My Communal Table


Beet Samosas with Mint Sauce
November 2, 2010, 11:14 am
Filed under: Appetizers, sauces and condiments | Tags: , , , ,

Beets! Yes, you read it correctly. They have to be the most beautiful of the root vegetables and I just adore them. These samosas have a nice flaky crisp when you bite into them. The beets are so naturally sweet that is almost could be served as a dessert. Then you put some mint sauce with it and you have fresh taste with a big kick. Being a member of the spinach family its loaded with tons of nutrients, fiber and low in calories and fat. Without even trying, I made a wonderful vegan dish. It is always good to have a few of those up your selves.

I had my youngest son’s two best buddies and their families over for Sunday dinner and I served these. The samosas were a hit with the kids because they were sweet and then with the addition of the mint sauce… it makes it far more sophisticated for the adults. One of keys to successful entertaining is to have your most of your meal prepared ahead of time. These take a little time to prepare, but hold wonderfully while you are pulling together your meal.

We gobbled down the leftover samosas the next morning with lots of strong tea and it was a fabulous breakfast.

Makes 12

Beet Samosas:

2 beets, medium size
3 cloves garlic
3-5 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
8 sheets of filo
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
1 lime, juice of

1. Peel beets and quarter them, placing in foil.

2. Add garlic, salt & pepper, then cover beets with oil. Secure foil around beets.

3. Cook in foil at 400F for about 40 minutes. Make sure the beets are tender.

4. When beets cool, grate them and place in a bowl.

5. Add soft garlic from foil, grated ginger, and lime juice. Then salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

6. Place 1 filo sheet on work surface, brush with olive oil, place next filo sheet on top, brush with olive oil, repeat for a total of 4 sheets of filo.

7. Cut filo into 6 equal strips along the width.

8. Place a heaping tablespoon of beet mixture on one end of strip and fold like a flag, forming a triangle. Place on baking sheet.
Repeat with the next four sheets of filo.

9. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and flaky. Serve with mint sauce.

Mint Sauce:

1/2 cup mint, fresh
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh
1 jalapeno, deseeded & deveined
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoon white onion
1 1/2 tablespoon Water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1. Add mint through water in food processor and blend until finely chopped. Put in bowl.

2. Add sesame oil, salt and pepper. Serve with beet samosas.

This dish is inexpensive to make, but packs a bunch in presentation and flavor. It is a little labor intensive on the beginning end, but super easy to make in advance. I love how everyone was so appreciative of the effort I made for the meal. Everyone felt so taken care of. Now that is what makes entertaining fun for me.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Spicy Rice Cakes
September 20, 2010, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, side dish | Tags: , , , ,

The neighbors have congregated on the back porch of our three flat while we chat and watch the kids run around the yard and alley… typical Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Beer and wine are a part of this meet up, but man, I could use a little bite of something and I have nothing. Wait, I always have something. Hmm, I have leftover rice. My mind started racing… I told the congregation to hold tight and I would be out with a quick bite in about ten minutes.

What I found in the fridge:

cooked rice
sofrito (blend of green pepper, garlic, onion, & cilantro)
fresh hot pepper
egg
baking soda
Mexican melting cheese
bread crumbs
canola/vegetable oil

The amount of ingredients depends on how much leftover rice you have.

1. Place rice in bowl. Separate with hand.

2. Chop up hot peppers and add to rice. I like mine spicy, so I put almost a whole one in.

3. Grab the sofrito. I am lucky that I live close to nice size latin grocery store. I buy a nice amount of super fresh sofrito for about $2. I use it in a lot of things. From soups to chicken dishes. It works perfect here, but you can easily make up your own a batch to use yourself. This is my idea of a convenience good. Totally fresh. I add enough to add some color to the rice.

4. Add beaten eggs. Add one at a time until your rice is covered like mayo covers tuna for a tuna salad. Mix well.

5. Mix in grated Mexican melting cheese or any nice melting cheese through out the rice mixture.

6. Add about a tablespoon of baking soda. You will see a little bubbles forming. That is great. It is working at making things puffy. Salt and pepper to taste.

7. Scoop up a nice little patty of rice and then roll in bread crumbs.

8. Heat up a saute’ pan over medium high heat, then add oil. Let that get hot, then place patty in oil.

9. Brown both sides. Should not take long and you may have to turn your burner down to medium. Salt when you take them off the heat.

10. Serve immediately. I served mine with salsa verde. They would taste great wrapped in a little lettuce and cilantro as well. Yum.

This literally took ten minutes. I came back outside and was huge hit. Oh, I mean my spicy rice cakes were a huge hit. An ice-cold beer and good conversation were the perfect accompaniment to this amuse bouche on a Chicago Saturday afternoon.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Molly’s Hot Mustard
August 26, 2010, 4:24 pm
Filed under: sauces and condiments | Tags: , , , ,

If you want your clear out your sinuses next time you make a panini or have some spiral ham, this is your mustard. This mustard is sweet when you first taste it, then it has a big hit of heat after that. It is so addicting.

