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Meze & Small Plates


Sesame leaves are also known as Perilla, Shiso, and Beafsteak plant. They are green with a tinge of purple (purple is a shade of green), and have ridged edges. Their flavor is quite like mint, but with slight nutty undertones. You can toss them into salads or add to stir-fries. We like to eat them like little dolmas (stuffed)- by stuffing different foods inside and rolling them up like a cigar. This recipe is with a fusion Asian Salmon Ceviche, but we also like rolling strawberries and cream up for a sweet treat as well.

For Salmon Ceviche Marinade:
1 8-ounce wild Alaskan salmon, skinned
Lemon and/or Lime juice to cover, about 3 fruits total
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon olive oil or sesame oil – O Olive Oil Jalapeno Lime is perfect for this recipe

Mix together the lemon and lime juice, miso, and garlic in a non-reactive container.
Cube the salmon in small dice and add to the marinade. Let the salmon rest for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator.

To finish:
12-16 sesame leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion (white and pale green parts)
½ teaspoon finely minced Thai bird chile or chile Serrano
1 sprig of mint, finely chopped
Some cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tahini
½ teaspoon sesame seeds

Place a dollop of the mixture on each leaf and wrap up, starting from narrow end. Secure by carefully pushing the pointy stem through the leaf.
Note: You can also spread a small amount of tahini on the leaf, then dollop with the salmon mixture, without mixing the tablespoon into the salmon ceviche preparation.

Makes 12-16 Sesame Cigars

This recipe is a salmon ceviche wrapped in sesame leaves. Sesame leaves are also known as Perilla, Shiso, and Beafsteak Plant. You can buy them at the farmers market, and they add a Southeast Asian mint flavor to salads and stir-fries as well as this roll-up.

Muhammara is a delicious Middle Eastern dip recipe using roasted red peppers and walnuts as the main ingredients. Many recipes call for bread crumbs, but the chef that taught me how to make it uses stale bread soaked in water, which gives it lovely body. We recommend muhammara as an appetizer for parties, as you can make it up to 2 days ahead of time, and simply serve it in a nice dish with pita chips.

1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
3 roasted red peppers, peeled, seeded, and de-veined*
2 pieces of stale bread, about ½” thick
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
5-7 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Soak the stale bread in some water for a few minutes until moist. Remove from the water and squeeze out any excess liquid.
Meanwhile, begin to grind up the garlic and salt in a food processor.
Add the roasted red peppers, bread, and walnuts, and continue to grind.
Pour in the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and olive oil; season with the cumin, red pepper flakes, and mint. Continue to grind until everything has mixed together thoroughly.
Muhammara is not meant to be a smooth paste, but should have a chunky texture.
Makes about 2 cups.

* You can buy roasted red peppers already prepared to save time. If you want a fresher taste, toss the peppers with some olive oil and roast in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly blistered all around. Remove from the oven and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for about 15 minutes, or until completely cool. De-stem, peel off the skin, and remove the seeds.


Carrots with yogurt is a common appetizer, or meze, in Turkey. Grated carrots are cooked lightly and then mixed with yogurt and garlic. This is a healthy and low-fat Mediterranean recipe that you can eat for a simple dinner with some grilled meat, or serve alongside other vegetarian appetizers for a party. Carrots are very inexpensive and nutritious, so they a great ingredient for people on a budget.

4 medium carrots, peeled and grated (or 4 cups grated carrot)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, small dice
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
Pinch of cumin and salt
Juice of ½ a lemon

Heat up the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the grated carrots and a drop of water and stir. Cover the pan with a lid and let steam lightly until cooked down and soft. Remove from heat and cool.
Meanwhile mix the garlic with the yogurt, cumin, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the carrots and lemon. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.


1 medium eggplant
2 T olive oil
½ cup strained yogurt
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp rosewater
½ tsp herbes de Provence

Roast the eggplant over an open flame, turning over to cook through on all sides. If you do not have gas burners, roast the eggplant in a 400ºF oven for 30- 40 minutes.
When the skin is charred and the eggplant is soft to the touch (poke it with tongs to check), remove to a strainer set over a bowl. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Let it sit for about ½ an hour.
Puree the eggplant in a food processor with the olive oil, yogurt, salt, rosewater, and Herbes de Provence.
Serve as a dip with crackers at your next party.

This amount of dip will serve about 8 people as part of a party spread.

This eggplant dip is light and a wonderful party food. The texture is smooth and silky, thanks to the flame roasted eggplant and strained Greek yogurt. The dip is then flavored with herbes de provence and a hint of rosewater!

