Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Washington Gardener Magazine's Seed Exchanges

It's that time again and here is a bit of event happenings! Washington Gardener Magazine's Seed Exchanges are coming up THIS Saturday Jan 28 in MD at Brookside Gardens and the following Saturday Feb 4 in VA at Green Spring Gardens

The full information and registration form is attached here in a PDF or you can see it posted online here:

Now for those New Wave Herby Spicy Dips

Cannelini Chive Dip

Nuovo Romesco

Turkish Yogurt and Mint Dip

Roasted Lemon Carrot Harissa 

Herbs and spices are always the way to spark a dish! An article in Ezine online tells us: In earlier times, herbs and spices were considered luxuries and only available for the use of the wealthy. Herbs and spices were also traded frequently between nations in medieval times.

The essential difference between an herb and a spice is where it is obtained from on a plant. Herbs usually come from the leafy part of a plant, and are usually dried. However, some herbs can be used fresh. Spices can be obtained from seeds, fruits, roots, bark, or some other vegetative substance.

Yes, herbs do have their favorite growing season in the Mid-Atlantic, however, aside from cilantro, my herbs keep plugging through a somewhat mild winter as we are experiencing in 2012. Some of the indoor container varieties are quite perky with a good spike of sunlight. My Cuban oregano is gloriously happy both in the sunniest and not-so-sunny windows. Find the fresh herb plants available at both Homestead Gardens stores year 'round.

So below you have four quick, vibrant colorful (and ssshhh-'way healthy') dips. Who doesn't have fun eating a dip? Keep in mind that each and all of these so-called dips double as vibrant sauces for vegetables, crostini, meat, poultry or seafood.

Cannellini Chive Dip 

Serves 6

Just a few quality ingredients, a few minutes and you have a concoction which suits every tastes.

  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped chives

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice and parsley in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. . Turn the motor on and slowly pour in the olive oil.Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl and stir in the chives by hand. Serve immediately.


Nuovo Romesco 


When traveling in Spain, I learned to love Romesco sauce and to appreciate the indigenous ingredients (roasted bell peppers, almonds) that comprise it. Now that I’ve used it to top vegetables. crostini, poultry and seafood, I’ve discovered a few tweaks to the ingredients which are the designer's whim.

  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews, toasted (or dry roasted)
  • 1 thin slice French bread, about 4 × 3 × ¼ inches
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper or 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne

Heat the oven to 375°F.

If using raw cashews, toast in the oven for just a few minutes to lightly brown. Then toast the bread slice until golden crisp. Transfer the cashews to the bowl of a food processor. Tear bread into pieces and add to the processor. With the machine running, drop garlic through the feed tube and process until cashew, bread and garlic are finely chopped. Add the red peppers, the olvie oil, vinegar, cayenne pepper and process until mixture reaches the consistency of thick mayonnaise, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

Note: Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead.


Turkish Yogurt and Mint Dip

Makes about 2 cups

Not just a dip, but a fantastic sauce, serve with crispy pita chips, veggies and bread.

  • 1 6-ounce bag fresh arugula (or baby spinach)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups thickened yogurt or thick Greek style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 4 thin scallions, finely chopped

Steam the arugula very briefly until just wilted; drain and squeeze dry. Chop coarsely.

Finely mince the garlic clove with the salt. Place in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil; let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt.

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped arugula, parsley and mint. Stir in the yogurt and garlic mixture, and the scallions. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and more salt if desired. Serve with bread, pita or raw vegetables.


Roasted Lemon Carrot Harissa 

Makes about 1 cup of harissa for many crostini

Harissa is a spicy North African sauce made from dried and soaked chili peppers, garlic, cumin, and other seasonings. The rich fiery sauce has found it’s way into barbecue sauces or any recipe needing a bit of pizazz. Of course when it gets to the US, we decide to have our own way with it. Here the main components are vegetables other than the chile pepper.  Roast the lemon along with the carrots for a tantalizing depth of citrus.

For the harissa

  • 4 dried Anaheim or California chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick, on the bias
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • a few pinches of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • fresh chopped cilantro

Cut dried chilies into ½ inch wide pieces. Place chile pieces in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let chiles stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Place carrot and lemon slices on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over all. Toss to coat evenly. Set the timer for 15 minutes and put in oven to roast, shaking pan once halfway through. When there are four minutes of cooking time left, add cumin and coriander seeds to carrot mixture. Let cool a bit before processing.

Drain water from chilies and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add roasted carrots, lemons and spices; scrape all of the oil from the pan into the processor; process until smooth. Add garlic clove and with the motor running, drizzle in remaining olive oil until you have a thick paste. Adjust seasonings and stir in cilantro.

Place the harissa in a container; cover top surface with a drizzle of olive oil and cover tightly. Refrigerate one hour or overnight to season.

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