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Life has been a whirlwind the past six months with home construction, being displaced by construction and trying to keep our head above water in all ways after our big house move. Without a real kitchen, which was being completely remodeled, I wasn’t feeling terribly inspired since we were relying heavily on easy dinners and doing pretty much no entertaining.
Thankfully, the kitchen is now 99% completed. We’re just waiting on one last detail to be installed, and it’s a cosmetic install. So life in our new home is starting to settle in and feel like the new normal. We’re back to having friends for dinner occasionally and cooking most nights.
A few weeks ago I took a quick day trip up to Kansas City to visit my dear friend, RoxAnn, for the afternoon. The ironic thing is RoxAnn and I used to take day trips to shop in KC, and now she lives there. She made reservations at a fun, chic restaurant called The Restaurant at 1900 for lunch. We dined there and really enjoyed our food and the ambiance. She had a salmon salad that had a Mediterranean twist and included some lebana (strained yogurt) topped with a light fresh combo of veggies including fresh fennel. I chose the fish and chips, which were “stuffed” with beans. I would say there were beans in the batter — there wasn’t anything stuffed inside the actual fish. But it was delicious nonetheless. The “chips” were a couple of small, crispy, fry-like yucca sticks, and there was a tasty slaw on the side. It’s a restaurant I’d like to return to for dinner and perhaps linger longer.
Our last and perhaps most memorable stop was at Baba’s Pantry, a Palestinian deli at 1019 E 63rd St. that had so many offerings to go, I had to borrow a cooler. The interior was bright and beautifully designed, and “Baba” himself greeted us as we walked in the door. Then, we went to town, almost clearing out all the delicious offerings. I purchased marinated Castelvetrano olives, lebana (which they called lebne), feta dip with roasted olives, avocado hummus (Baba’s wife enthusiastically sold me on this), freshly fried pita chips, and some pickled turnips. Last fall, Baba’s Pantry was written up in Bon Appetit magazine as one of the “10 Best New Restaurants 2022.”
As we checked out with our baskets overflowing, RoxAnn said, “Oh, we’d also like to try your lemonade.” Avocado ginger and pomegranate were the available flavors, and we got one of each, of course. Off we walked with our arms loaded down by bags of Palestinian treats and lemonades, smiling from ear-to-ear. I would drive to Kansas City just to go to Baba’s Pantry and load up again.
Everything I bought at Baba’s Pantry was delightfully delicious. And the feta and roasted olive dip got my wheels turning. I found a recipe that is similar — although served warm. It comes from a blog called Food Dolls authored by two beautiful, young Egyptian women. These dolls know how to cook. Enjoy this delicious dip with pita, pita chips or crostini.
How to make Warm Feta Dip with Marinated Olives
Gather and measure out the ingredients for the dip: feta cheese, whipped cream cheese, Greek yogurt and mozzarella cheese. Pulse these ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Transfer this to an oven-safe baking dish or skillet and bake until warm and bubbly.
While baking, combine the ingredients for the marinated olive topping in a separate bowl: chopped Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, oregano, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Let marinate at least 20 minutes.
Spread the marinated olives over the warm feta mixture.