This is a simple, yet luxurious compote featuring fresh figs. We used Black Mission figs for this recipe, but you could also try it with Brown Turkey or Calimyrna. Figs are incredibly healthy and full of fiber and important minerals, such as iron. Actually, what we think of as one fruit, is actually millions of tiny little fruits (each miniscule pulp inside is actually a little fruit in and of its own). This healthy spread is great for a myriad of settings, so take a look at the serving suggestions below.
The cooking time is about 30 minutes start to finish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced horizontally
2 cups fresh figs, quartered
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
pinch of ground cumin
1 star anise
1 scant tablespoon organic honey

Heat up the olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot and cook them slowly until they cook through, then gain color and caramelize.
Add the figs to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Pour in the water and seasonings and keep cooking until the figs soften and start to break down. Make sure to keep stirring so that the fruit does not get stuck in the pan.
Cook until the water is gone and the mixture has broken down and melded together into a compote.
Stir in the honey and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste. Remove the anise and serve.
Makes about 1 cup.

Serving Ideas:
Serve over slices of fresh mozzarella di bufala (pictured above).
Serve on crackers with fine cheeses, such as manchego, idiazabal, and asiago.
Serve on crackers with smoked bluefish.
Use as a spread on sandwiches with coldcuts.
Eat with yogurt for a light dessert.


1 ½ cups sprouted chickpeas
1 garlic clove
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. water
lemon juice
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Start grinding the garlic in a mini blender until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas, and continue to grind, adding the olive oil, water, and lemon juice. Once it forms a puree, season with salt, paprika, and cumin. Finally, stir in the sesame seeds and serve.

Makes a lively dip or sandwich filler!


Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes
Per Potato:
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or field garlic, Allium vineale)
1-2 tablespoons potato cooking water
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Place the chunks in a pot, cover with ample water (about two inches more than just covering). Boil the potatoes until cooked through. They should be soft enough that they fall apart when poked with a fork.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Add the other ingredients, starting with 1 tablespoon of the cooking water per potato. Mash with a potato masher, adding more cooking water if a thinner consistency is desired. Let cool to room temperature. Serve with crackers or crudites.
3. Skordalia will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Be sure to let it come to room temperature before serving.


This simple preparation combines honey and pepper to create a sweet and hot combination. The ricotta cheese provides a little bit of substance and evens out the flavors.

1 cup fresh Ricotta cheese
1 drizzle olive oil (scant teaspoon)
Sprinkle of salt
3 T honey, divided
8 slices of the bread of your choice
1 T combined pink and white peppercorns

Mix together the ricotta cheese, oil, and salt. Toast the bread. Spread the seasoned ricotta on top of the sliced bread. Drizzle a little bit of honey on each toast. Grind the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or in a peppermill and sprinkle on top of the toasts.

Perfect for breakfast, light-lunch, or even dessert.

Makes 4-6 toasts.

This simple preparation combines honey and pepper to create a sweet and hot combination. The ricotta cheese provides a little bit of substance and evens out the flavors.

This recipe is for a duo of Crostini: one with sauteed grapes and rosemary, and the other with olive oil and cannellini beans. These make for a simple, rustic Italian appetizer to serve with some nice wine on a Fall afternoon.

½ loaf of nice Italian bread (preferably a day old)

For the Rosemary and Grape Crostini:
1 cup red grapes
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 T olive oil
1 tsp chopped rosemary

For the Cannellini Crostini:
1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 sprig of rosemary
2 garlic cloves
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Fresh sage leaves

The night before you would like to make the crostini, cover the cannelini with water in a bowl, and let them soak overnight.
Drain them, and put in a pot covered with water, along with the garlic cloves, rosemary, and a lug of oil.
Bring to a boil and simmer until they are cooked through, about 1½ hours.
Season them very well with salt, add the olive oil, and toss in some freshly torn sage leaves.

Prepare the grapes by slicing them in half.
Heat up the olive oil in a saute pan, and add the garlic.
When the oil is nice and hot, add the grapes and saute briefly for about 1 minute. Reduce the heat, and add in the rosemary.
Stir. Let them cool in the pan a little before assembling the crostini.

Use day old bread, or dry out fresh bread in the oven so it is nice and toasty.
You can dry out some bread by putting the oven on at 300°F, and then putting the slices in the oven until they are crispy, but not toasted.

Assemble four crostini of each topping, making sure you put a nice amount of olive oil on top of the cannellini beans.
Makes 6 crostini each, with leftover cannellini beans for a side dish or salad.

This recipe is for a duo of Crostini: one with sauteed grapes and rosemary, and the other with olive oil and cannellini beans. These make for a simple, rustic Italian appetizer to serve with some nice wine on a Fall afternoon.

1 cup bulghur (cracked wheat)
2 spring onions
3 cups parsley
½ cup mint
1/3 cup lemon juice
Olive oil

Rinse the bulghur in a fine mesh sieve, and then soak it for 20 minutes.
While it is soaking, chop up the onions and the herbs very finely.
Drain the bulghur and press on it with the back of a spoon to make sure that all of the water is removed.
Mix the herbs with the onion and the bulghur, and then pour in the lemon juice with the olive oil. Season with salt and taste it. Make any necessary adjustments.

Serve with pieces of romaine lettuce or on top of grape leaves. In the summertime you can add in chopped tomatoes, but in the fall it is best to leave them out.

Note: If you want to make this ahead, prepare everything and only pour in the lemon juice and olive oil when you are ready to serve.

Makes about 2-3 cups.