples are abundant. The ritual of prepping, turning on the oven , and awaiting the aromas wafting through the house just centers me. I’ve been working on a very Euro centric project these days that has me testing and creating all sorts of recipes, much to Certain Someones delight. It’s no secret Germans love their meat, and I strive to balance that with loads of veggies. One of his favorite is red cabbage. Rather than a traditional simmered cabbage, I wanted to preserve the beauty and take the flavor the up a notch. Roasted Red Cabbage with apples and balsamic glaze is not only beautiful to behold, but tickles the taste buds with the sweet and sour taste.Its so easy and perfect for the season. By the time you come home, undress, prep ,and pop it in  the oven, you have an hour to kill while going through the mail, emails, having a cocktail, what have you and voila… a perfect aromatic side dish that will turn your boring leftovers into something vibrant. I paired this with  slices of roasted stuffed pork butt I cooked over the weekend. It doesn’t get better than this.

Guten Appetit

Slow Roasted Red Cabbage and Apples with Balsamic Glaze
Recipe type: side dish
Prep time: 
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Serves: 4-6
Roasted red cabbage and apples.
  • 1 head red cabbage cut into wedges
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2-3 apples peeled and cored
  • ½ cup balsamic glaze
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Peel outer leaves of red cabbage.
  3. Halve cabbage, remove inner core, and cut each half into four wedges.
  4. Place in large bowl.
  5. Slice red onion into rounds. Place in bowl with cabbage.
  6. Slice apples into wedges.Add to cabbage and onions.
  7. Add the balsamic glaze , sugar, olive not break up wedges so much.
  8. Place in a cast iron or roasting pan and bake for 50 - 1 hour.

Thanks for all the great entries for the Verizon Jet Pack Giveaway. There can only be one winner . The lucky person is  Merlyn. I will contact you shortly on how to obtain your prize.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Gourmets program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.



Chilled Summer Borscht

Summer has arrived, and I’m getting inspired again in the kitchen, as you can see from my recent blog posts. This weeks vegetable box inspired this recipe. Beets with the loveliest greens atop them were the centerpiece of box. Pickling was out of the question and I got to thinking of  the refreshing chilled soups you find particularly in Eastern Europe ( Hungary and Russia). I remembered I loved the beautiful beet based winter borscht with its beautiful ruby-red sheen. So what if  I made a more tourmaline hued  like borscht  with a cream base ,seasoned with fresh crisp apples, dill, and cucumber? A beautiful starter , with crisp bright flavors perfect for summer brunch ?

I played around and this is what I got. You will find it light yet filling. The perfect chilled soup for a lovely summer day. As Borscht is really nothing but a seasonal soup ,play around with your produce and combos.  I used chicken stock as a base, however vegetable stock can be used as well.

Chilled Summer Borscht
Recipe type: soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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A chilled soup.
  • 2 apples peeled , cored and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 2 plum tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 beets with leaves intact
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  • fresh dill weed and thinly sliced cucumber for garnish.
  1. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Add diced apples, carrots, and red onion.
  3. Saute on medium high for about 10 minutes until the vegetables become soft and onions translucent.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and dill.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes.
  6. Saute for 5 for minutes.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Take an immersion blender and puree the soup mixture.
  9. Add the sugar and stir in. Continue to let the soup simmer.
  10. Cut off the greens of the beets and chop up. Add to simmering soup mixture.
  11. With a vegetable peeler , skin the beets and chop into small pieces.
  12. In a small fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  13. Add the chopped beets and saute for about 10 minutes on medium high, until they are softened.
  14. Remove from heat and add the beets to the soup mixture.
  15. Quickly blend the beets into the soup with the immersion blender.
  16. Turn off the soup. You don't want to overcook the beets once added to the soup as the color will darken.
  17. Let the coup cool down.
  18. Add the sour cream and Sherry Vinegar to the soup. Blend with immersion blender.
  19. Strain soup through a fine mesh wire strainer. There will be pulp. Push out the liquid from the pulp. You want a fine strained liquid, without the thick pulp.
  20. Chill the soup overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  21. Serve cold with chopped fresh dill garnish and thinly sliced cucumber.
  22. *Soup may separate after a few hours while chilling. Just whip up with blender again before serving.
Equipment A fine mesh wire strainer. Immersion Blender You can make this the day ahead. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Serve in small cordial or shooter glasses or bowls. Servings may vary depending on how served.