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Sometimes you try a recipe and it immediately turns into a favourite. That happened this summer, when I served spinach pesto for the Italian Kookgrrls Cookalong.

I made it several times since and always to a great success. It came to a garden potluck and we spooned it out as a starter at a special dinner for my mother-in-law and one of her friends. The verdict is unanimous: this dish is GOOD!

So here’s the recipe, translated and slightly adapted from the Dutch vegetarian cookbook Gezond genieten: Mediterraan koken by Jan & Ineke Stevens.

Spinach pesto

Spinach Pesto with Olive Crackers (1st Kookgrrls Cookalong: Italy)

Ingredients

  • 300g clean fresh spinach
  • 2 tbs pine nuts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh basil
  • salt & pepper
  • a good variety of olive oil (extra virgin)

When it’s still wet from washing, put the spinach in a saucepan and cook the leaves on high for a couple of minutes while turning them over a few times — until welted but still bright green. Drain thoroughly.

Blend the cooked spinach together with the garlic (it’s best to start with one clove and add more if necessary), pine nuts and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add the olive oil until the pesto has a smooth consistency. Using a good type of oil improves the taste!

Now that’s easy, isn’t it?

This spinach spread is good with toast, crudités, as a side dish, on a sandwich and probably with pasta. And it’s perfect for bentos!

Courgette Flower Bento #193

Courgette Flower Bento #193

Summer Picnic Bento #191

Summer Picnic Bento #191

Bulghur Bento #190

Bulghur Bento #190

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Don’t you think my first bento of 2012 has a bit of a festive look to it?

Confetti Bento (1st of the year), 12-01-2012

Since CSA season is over I had to made do with the last veggies in my fridge. But lunch turned out to be a feast anyway!

So what’s what?

The left tier contains a Mexican-inspired salad of 3 colours paprika, pickle, cucumber and a (vegan) chilli sauce based dressing. Next to that a nut mix of almonds & pistachios and a vegan variation of the cauliflower dip Chinoiseries shared in our New Year’s Dip Quartet, topped with a black olive.

The right tier has some bean sprout mix, simmered kabocha pumpkin (freezer stash), mini plum tomatoes — the very last tomatoes in da house, saved especially for this lunch — kiwi fruit, an orange baby bell pepper, ‘floppy Jane’ (a vegan sloppy Jane I totally messed up by misreading the recipe) and another gherkin.

Curried cauliflower dip

Chinoiseries' Cauliflower Dip

I’m a real cauliflower fan but due to a bad local season for this type of veg we hardly got any in our CSA. By Christmas I was really craving it so when one of my fellow members of the New Year’s Dip Quartet posted a cauliflower spread recipe… I couldn’t get it out of my head!

A large head of cauliflower was about the first thing I bought in the new year. :) We ate part of it cooked with mushroom gravy, a few florets went into a stir-fry and then I still had about 135 grams left. I told you this head was a BIG!

Now it was time to have a taste of that delicious sounding dip. Just one problem: Chinoiseries’ recipe calls for 200 grams of cauliflower! But she said we’d better use less… so I figured it would be all right. And was it?

I’ll tell you right away: I really like this spread and will certainly make it again! But it didn’t taste enough of cauliflower for my liking… More of onion and garlic :) Now I really like those too, but this is a cauliflower dip so next time I will go back to the original amount of 200 grams.

I also didn’t use all of the lemon juice and soy yoghurt the instructions called for: just 1 teaspoon of juice and 4 yoghurt. True, my spread could have been smoother. But the more liquid I added, the less veg I tasted! Now the interesting thing is: I also really liked the stage before adding these! It may even become my favourite way to make the recipe from now on?! The paste is more like a roasted cauliflower tapenade that way.

You can find the original cauliflower dip recipe in the New Year’s Dip Quartet on Always Cooking Up Something (please use soy yoghurt or faux sour cream for a vegan version). I will share my roasted tapenade below!

Roasted cauliflower tapenade

With my love for cauliflower, you can bet on me checking out several of the recipes in the Healing Foods event held on Zesty Palette this month! I hope some of the other participants will also try this roasted cauliflower tapenade?

Healing Foods: Cauliflower (button)

Ingredients

  • 175-200 gr cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: a little lemon zest or yuzu powder

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 190 °C.
  2. Clean the cauliflower and cut into small florets, edible parts of the stem into small dices.
  3. Pat dry and transfer to a baking dish. Note: you could line your baking dish with aluminium foil first as the original recipe tells you, but I try to keep my use of tinfoil to a minimum as its production is VERY bad for the environment. I think the only use here is that you don’t have to wash your baking tin afterwards… And we are no lazy bums, are we? ;)
  4. Mix in garlic and onion with cauliflower.
  5. In a bowl, mix all remaining ingredients (except optional lemon zest/yuzu powder).
  6. Add the dressing to the vegetable mix, making sure all the cauliflower is covered.
  7. Put into the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Check to see whether the cauliflower is done, a knife should easily cut through.
  8. Transfer to a food processor and blend until you’ve got a pasty mixture resembling tapenade.
  9. If you chose to add lemon zest or yuzu powder: this is the time. You may also add more salt & pepper to taste.
  10. Let it cool.

Enjoy!

Check out What’s for Lunch Wednesday (week 85) for some other great bentos!

Meatless Monday button

Midnight Maniac’s Meatless Mondays

Four Dutch tweeps -slash- foodie bloggers have teamed up to share some dips & spreads with you for New Year’s Eve.

Chinoiseries is serving us Roasted Cauliflower Dip (vegetarian with vegan suggestion)
JannyAn shares some Nutty Blue Cheese Spread (vegetarian; post in Dutch)
Uniflame is spooning out Bean Paté (vegetarian with vegan suggestion)
And me?

Mediterrenean Carrot Spread

The recipe that I’d like to share is a super easy, vegan dip that I’ve made several times now and is always a hit with vegetarians, flexitarians and omnivores alike: Mediterranean carrot spread.

I dedicate this post to Uniflame who seems to be at a loss with all the carrots among her CSA vegetables. ;)

Mediterranean Carrot Dip

Mediterrenean Carrot Spread

Ingredients

  • 250 grams carrots, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or vinegar)
  • 1 small garlic clove (or half a big one)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • cayenne pepper / harissa / sambal
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: salty black olives

Also handy: a (hand) blender

Preparation

  1. Thoroughly cook the carrots on either your stove (about 20 minutes) or in microwave (4 minutes on 700 Wt). Drain.
  2. Blend (or mash) together carrots, olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar), cumin and garlic.
  3. Add harissa (cayenne/sambal) and salt ’n peppa to taste.
  4. Let it completely cool down.
  5. Serve as a side dish or mezze, with Turkish pide bread, Italian ciappe, melba toast, veggies or whatever. It’s nice -but not necessary at all- to garnish this dip with salty black olives.

If you’ve got a few minutes left before you need to get ready for your s-mashing End of Year Party: grab some carrots and throw together this nice snack!

This spread can easily be made a day in advance but after 48 hours it gets too watery. Not that you’ll have any leftovers for that long! ;)

Now I highly recommend you hop over to the other participants’ recipes (links above)! :)

AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!

Check out other food-related posts at Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking!

Also submitted to Kookgrrl’s December theme: Food to share,

& Zesty Palette’s New ‘U’ Event.

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