Snacks, Vegetables, Cheese

A Holiday Mezze Spread

Mezze Spread |
Mezze Spread |
Marinated Carrots |

Who's getting ready to host a party? I'm off duty this year but if I was it'd look like this. I've had mezze on the brain since my birthday last month. My fam and I went to one of my most favorite places in Cambridge, Sofra Bakery + Cafe, and ordered about three quarters of the menu. If you live within walking, driving, or flying distance I recommend you make a date to get your tush over there. (Pro tip: bring friends who are down to share. You're going to want it all.) Turkish, Lebanese, and Greek flavors get friendly on the menu and the results are otherworldly. I have not strolled through a bazaar with a fork but I imagine it would taste like this cafe.

Of all the feasting to be done at Sofra, the mezze plate is what really makes my heart flutter. Mezze simply means a sampling of small dishes - cheeses, spreads, salads + vegetables. A brightly hued platter of contrasting textures and flavors paired with warm bread might be my favorite way to eat. It was high time I attempted to compose my own. The brilliant mind behind Sofra, Ana Sortun, has kindly shared many of her secrets in her cookbook, Spice. The beets + yogurt and whipped feta are both renditions of Ana's recipes though I've made slight modifications to mix up flavor profiles and make prep less time-intensive.

There is nothing particularly holiday-y about this spread, except that it lends itself very well to a party. Not only can you make everything ahead, you should. The flavors will become more vibrant overnight and then you can tackle your party day to-do list (take out of fridge, let come to room temperature) with feet up and a glass of wine in hand.

PS - I gave myself an early Christmas present this week and rolled out a new word mark for the site. What do you think? The font is called 'smitten' which is appropriate because I am!

Beets + Yogurt |
Olives with Thyme + Orange |
Fried Pine Nuts |
Whipped Feta |
Marinated Carrots |
Beets + Yogurt |

Beets + Yogurt


  • 1 lb. beets
  • 8 oz. strained yogurt (labneh, yogurt cheese, or full fat Greek yogurt)
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • olive oil + nigella seeds for garnish


  • Boil beets until easily pierced with a fork; remove from water and allow to cool (cooking time will vary based on size of your beets)
  • When beets are cool enough to handle, massage skins off under running water and discard
  • Using a box grater, finely grate beetroot (This is messy! Set you grater atop wax paper or another surface to protect your table or countertop)
  • Mix grated beets with yogurt, lemon juice, mint, honey, salt + pepper until well blended
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving
  • Serve at room temperature garnished with a drizzle of olive oil + nigella seeds


Cumin Marinated Carrots


  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. maras pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  • Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil
  • Boil carrots until cooked through but not mushy (about 5-7 minutes)
  • While carrots are cooking use a mortar and pestle to mash garlic, maras, cumin, and salt into a paste
  • Drain carrots and place in bowl
  • Toss with garlic-spice paste, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil until well coated
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving
  • Serve at room temperature


Whipped Feta with Mint + Lemon


  • 8 oz. feta (ideally sheep's milk or goat's milk)
  • 2 Tbs. half + half (milk or cream may substitute)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. mint, finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tbs. pine nuts


  • In a food processor blend feta, half + half, lemon zest and mint on high speed until feta is smooth and fluffy (about 1 minute)
  • Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate before serving to all flavors to meld
  • When ready to serve fry pine nuts in a skillet with a glug of olive oil over medium high heat; stir constantly so as not to burn
  • Bring feta to room temperature and top with toasted pine nuts


Warm Olives with Orange + Thyme


  • 1 cup Kalamata olives
  • 6-8 strips orange zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil


  • Toss olives, orange zest, thyme, and olive oil in a bowl
  • When ready to serve preheat oven to 375
  • Transfer olives to an oven-safe dish and heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes


Za'tar Flatbread


  • Dough for 1 pizza
  • 2 Tbs. za'tar spice blend
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  • Place a pizza stone in the oven + preheat oven to 500 degrees
  • Mix za'tar spice with olive oil and salt
  • Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness on a pizza board
  • Pierce dough all over with the tines of a fork
  • Brush olive oil + spice mixture all over dough right up to the edge of the flatbread
  • Transfer dough to pizza stone and bake 6-8 minutes (until edges are browned and dough is crisp)
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool
  • Cut into thin strips for dipping
  • Store leftover flatbread in a resealable plastic bag


Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread

Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread |

I use the term bread here loosely. Let's be honest. This is cake. Chocolate studded cake. But if we call it bread we can eat it for breakfast with a pat of butter. Mmmmm. Bread it is. 

