Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip.

After a month hiatus from blogging, I’m back! It’s been a very busy, fun month which included a fantastic ten day vacation in Paris! Hopefully this Europe-trip-in-the-Fall thing is starting to become an annual habit for me – at about the same time last year, I was heading off to Scotland for 10 days of Highland hijinks. Paris was so lovely, and it was wonderful to get to spend a full ten days in the city. We were really able to combine sightseeing with relaxation in the best possible way, while sprinkling in lots of amazing eating! Here are some highlights of the trip, before we get into recipe-land.

One of many, many patisserie visits, we had kick-butt hot chocolate and baba au rhum at Angelina, near the Tuileries:

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A big culinary highlight of the trip was dinner at the art nouveau dreamworld Brasserie Julien. I was lucky enough to discover this place on a previous visit to Paris, and I couldn’t wait to bring my friends back to enjoy it this time. We enjoyed plate after amazing plate of their beautiful food—Julien delivered again. For my main course, I had this shrimp and salmon dish in a light lime cream sauce:

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I love the ubiquity of Paris cafes – they mean instant peace and a full tummy, with a side of people-watching. The intermittent Fall rain was a great excuse to drop in.

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Probably my favorite pastry of all time is the buttery, chocolate-filled croissant-like bun known as pain au chocolat. Pair it with a cup of black tea and you’ve got a breakfast of champions right here. SO GOOD.

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And not pictured: a HEFTY daily dose of macaroons that would rival the excesses of Versailles. Nothing beats a chocolate macaroon. Except 5 chocolate macaroons.

And now, folks, for the recipe: a creamy, spicy, delicious black bean and goat cheese dip.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil or bacon grease
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable stock (chicken stock or even water would work here, too)
1 (4 oz) can green chiles, chopped
2/3 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream will do)
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz goat cheese
sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
tortilla chips, pita bread, or carrot and cucumber slices for dipping

Just the Recipe link: Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bigger saucepan than the inexplicably small one I chose to use for this, heat olive oil or bacon grease over medium flame. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook another minute, and then pour in the first can of black beans. Mash with a potato masher.

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Stir in the vegetable stock and green chiles. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.

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Then add the second can of beans and mash again, a little more coarsely this time. Remove from heat.

Stir in the Greek yogurt, oregano, salt, and pepper. Transfer the bean mixture to a baking dish.

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Break up the goat cheese into small pieces and press them into the dip, speckling the top with the little white gems. Drizzle sriracha or other hot sauce over the top.

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Bake for 20 minutes. As the dip bubbles, it might bubble over, so make sure you have a pan or a sheet of foil to catch any drips. When the 20 minutes are up, remove from the oven.

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This stuff is great both hot and room temperature. Just before you serve it, sprinkle with chopped green onion. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread, or do what I did and cut up some carrots and cucumber for dippin’.

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Stuffed Potato Skins.

Mmmmm. I love when amazing recipes are born of leftovers. What to do with leftover Christmas ham? This is a totally sumptuous and indulgent use of that holiday bounty, and it’s worth it in every way. My stuffed skins are the lovechild of a twice-baked potato and a potato skin, with the best of each coming together in this dish. It’s the steamy meatiness of a twice-baked, with the crispiness and the magical fillings/toppings of potato skins. Make this now or forever regret missing a wonderful food opportunity!

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INGREDIENTS

8 medium baking potatoes, washed
canola oil
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tbsp butter
3-5 tbsp milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp seasoning salt (I used Bridgeport seasoning from the Spice House)
1 1/2 cups ham, diced (great for any holiday’s leftovers!!)
salt and pepper to taste
5 scallions, chopped

Just the Recipe link: Stuffed Potato Skins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Rub each potato lightly with oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until fork-tender, about 40 minutes.

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While the potatoes cook, get the toppings/fillings ready. Shred the cheese, dice up the ham, and chop the garlic and scallions.

When the potatoes are done, slice them in half long-ways and use an oven mitt hold them while you scoop out the middles. You want each potato to have enough room to stuff with filling, but enough potato remaining inside so that it still holds its shape. Put the potato meat that you scoop out into a large mixing bowl. Place the empty potato skins back in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and put back in the oven to crisp up a bit more, about 10-15 minutes (or longer, if you want the skins really nice and crispy. I didn’t have the patience to wait!).

Now, mix up the filling. Stir together the potatoes with the sour cream, milk, butter, garlic, seasoning salt, ham, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese.

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Take the skins out of the oven and stuff with the filling.

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Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

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Bake until the cheese is melted and the skins are even crispier. Sprinkle with scallions. These go great with sour cream and/or ketchup. Enjoy!

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Lebanese Meatballs.

As with so many of the amazing recipes I find all over the internet, I’ve had this one saved in my “want to make” folder for at least a year. And for my family’s Christmas Eve party this year, I finally had an occasion to make it! Wow, are these good. Thanks to Chico’s Kitchen for the recipe, which I’ve used as the perfect base and altered a bit to include some of my favorite flavors (read: garlic garlic garlic). They were also very portable in my mama’s crock pot, but if I had had my Dutch oven handy, that would have done the trick as well. These meatballs are the perfect easy appetizer for mini-munching, and they’re relatively guilt free if you use lean meat. I definitely popped a few in my mouth while I stood at the stove, and stirred them in the crock pot, and walked them around the party….I defy you not to do the same!

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INGREDIENTS

for the meatballs:
1 1/2 large onions, finely chopped
2 1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 lbs ground meat (I used half beef, half turkey, but if you can get your hands on anything fancy like veal sausage or ground lamb, they would be awesome here too)

for the sauce:
1 1/2 large onions, sliced
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 cans crushed tomato
1 1/2 cups stock or water (I used beef stock)

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients for meat in a large bowl.

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Form into balls and brown in a skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Brown them in batches, careful not to crowd the pan; we don’t want the meatballs to braise or steam. They do not need to be cooked through at this point; we just want to get some color on ’em.
*NOTE: I HIGHLY recommend having a partner in crime to help with this. My mama rolled the meatballs while I browned them and it went so much faster!

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While the meatballs are browning, cook the onions for the sauce in a separate pan. Put them in a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar and the sugar and stir. Set aside.

When the meatballs are browned, put them in a crock pot or Dutch oven. In the pan where we cooked the meatballs, add the balsamic onions, the crushed tomato, and the stock or water. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook on low for 2-3 hours.

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Serve with toothpicks for easy munching. These also make amazing leftovers: serve a big scoop of the sauce and a couple meatballs over a bed of rice. Merry Christmas!