This has been a family favorite for years, but my sister-in-law, Molly, faithfully made it often and would even gave it as gifts. Her father was crazy for it and she would always make sure that he got a jar of it. Here’s the deal, Molly was not a big cook, but now I can not make this mustard without thinking about Molly and how often she made it. So I have taken it upon myself and renamed the family “hot mustard” after Molly. Our family lost Molly 4 1/2 years ago to cancer. I know that we will never stop missing her, but I know that she would get such a kick out of me renaming the recipe after her. Here’s to you, “Miss Molly”…

Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 cup malt vinegar
1 cup dry mustard
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar

1. Soak the vinegar and dry mustard together in a glass or stainless steel bowl overnight.

2. Place mustard mixture in double boiler and start heating over medium-low heat.

3. Whisk in egg yolks and sugar.

4. Whisking constantly, until thick, about 10 minutes.

5. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Just a note: When I was young this was my spicy thing I ate, now that my palate is quite accustom to heat, it isn’t as OMG spicy as it used to be for me. Maybe too much thai food as desensitized my palate. Who knows, but if you are a spicy heat monger, this will be super delicious for you and give you some punch, but it won’t blow your socks off. If you are a light weight when it comes to heat, still venture here. It has so many complex flavors to it.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Fresh Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Peas.
July 28, 2010, 12:39 pm
Filed under: side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , , , ,

This is recipe is about having the freshest, highest quality ingredients at hand and letting them do the talking. I love this dish. Super simple, but can only be had at this time of year. It is such a treat. I can still get fresh peas in the midwest and tomatoes are starting to reach perfection. I use the best butter that I can buy, a beautiful Chardonnay, and sea salt to make this perfect. I am putting down that this feeds 2 people, but I could eat the entire plate and a glass of Chardonnay and feel completely satisfied.

Serves 2

3 pads of sweet butter
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 splash Chardonnay
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

1. In my favorite 10 inch skillet, I melt the butter over med-low heat.

2. Add peas, tomatoes, & chives. Cook, tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes.

3. Add splash of wine, s&p and cook until tomatoes start to crack open and peas are tender. About 5 minutes more.

4.Serve warm. So simple and good.

Super delicious does not mean complicated. Hope that you enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Roasting a Radish?
June 2, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, side dish, Vegan | Tags: , ,

When I was in France, fresh radishes came with salt and butter to dip into. When I was in Mexico, almost every meal had radishes accompanying them. I love their sharp fresh taste, but I would never dream of roasting them until I read this article in The New York Times. Roasting radishes mellows them out in a really cool way. It takes the sharp bite out and leaves it quite luscious. Esthetically, the color and texture were another surprise. Beautiful. Some cool facts about radish is that it has as much potassium as bananas and is a member of both the mustard and broccoli family.

Flank steak with some mushrooms that had been sauteed with onions, garlic, fresh tarragon and a little cream was a perfect entree to have the roasted radishes with.

I had a couple of parsnips that I sliced in half and stuck on a baking sheet with radishes cut in half. No peeling necessary. Coated them with olive oil, a little salt, pepper, and thyme, then stuck them in a 375F oven for about 30-40 minutes. My meal took hardly anytime or effort, but was fresh and really hit the flavor sensation highway.

My offical taste tester, my six year old, loved the radishes roasted, but does not like them raw. I will definitely make them again. Try them out yourself. Let me know what you think? I envision lots of different ways to use this colorful healthy veggie.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Rhubarb Ginger Chutney

As much as I love rhubarb pie, sometimes I look at my bunch of rhubarb and want to do something different with it. I came up with this chutney to accompany pork tenderloin I had made. I have ended up using the chutney to compliment several different foods since.

It is a sweet, but with the obvious tart from the rhubarb. The ginger gives it a bit and the sriracha hits the back of the throat. I have served it with homemade biscuits, along side more traditional jams, and have had rave reviews.

In this picture, I served the chutney with a berkshire porkchop that I seasoned with coriander and cumin. I made some mint pesto to enhance my israeli couscous plus adding a cooling note to the spice of the porkchop. Adding steamed baby bok choy gave it another texture element and clean taste note. All in all, a well balanced meal in taste and texture.

Makes approximently 3 cups

3 cups rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cidar vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon ginger, fresh, finely chopped
1 tablespoon crystalized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Put all ingredients above in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.
2. Cook down for about 20 minutes.
3. Add water, if you like it thinner. Adjust seasonings. Served immediately or chill.

Good for about two weeks.

Let me know how you serve it. The possibilities are endless.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth



Sauteed Spinach with Kalamata Olives and Raisins
March 12, 2010, 9:42 am
Filed under: side dish | Tags: , , ,

This go-to side dish has saved me on more than one occasion. It is fast, but the flavors are complex. The bitter earthiness of the spinach compliments the saltiness of the olives and the sweetness of the raisins. Adding the pine nuts, give it yet another layer of texture and depth.

It takes about ten minutes to prep and make. No fooling. You will also be surprised how many things that it goes with. I have made it as a side dish at Thanksgiving. It goes well with other poultry, fish, pork and beef. It is really a life savor.

Make the recipe and let me know what you paired it with. It really is a taste explosion. You will have your guests pulling up a chair for more.