Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. "The apple-celery-walnut trinity forms the base of the classic Waldorf salad, something we've played with over the years at my restaurants," writes José Andrés in "Vegetables Unleashed." "This version is like a grown-up ants on a log, with whipped blue cheese standing in for the peanut butter. If you have leftover blue-cheese cream, use to top baked potatoes or as a dip for crudités."
• 5 celery ribs
• 1 1/2 c. apple cider or apple juice
• 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
For blue-cheese cream
• 1 c. heavy cream
• 2 oz. blue cheese
• 1/4 c. chopped corn nuts or walnuts
• Light green celery leaves
To prepare celery: Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, peel the celery ribs and cut them into 4-inch lengths.
In a large bowl, combine the apple cider (or apple juice), cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and add the celery. Cover and let macerate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
To prepare blue-cheese cream: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream and blue cheese, whisking until smooth. Strain the cream into a medium bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
To prepare "salad:" Drain the celery, reserving the macerating liquid, and pat dry. Transfer the celery to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Pour the macerating liquid into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, skimming if necessary, until it has reduced to a syrup, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature.
When the blue-cheese cream is chilled, whip it with an electric mixer until fairly firm. Transfer the cream to a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip (or transfer to a sturdy resealable plastic bag and snip off a bottom corner).
Arrange the celery smooth side down on a serving plate. Drizzle some of the apple syrup down the center of each piece and fill the celery with blue-cheese cream. Garnish with corn nuts (or walnuts) and celery leaves. Serve chilled.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 170 Fat 12 g
Sodium 280 mg Carbohydrates 12 g
Saturated fat 7 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 3 g Cholesterol 40 mg
Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 2 ½ fat.
Fire-roasted Eggplant With Red Onion and Yogurt
Note: "If you have a gas stovetop, you can cook the eggplant directly on the gas flame as it gets a lovely, smoky flavor that you can't get if you oven-bake it," writes Monisha Bharadwaj in "Indian in 7: Delicious Indian Recipes in 7 Ingredients or Fewer." "Use a pair of tongs to turn it every minute or so — it should take about 8 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness and size of the eggplant."
• 1 large eggplant
• 2 tbsp. sunflower oil, divided
• 1 large red onion, finely chopped
• 2 fresh green chiles, finely chopped (seeds and all)
• 1 tomato, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro leaves
• 1 generous c. plain Greek yogurt
• 2 tbsp. roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), crushed
• Pita bread or naan, to serve with dip
Preheat the broiler to high. Brush the eggplant with sunflower oil and place on a rack under the broiler, being sure to put the broiler pan beneath to collect the juice. Turn from time to time until the eggplant is soft and the skin is crisp and dry (alternatively, cook it directly over a gas flame for about 8 minutes).
Let the eggplant cool slightly, then peel off and discard the skin (it should come off easily). Mash the eggplant flesh in a bowl with a fork until there are no long strands. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon sunflower oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry until it starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add the chiles, reduce the heat to low and cook until you can easily cut through a piece of onion, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato and continue to cook until it softens, about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and season onion mixture with salt, to taste. Stir in cilantro and mashed eggplant. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and let cool for 10 minutes, then stir in yogurt. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve cold as a dip with pita breads or naans.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 220 Fat 11 g Sodium 55 mg
Carbohydrates 21 g Saturated fat 2 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 12 g Cholesterol 6 mg Dietary fiber 7 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 vegetable, ½ carb, 1 lean protein, 2 fat.
Dilled Onion Cheese Balls
Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. For coatings, use crushed potato chips, crushed cheese-flavored crackers, finely chopped dried fruit, crushed wasabi peas, finely chopped fresh herbs or finely chopped toasted almonds or other nuts. Use the same coating for all cheese balls, or make a variety. From "Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book," 17th edition.
• 8 oz. cream cheese
• 1 c. finely shredded Gouda cheese (about 4 oz.)
• 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter
• 1 tbsp. milk
• 2 tbsp. thinly sliced green onion
• 2 tbsp. freshly chopped dill or 2 tsp. dried dill
• 1/4 c. coating (see Note)
• Assorted crackers and flatbreads
Place cream cheese, Gouda cheese and butter in a bowl of an electric mixer and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Add milk, and with the mixer on medium speed, beat until cheese mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in green onion and dill. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.
