This month our new optional "Barefoot on a Budget" challenge was "Bruschetta on a Budget", making over Ina's Bruschetta with Sauteed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola, (recipe here). The gist of the Barefoot on a Budget challenge is to take one of Ina's recipes and re-do it to make it more budget-friendly. According to the guidelines, we can change the ingredients, cooking method or even the format of the recipe (i.e. turning a cake into pancakes), as long as the end result somewhat resembles the original recipe. I also use it as an opportunity to lighten up Ina a bit, and make a healthy recipe too. Last month, our first BOAB challenge was remaking her Lobster Cobb Salad Rolls which I changed into Salmon Nicoise Salad Rolls.
In her bruschetta recipe, Ina sautes red and yellow bell peppers with capers and basil and serves it on a toasted baguette with creamy Gorgonzola cheese. I kept the peppers, buying a bag of mini sweet red, yellow and orange peppers at the Thai market for $2.00 and kept the idea of a bruschetta-style appetizer. For the budget part, I decided to go through my pantry, fridge and freezer and use just ingredients I had on hand. The result? A healthy and delicious Moroccan-Style "Bruschetta" with Lentils, Sweet Peppers, Yogurt Cheese, Pine Nuts & Spices. This recipe pulls together some simple ingredients into something a little more exotic--it could/should probably be called "Middle-Eastern-Style Bruschetta" but because of the spices in the lentils, the pine nuts and mint, I went with "Moroccan-Style"!
Moroccan-Style "Bruschetta" with Lentils, Sweet Peppers, Yogurt Cheese, Pine Nuts & Spices
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
*1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, (strained overnight to make yogurt cheese)
2 cups water or stock
1/2 cup dried green/brown lentils
1/2 tsp ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
whole wheat pita bread or flatbread
olive oil (1 tsp for sauteing, extra to brush on bread)
sweet red or yellow peppers or red and yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
Za'atar spice blend and fresh mint leaves to garnish
*Place yogurt in cheesecloth or yogurt strainer over bowl to drain. Cover top with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night until it is the consistency of cream cheese.
Place dried lentils in water with spices and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook until lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, cut whole grain pita into small rounds. (You can get about 5 rounds from 1 large pita). Brush rounds very lightly with olive oil on one side and place in oven. Bake about 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned and crisp. Remove and let cool slightly.
While rounds are baking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small saute pan. Add sweet pepper slices and cook about 5 minutes. Add pine nuts and cook about another 5 minutes, until peppers are soft. Set aside.
To assemble "bruschetta": Place about 1 Tbsp lentils on pita. Top with 1 rounded tsp of yogurt cheese. Add pepper/pine nut mixture to lightly cover. Sprinkle with Za'atar spice mix and garnish with a fresh mint leaf. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Alternatively, you can omit the lentils and top pita rounds with about 1 rounded Tbsp of yogurt cheese and finish topping with other ingredients per above instructions.
Notes/Results: These were SO GOOD! I mean REALLY good! The pita was nice and crunchy, the lentils lightly spicy and the cooling cheese and sweet peppers were amazing. There is a nice little hit of spice and mint in each bite too. I tried making some of them without the lentils, and although the lentils were very tasty, I liked the ones with just the yogurt and peppers just a bit better because the sweetness of the peppers really came out. Because I had all the ingredients on hand, my only cost was for the peppers. I almost always have non-fat Greek yogurt and fresh mint in my fridge and pine nuts and whole-grain flatbread in my freezer. The Za'atar blend, I had in with all my spices, but if you don't have it you can put one together with some dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, mixed with some toasted sesame seeds and a little salt. I just made a few of these to try out and eat to with some soup for tomorrow's Souper Sunday post, but these will go on my pupu (appetizer) list for the next party I go to. They are easy to put together (you can make them even easier with canned lentils and store bought yogurt cheese or "labneh" if you don't want to plan ahead), tasty and healthy too and lend an exotic, fun air to any appetizer plate.
You can see how the other Barefoot Bloggers taking the Barefoot on a Budget Challenge adapted Ina's recipe and made it budget-friendly by going to the BB site, here. I think most people will be posting this on Sunday--I just went a day early. ;-)