Beet Tzatziki

August 6, 2011 § 13 Comments

If you are like me, you have been existing for years in a sorry state of existence in which the only vegetable mixed into a tzatziki sauce is the cucumber (which isn’t even technically a vegetable, oh, and I suppose garlic is, but anyway, we’re not going to go there).  No more!  This limited viewpoint is about to come to an end.  Come with me into a brave new world, and allow me to introduce you to beet tzatziki, a delightful gem of a spread/dip/salad/midnight snack…

Backing up just a bit, I, oddly enough, have my recent packed schedule of research focus groups to thank for this discovery.  You see, I have somehow become one of my department’s experts in focus group moderating.  I don’t even quite know how it came about, I just know that now I not only do my own focus groups, I help out with those of other research projects as well.

I seem to have an affinity for it, especially focus groups with kids.  (The secret?  I find if you just stare at people expectantly for long enough, they’ll get uncomfortable and start talking.  No, but, actually, I think the most important thing is being genuinely interested in what people have to say. It comes across.)

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Goat cheese stuffed grape leaves with olives, raisins, and mint

June 29, 2010 § 5 Comments

San Francisco was a whirlwind.  Actually, to be more accurate I should probably say it was a fog.  Anyway, it was a little crazy busy, so let’s set it aside for a moment to address these amazing stuffed grape leaves instead.

The first time I ever made stuffed grape leaves it was summer and I was out on an island.  Doesn’t that just sound exciting and exotic?  Unfortunately, it was an island in the Boston harbor, not off the coast of Greece or anything.  But actually, apart from that little fact, the whole experience definitely tended toward the exotic side.  I was there for an art encampment that a good friend of mine curates each year.  In an homage to the Homestead Act, groups of artists “stake a claim” on pieces the island for 5 days and “improve” it by creating installations or performances using only what they can carry on their backs or find on the island.  The whole encampment is open to the public for exploration and interaction.  The installations range from a Museum of Island Artifacts (my favorite artifact was the “petrified jellyfish,” which looked suspiciously like sea glass), to an island gamelan, to a trans harbor tin can telephone.

Joel and I were there to be the practical people (translation: make sure that the artists survived camping on an island for 5 days).  This also translated into being the occasional camp cook.  (The first night, on super short notice, we managed to whip up grilled pizzas for 30 over an open fire with a grate.  It was kind of awesome.)  The last night of the encampment we iron-cheffed, in a kind of grand experiment to see what we could create out of everyone’s leftovers and what we could forage.  This is how I wound up stuffing some grape leaves – also some kelp, which I’ll have you know is very, very rubbery – with bruised avocado, sun dried tomatoes, and some very near the borderline of too old goat cheese.  They were actually pretty good.  But, they didn’t inspire me to make grape leaves again, until now.

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