Small Plates

Creamy Turkish Nut Dip, Beet Tzatziki, Caponata

MAKES about 2 cups (VEG):  Grating and salting both cucumbers and beets eliminates excess
moisture and ensures a thick, luscious beet tzatziki.

Tzatziki

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Tzatziki is a traditional Greek sauce made from
strained yogurt and cucumber, as delicious eaten as a dip for raw vegetables as it is dolloped over grilled chicken or lamb. To make our own classic version, we started by shredding a cucumber on a coarse grater, salting it, and letting it drain to keep any excess liquid from watering down the dip. Greek yogurt gives tzatziki its pleasant tang and richness, but before stirring in our drained cucumber, we enhanced its flavor with minced fresh herbs and garlic. Using Greek yogurt here is key; do not substitute regular plain yogurt or the sauce will be very watery. Serve with Olive Oil–Sea Salt Pita Chips, fresh warm pita, or raw vegetables.

  • 1 (12-ounce) cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint and/or dill
  • 1 small garlic clove, mince
  1. Toss cucumber with ½ teaspoon salt in colander and let drain for 15
    minutes.
  2. Whisk yogurt, oil, mint, and garlic together in bowl, then stir in drained
    cucumber. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
    Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
VARIATION

Beet Tzatziki -VEG

Reduce amount of cucumber to 6 ounces and add 6 ounces raw beets, peeled and grated, to cucumber and salt in step 1.

Caponata

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Somewhat similar to ratatouille, Sicilian caponata distinguishes itself with boldly flavored eggplant and a sweet-and-sour finish. To make sure the eggplant didn’t turn to oil-soaked mush, we salted and microwaved it to eliminate excess moisture. For our sauce, we started with V8 juice, which delivered bright tomato flavor. Brown sugar and red wine vinegar enhanced the traditional sweet-and-sour profile. A scoopful of raisins brought additional sweetness, minced anchovies added a rich umami boost, and briny black olives offered balance. Simmering everything together for just a few minutes allowed the sauce to thicken and the flavors to meld. Although we prefer the complex flavor of V8 juice, tomato juice can be substituted. If coffee filters are not available, food-safe, undyed paper towels can be substituted when microwaving the eggplant. Be sure to remove the eggplant from the microwave immediately so that the steam can escape. Serve caponata with slices of toasted baguette or alongside grilled meat or fish.

  • 1 large eggplant (1½ pounds), cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup V8 juice
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1½ teaspoons minced anchovy fillets (2 to 3 fillets)
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons minced black olives
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine (½ cup)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  1. Toss eggplant with salt in bowl. Line entire surface of large microwavesafe plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer on coffee filters. Microwave until eggplant is dry and shriveled to one-third of its original size, 8 to 15 minutes (eggplant should not brown). Transfer eggplant immediately to paper towel–lined plate.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk V8 juice, vinegar, sugar, parsley, and anchoviestogether in medium bowl. Stir in tomato, raisins, and olives.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges are browned, 4 to 8 minutes, adding 1 teaspoon more oil if pan appears dry; transfer to bowl.
  4. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to now-empty skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add celery, bell pepper, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and edges are spotty brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in eggplant and V8 juice mixture. Bring to simmer and cook until V8 juice is thickened and coats vegetables, 4 to 7 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and let cool to room temperature. (Caponata can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before serving.) Season with extra vinegar to taste and sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.

Creamy Turkish Nut Dip

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Traditionally made by pureeing nuts, bread, and olive oil to create a velvety-smooth dip, Turkish tarator is as simple as it is versatile. For our version, we made the base for the sauce by mashing torn pieces of white bread and water together into a paste. We then pulsed the paste in the blender with nuts, olive oil, garlic, and lemon. A pinch of cayenne contributed some welcome heat. With our simple method in place, we had some choices to make in determining our sauce’s flavor profile. Many traditional recipes call for hazelnuts, but our research also turned up versions made with almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts. We made batches with all four nuts and found that they worked equally well in the recipe. Next, we compared toasted and untoasted nuts in a side-by-side tasting. We concluded that toasting the nuts was essential; it brought out their complexity, deepened the sauce’s overall flavor, and drew an even greater contrast with the lemon and garlic. Quickly whirred together, the sauce’s components blended into a warming, rich accompaniment to our favorite meze platter items. If using almonds or hazelnuts, make sure they are skinless. Serve with Olive Oil–Sea Salt Pita Chips, fresh warm pita, raw vegetables, or fresh seafood.

  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ cup water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, blanched hazelnuts, pine nuts, or walnuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus extra as needed
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  1. With fork, mash bread and water together in bowl into paste. Process bread mixture, nuts, oil, lemon juice, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, and cayenne in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add extra water as needed until sauce is barely thicker than consistency of heavy cream.
  2. Season with salt, pepper, and extra lemon juice to taste. Serve at room temperature. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before serving.)
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