While cake for breakfast is a delightful way to start the day, it was not the impetus behind baking two loaves of this last night. Nope, it's because we're going skiing! In my mind skiing and quick breads are inextricably linked. Heading to the mountains demands provisions. Pack a few loaves of banana, zucchini, or pumpkin bread and nearly all your boxes are checked - it's breakfast, it's a snack, it's dessert, and it can even ride the chair lift. Voila.

Carrot bread is a new variation for me, but after how well this batch came out I doubt I'll be calling on the usual suspects anytime soon. Zucchini is out of season in the winter. Bananas - try as I might - I just don't like very much. And pumpkin gets too much play these days. (In all seriousness, the Pumpkin Spice Latte  has 90,000 followers on Twitter). The true test will be whether any remnants survive the weekend. I'm banking on no leftovers so I can return to regularly scheduled programming at breakfast where it's obviously whole grains and yogurt everyday, and never, ever cake.

Carrot Bread Baking Prep |
Carrot Bread Baking Prep |
Pureed Carrots |
Mast Brothers Brooklyn Blend Chocolate Tablet |
Chocolate Chunks |
Buttered + Floured Loaf Pans |
Carrot Bread Batter |
Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread |

Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread

This recipe is from The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss. I stumbled upon it on NPR's Kitchen Window series when looking for a carrot bread that incorporates both pureed and grated carrots (most call only for grated). The addition of chocolate was my only modification.

Makes two 8 1/2-inch loaves (recipe could be easily cut in half to make only 1 loaf)


  • 16 carrots
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 10 oz. good quality chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Mast Brothers Brooklyn Blend)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Butter and flour two 8 1/2-inch loaf pans
  • Peel all the carrots
  • Take 6 carrots, chop into small rounds and cook in salted, boiling water until soft (about 10 minutes). Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
  • Grate the remaining 10 carrots and set aside
  • In a small bowl use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt
  • In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until smooth
  • Stir eggs into the butter/sugar mixture one at time until combined
  • Stir the buttermilk, pureed carrots, and grated carrots into the egg mixture
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
  • Fold in the chopped chocolate
  • Divide batter between the two pans and bake for 60-70 minutes (check for doneness by inserting a thin knife; bread is done when it comes out clean)
  • Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans
  • Let cool completely (if you can stand it) before slicing
  • Store at room temperature wrapped in plastic; will keep for four days this way or freeze for up to two months


Carrot Salad

Carrot Feta Salad |

I turn the big 3-0 this week and this blog is something of a gift to myself, a fresh hobby to ring in a new decade. While I assure you this very important birthday will be marked by cake at some point, today it is marked by carrots. But they aren't just any carrots. They're the new rainbow mix that just appeared at our Whole Foods. I sincerely hope they aren't just pinch hitting for Thanksgiving because, goodness look at them!

This salad is a riff on one I've made several times with grated carrots. While wonderful, I wanted to give a new version a whirl. A version for those I-don't-want-to-pull-out-the-Cuisinart-and-clean-all-those-attachments days. And I'll say this hit the mark.

Happy birthday to moi!

Peeled Carrots |
Moody Carrot Sticks |

I cut these into your classic 'carrot stick' shape but really any cut would do - large chunks, small coins, whatever you please. The lengthwise cuts here highlight the awesome golden core of the purple carrots.

Garlic in Mortar and Pestle |

If you're not a garlic enthusiast you may want to proceed with caution. The bite of the raw garlic is an awesome foil for the carrots' sweetness, but scale back according to your taste.

Carrot Salad Mise En Place |

Rainbow carrots aside, nigella seeds are really the star of the show here. I was introduced to these little buggers recently and have been sprinkling with abandon ever since. They're edgy - literally, shaped like roughly chiseled sesame seeds. The flavor is subtle, a little smoky, a little peppery but their visual effect is striking. I haven't seen these widely available in grocery stores yet but of course we live in the golden age of specialty food mail order so not a problem.

Dressed Carrots |
Carrot Feta Salad |


Serves 2-4


  • 6-10 carrots, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and ground to paste
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds
  • 2 Tbs. chopped parsley (have dill, mint, basil on hand? sub or a try a combo)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta


  • Peel carrots and cut to your liking; I did your classic 'carrot stick' shape though you easily do big chunks or coins
  • Bring salted water to a boil (use enough water to submerge carrots by 1 inch)
  • Cook carrots in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork but not yet mushy (cooking time will depend on size of your cuts)
  • Drain carrots, let cool
  • Grind garlic in mortar + pestle until you have a thick paste (adding a pinch of salt helps this along)
  • Place carrots in serving dish, dress with lemon juice, a few glugs of olive oil, garlic and nigella seeds
  • Give it all a stir, top with chopped parsley and feta
  • Serve at room temperature

Make ahead and marinate in the fridge to amp up the garlic factor.