This cream cheese spread makes a great appetizer with a loaf of fresh bread or crackers. A friend of mine used to always buy this spread when we were having wine and appies, and another friend, Sarah, makes her own delicious version. This recipe is a combination of what I guessed to be the ingredients in the store-bought version, and some tips from Sarah.
The one difference with my recipe is that I made my own oven-dried cherry tomatoes. I make up a big batch, and they keep for a long time in the fridge.
Make this recipe at least an hour ahead of time so the flavours have a chance to mingle.
What you need:
- 1 – 250 gram tub of spreadable cream cheese (or Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- a few sun-dried cherry tomatoes packed in olive oil (or oven-roasted to make it even better)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- a few sprigs fresh basil, chopped
- a little freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
What you do:
- Combine the mayonnaise and cream cheese.
- Chop and add the cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Taste and adjust the amounts of anything you think you need more of.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
- Garnish with a sprig of basil, and serve with a loaf of freshly baked bread or crackers of your choice.
Niçoise salad makes a great meal salad. I made this one in the summer, and am finally getting around to posting it now. Of course you can make it in the winter, but just make sure to try to get the freshest tasting ingredients. A good bet for tasty winter tomatoes is to buy cherry tomatoes; they seem to have more flavour. It is still September, so I still have a few tomatoes on the vine that I’m going to use to make this again soon.
Oops! I never measure when I make salad dressings, so I’ve given approximations. When the dressing is mixed you’ll have to taste and see if you need a little more of anything.
Part of what makes this a successful recipe is that you add some of the dressing to the potatoes while they are hot. When they are still hot they absorb the dressing really well. No more of those cold, bland potatoes sitting on the side of your niçoise salad!
What you need for the salad:
- one large free-range egg per person
- fresh green beans, or a mixture of green and yellow
- tender salad greens
- new potatoes, cut in half
- olives (niçoise if you can find them – I could not – kalamata work too)
- (niçoise salad often has tuna on it; add that if you wish)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- freshly ground pepper
- white wine vinegar
- olive oil
What you do:
- Begin by placing the eggs in a small pot; cover with a lid and let this heat up until they have just barely reached a boil. Now turn off the heat, keep the lid on and set the timer for 12 minutes. Pour the hot water out of the pot and place the eggs in cold water. There are many methods for boiling egg – in this one we don’t actually boil it; boiling an egg makes it tougher. 12 minutes works for a large egg; use more or less time with different sizes of eggs, and longer if you are at a high altitude. When they have cooled (I actually like to add them when they are still slightly warm) you can peel and quarter them.
- Place the halved potatoes in a pot with some salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until you can pierce the potato easily with a sharp knife. You will need to prepare the dressing while they are cooking.
- Chop the onion. Add the Dijon, sugar, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper to a bowl. Mix the onion into this. Now slowly add a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar as you mix with a fork until combined. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil, constantly mixing with the fork, and stopping to taste as you go. Add as much olive oil as you think tastes good, then adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water. Keep the potatoes in the pot and add about half of the dressing to them while they are still hot, and then give them a gentle stir. Set them aside to cool.
- Bring another liberally salted pot of water to a boil while you clean and cut the ends off the beans. Some of the salt will absorb into the beans as they cook. Have a large bowl of ice water waiting for the beans when they come out. Cook them for only a few minutes; they should still be bright green and tender-crisp. I say better to err on the side of undercooked. As soon as they are done, drain the boiling water and add the beans to the ice bath. Leave them there until completely cooled. This stops the cooking process, so you don’t end up with sad wilted beans. I like to drain them and then roll them in a clean dish cloth to dry them off.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut into wedges if you are not using cherry tomatoes.
- Toss the salad greens with a little bit of dressing, then arrange on the plate. Decorate with the beans, potatoes, eggs tomatoes and olives. You can add a drizzle more dressing if you want. I like to add another little sprinkle of salt and pepper to the top.
These pretty little yellow tomatoes came out of my garden this summer, along with the greens, so I just added the bocconcini to make a salad. Nothing says summer like tomatoes fresh from the garden, and the cheese is mild enough that it doesn’t steal the limelight from their flavour. It’s nice with a little bit of bread to soak up any extra balsamic glaze. Delicious and super fast!
What you need:
- some cherry tomatoes
- fresh greens
- baby bocconcini
- balsamic glaze, storebought
- salt and pepper
What you do:
- Place the greens on plates.
- Distribute the whole tomatoes and bocconcini on top of the lettuce.
- Stack a few basil leaves up, roll them, then slice the roll thinly – this is a chiffonade. Loosen up the basil strips and place a few on each plate.
- Drizzle a little balsamic glaze on top, then add a tiny bit of salt and pepper.
- Enjoy right away!
I was lucky enough to be given some home-grown cucumbers, and then I went and picked these tomatoes and some basil from my garden. If you don’t have access to garden-fresh produce you can visit your local farmer’s market, or just try to find some that look tasty in the produce store. I like cherry tomatoes and the smaller cucumbers because they and often the tastiest option from the produce store.
I don’t use measuring tools to make my salad dressing, so the ingredients are ‘a little of this, a little of that’ and then you can taste your own way to a yummy dressing.
What you need:
part of a sweet onion
a few sprigs of fresh basil
a little sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
apple cider vinegar
What you do:
1. Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-sized pieces. Cut a bit of onion into smaller pieces. Put them all into a bowl.
2. To make the dressing, put a small spoonful of dijon into a bowl or cup. Add a few pinches of sugar and a little salt and pepper. Combine these, then pour in a touch of vinegar and mix it up. Add a few tablespoons more vinegar and mix it, then slowly add some olive oil. When you’ve mixed in a few tablespoons of olive oil, have a taste and see if you need more oil or anything else. It shouldn’t taste too acidic, but you also don’t want it to be too oily.
3. Pour some salad dressing over the veggies and toss them until everything is coated. Chop up a few leaves of basil and garnish the salad with them.