Summer Mezze Mama

Summer Mezze Mama

I recently met Marissa at the Wisconsin Cheeselandia event. I found out that we were neighbors and we have been making our own versions of cheeseboards. She is the creative genius behind @thatcheeseplate and @cheesebynumbers. So, OF COURSE, we had to collaborate!

We put together this gorgeous, summery board after picking up some of our favorite seasonal things. Think about apricots, cantaloupes, and berries! We combined our worlds together on this board. She made her signature #SalamiRiver while I added my signature Middle Eastern flair with hummus and labneh.

As always, I hope this inspires you to create and have fun making your own boards for your upcoming parties. And, if you are looking for more cheese board ideas, make sure to follow Marissa on Instagram, @thatcheeseplate.

Whole Roasted Halloumi with Tomatoes on the Vine

Whole Roasted Halloumi with Tomatoes on the Vine

I grew up eating seared halloumi like it’s my version of grilled cheese. I’ve noticed that halloumi has been getting a lot of attention lately, seeing it pop up on different menus everywhere. But, I was still shocked to find out that so many people have never heard of my favorite cheese, aka RuPaul!

For those who don’t know what halloumi is, it’s a brined semi-hard cheese, mixed with goat and sheep milk, that doesn’t melt, which makes it super versatile - you can fry, sear, and grill it. The taste of halloumi completely changes after it gets cooked. The salty flavors get more intense, and there is a contrast between a crispy outside and salty, creamy inside.

Since it’s tomato season, I added tomatoes on the vine to add an extra burst of flavors. Such a simple way of preparing side dishes for summer parties, and I hope this dish gets you addicted to halloumi even more!

Total Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 whole halloumi

  • 1 pound tomatoes on the vine

  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

  • a few sprigs of thyme

  • 3 tbsp EVOO

  • salt & pepper to taste

  • scallion to garnish

  • handful of arugula to serve

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Set the oven temperature to 450F.

  2. In a parchment-lined sheet tray, add the whole halloumi. Drizzle 1 tbsp of EVOO and roast it for 5 minutes.

  3. On the same sheet tray surround the halloumi with tomatoes on the vine, crushed garlic cloves, and thyme. Drizzle the rest of EVOO and season everything with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast them for 8-10 minutes, or until the tomato skin pops and the tomato juice starts to ooze out.

  4. Serve this with a handful of greens, such as arugula. There should be plenty of garlic thyme infused olive oil from the sheet tray to drizzle on top of the green as a dressing.

Minty Watermelon Surfer

Minty Watermelon Surfer

Get on your surf board and let this watermelon splash you!

This is a fun, summery drink, made with one of my favorite summer fruits, watermelon! For this recipe, I use a watermelon into two different ways — juiced and cubed. I let the cubed watermelon be soaked up for a while so that when you pop in these spiked up watermelon cubes, they will give you an irresistibly refreshing burst.

It’s a simple, fun drink, perfect for the 4th of July and all summer long!

Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 large pitcher

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 watermelon

  • 1 bunch mint

  • 1 1/2 cup vodka

  • 3 limes, juiced

  • Sparkling water or club soda to top it off

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Cut the half of a whole watermelon. Scoop out the meat of the halved watermelon into a blender. Blend it until it’s juiced. Cube the other half of watermelon. Put it aside.

  2. In a large pitcher, muddle mint first. Add ice and pour vodka, watermelon juice, lime juice, and stir.

  3. Add chunks of cubed watermelon to the pitcher and mix it all together.

  4. Pour the drink into an iced glass, and finish it off with more fresh mint and a little bit of sparkling water. Finish with a bottle of sparkling water.

All American Board

All American Board

Welcome back to my board series! I curated this board with all of America’s favorites, burgers & hot dogs.

This is a fun way to please the crowd, especially for the upcoming 4th of July parties. Put all the condiments and toppings, like onions, lettuce, ketchup, and more, into one place so that everyone can build their perfect plates. If you are not a big fan of burgers and hot dogs, you can easily swap the meat with other favorites, like ribs and fried chicken, if you want.

What’s great about this board is that everyone can enjoy the food in a DIY style, and this impressive presentation will be the centerpiece of any parties you host.

Rosewater Spritz

Rosewater Spritz

This is my take on a traditional vodka soda with my Middle Eastern flare (of course). I decided to turn up the volume by adding rosewater, which brings its signature floral notes to the drink. Juiced lemon makes the drink even more refreshing. It’s time to get your summer groove on with this rosewater spritz in your hand!

Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 large pitcher

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cup vodka

  • 2 tbsp rosewater

  • 3 lemons juiced

  • 1 liter sparkling water or club soda

  • Ice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large iced pitcher pour vodka, rosewater, lemon juice and mix

  2. Finish with a bottle of sparkling water.

  3. Serve on ice with a few slices of lemon, and of course a paper straw!

  4. Happy Spritz Season - now go sip away!

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites

No-Bake Cheesecake Bites Three-Way

This is a simple, no-bake dessert idea that’s perfect for summer entertaining (because who wants to turn on the oven when it gets hot outside?) For the graham cracker crust if you don’t have a food processor, you can put them in a ziplock bag and crush them by hands. Uneven crumbles will create different textures that will be even better.

You can cut these into bite-sizes as I did, but you can even serve it in like a typical cheesecake style by adding the mixture to the cake pan.

These creamy dessert bites stay well in the freezer, so make these ahead and whip them out for any surprise parties!

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Makes: 8 people

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 12 graham crackers sheets

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 stick melted butter

Cheesecake Base:

  • 1 lb cream cheese, room temp

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 tbsp rosewater

Topping:

  • dehydrated rose petals

  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted

  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely crushed.

  2. In a large bowl, combine graham crackers, 1/4 cup powder sugar, salt, and melted butter. Stir until the mixture is well combined.

  3. Press the graham cracker mixture down into the baking dish, using a cup or spatula - press the mixture until it creates an even layer! Freeze for 15 minutes.

  4. In a stand mixer bowl, whip cream cheese with powdered sugar, and rosewater until everything is fully incorporated and smooth.

  5. Spread the cream cheese evenly on top of the chilled graham cracker crust. Freeze for at least 2 hours (overnight if you can).

  6. Transfer the cheesecake to a cutting board and slice into 1-inch squares - creating mini cheesecake bites.

Topping:

  1. Sprinkle cheesecake bites with rose petals.

  2. Dip some cheesecake bites into melted chocolate and cool in freezer, Finish with sea salt.

  3. Swirl raspberry jam onto the cheesecake bites and freeze.

Pickled Board

Pickled Board

I’m back with another board series. For this time, it’s all about pickles!

I used my favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and pineapple, to pickle. I paired the pickle board with fresh crudités, a few of my favorite dips, and some potato chips. Such a simple spread for lots of flavors.

Use my base pickle recipe to pickle your favorite veggies and fruits. Cauliflower, watermelon rinds, and even peaches would be excellent.

Stay tuned for more of my board series, and I hope you start having fun with creating your own incredible boards for your upcoming parties.

Pistachio Halva Rice Krispies

Pistachio Halva Rice Krispies

I think Rice Krispie treats are one of the quintessential American desserts that everyone seems to love. It tastes like your childhood! I remember seeing my friends getting so excited when they saw a little blue wrapper during lunchtime while I was eating my halva tartine across from them.

Halva is a sweetened, condensed tahini that is quintessential to everyone in the Middle East. It’s chalky, sweet, and perfect to spread on a piece of toasted bread. I combined my Middle Eastern, American life into one dish: Pistachio Halva Rice Krispies.

Adding crumbled halva to the Rice Krispie mixture adds not only extra nutty, sweet flavors but also flaky texture. To make this extra delectable, I drizzled melted dark chocolate and finished it with even more pistachios. It’s the best of two worlds!

Now, whenever I serve this special treat to my clients, I can see their faces lighting up with joy and memories. But this time, they are tasting both their and my childhood.

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Makes: 8 people

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 12 cups mini marshmallows

  • 16 cups crisp rice cereal

  • 10 oz pistachio halva

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 12 oz dark chocolate chips

  • 1/4 cup pistachios

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is fully melted, add marshmallow until it’s fully incorporated to the butter.

  2. In a large bowl, add crisp rice cereal. Pour marshmallow fluff to crisp rice cereal in a bowl. Mix everything with 1 tbsp of salt until everything is well combined.

  3. Add crumbled pistachio halva to the crisp rice cereal mixture. Mix everything well again.

  4. Transfer the mixture to the sheet pan to form the shape. Spread it thinly to make sure that it covers every inch of the sheet pan, and press it thoroughly, making sure there are no holes. Keep it in the fridge for an hour until it hardens.

  5. While the crisp rice cereal is in the fridge, make the chocolate drizzle by pouring heated heavy cream to dark chocolate chips in a bowl. Whisk it thoroughly until it becomes glossy and saucy.

  6. Drizzle the chocolate ganache on crisp rice cereal. Grate pistachios on top and generously sprinkle more pistachios to your liking.