Form 2 tablespoons cheese mixture into a ball; repeat to make 12 balls. Roll cheese balls in desired coating and let stand for 15 minutes. Serve with crackers and/or flatbreads. Alternatively, form cheese mixture into one large ball, coat with desired coating and serve on a plate surrounded by crackers.
(To make ahead, prepare as directed, but do not coat cheese balls. Place uncoated cheese balls in a single layer in a freezer container. Freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Before serving, roll in coating.)
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 140 Fat 13 g
Sodium 170 mg Carbohydrates 2 g
Saturated fat 8 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 4 g Cholesterol 40 mg
Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ high-fat protein, 2 fat.
Seeded Breadsticks With Parmesan
Serves 6 to 10.
Note: "The shape may look intimidating to pull off, but I promise that you do not need to apprentice with an Italian grandmother to get these right," writes Alison Roman in "Nothing Fancy." "The dough is extremely forgiving and easy to work with; you basically look at it and it turns into a breadstick. If you've ever turned balls of Play-Doh into thin ropes, you can transform this dough into long, elegant breadsticks."
• 2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
• 1/4 c. whole-wheat, rye, spelt or buckwheat flour (or more all-purpose flour)
• 1 tsp. active dry yeast
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• 1/3 c. white or black sesame seeds
• 1/4 c. poppy seeds
• 1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for finishing
• 3/4 c. lukewarm water
• 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for bowl
• Flaky sea salt
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, yeast and kosher salt. Add sesame seeds, poppy seeds and 1 cup Parmesan cheese. Make a well in the center, and drizzle in the lukewarm water, followed by 2 tablespoons olive oil. Using a wooden spoon (or your hands), mix until no dry spots remain and the dough still feels a bit sticky, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature until not quite but nearly double in size, 60 to 90 minutes, depending upon the kitchen's temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using the palms of your hands, flatten into a rectangle roughly 4 by 8 inches. Using a pastry scraper, bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough vertically into strips about 1/4 inch thick (you'll get 40 to 50 strips).
While you form breadsticks, cover the rest of the dough with a lightly damp kitchen or paper towel (if the dough gets too dry, it will be hard to roll out). Roll each piece of dough onto an unfloured work surface (cutting board or countertop) until you have a long, skinny breadstick-shaped piece of dough. (They will puff slightly as they rest and once they bake, so go skinnier than you think — they should be thinner than a pencil.)
Place each strip of dough on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 1/2 inch apart (they don't spread much) until you've filled the baking sheets. Brush or drizzle the dough with some olive oil and sprinkle with flaky salt and a showering of additional Parmesan.
Bake, rotating the sheets once, until the breadsticks are golden brown and baked through, 8 to 10 minutes. If there are some that are thinner than others and are baking quicker, feel free to pluck them from the baking sheet and continue to bake those that need it. Remove from oven, cool and serve.
Breadstick dough can be made up to 2 days ahead; tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Breadsticks can be baked up to 2 days ahead, kept on their baking sheets (so they don't break), wrapped tightly with plastic, and stored at room temperature.
Nutrition information per each of 10 servings:
Calories 220 Fat 10 g Sodium 330 mg Carbohydrates 23 g Saturated fat 3 g
Added sugars 0 mg Protein 9 g Cholesterol 8 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ starch, ½ medium-fat protein, 1 fat.
Minted Spinach Dip With Yogurt
Makes 3 cups.
Note: To toast almonds, place nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring (or shaking the pan frequently) until they just begin to release their fragrance, about 2 to 3 minutes. From "Christmas Feasts and Treats," by Donna Hay.
• 18 oz. baby spinach leaves
• 1/2 c. almonds, toasted (see Note)
• 3 c. fresh mint leaves
• 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
• 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 c. Greek-style (thick) plain yogurt, plus extra for garnish
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• Fresh micro basil leaves (or torn basil leaves), for garnish
In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the spinach, in batches, cooking until wilted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately transfer cooked spinach to ice water, then drain well.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process almonds until fine. Add cooked and drained spinach, mint, lemon zest and lemon juice, and process until smooth. Add yogurt and olive oil and process to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
When ready to serve, spoon the dip onto a serving plate and top with extra yogurt and micro basil leaves (or torn basil leaves). Serve with lavosh crackers.
Nutrition information per each of 12 servings:
Calories 90 Fat 6 g
Sodium 44 mg Carbohydrates 5 g
Saturated fat 1 g Added sugars 0 mg
Protein 5 g Cholesterol 2 mg
Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, ½ lean protein, 1 fat.