Cocoa-Crusted Potato Wedges with Garlicky Tahini Dipping Sauce

I love using unsweetened cocoa in savory applications, and when combined with Mexican-inspired seasonings, it reminds me of mole. The dip is delicious on anything, and to use it as a dressing, dilute with a little water and adjust lemon, salt, and garlic to taste.

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COCOA-CRUSTED POTATO WEDGES WITH GARLICKY TAHINI DIPPING SAUCE

For the potatoes:
6 medium-sized baking potatoes, cut into wedges
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fine sea or Himalayan salt to taste

For the dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup roasted tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
Fine sea or Himalayan salt to taste
Water to thin

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss potatoes with the olive oil, then spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and a few dashes of salt. Toss the potatoes with the mixture until well-coated. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are crisp and browned on the outside and tender on the inside.

While the potatoes are in the oven, begin making the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the tahini and lemon, adding water to get to a dipping sauce consistency. Reduce to a simmer and heat through, adding salt to taste. Serve with the potatoes.

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Crudités with Almond Ranch Dip

Almonds provide the creaminess in this ranch-flavored dip inspired by an old peppercorn dressing that we used to dip carrots in when we were kids. Though it takes just moments to put together, the almonds have to be soaked overnight, so requires thinking a day ahead. Choose colourful vegetables to go with your dip of choice, or serve with toasted whole grain, gluten-free crackers or pita bread. Use coarsely ground peppercorns for a kick of flavor, if desired.

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Crudites with Almond Ranch Dip

For the crudités:
A wide variety of colorful vegetables, such as peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, or whatever is in season.

For the Almond Ranch Dip:
1 heaping cup whole raw almonds, soaked over night, and skins removed
4 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea salt to taste
Lots of fresh ground pepper
1/2 to 1 cup water, for blending
1/4 cup freshly minced parsley

After soaking and skinning the almonds, put them in a heavy-duty food processor. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the agave nectar, onion powder, dill, garlic powder, a pinch of salt, and a bit of pepper.

Pour in about 1/3 cup water, and turn processor on. Continue adding water until reaching a dippable consistency. Stir in parsley. Adjust seasonings and agave nectar to taste. Refrigerate before serving, preferably at least a few hours.

Jalapeños Stuffed with Roasted Garlic Hummus

The roasted garlic in the hummus creates a sultry, mellow flavour, rich in taste without the pungent kick of raw garlic, and can be made a few days in advance to make day-of assembly a breeze.

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JALAPENOS STUFFED WITH ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS

Roasted Garlic Hummus
1 large head of garlic
1 (14 oz./398 mL) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons roasted tahini
1/4 cup warm water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

To Assemble
About 20 jalapenos, cut in half, length-wise and seeded
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

To make the hummus, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Cut off the very top of the garlic bulb so just the tops of most of the cloves are exposed. Wrap securely in aluminum foil and place in oven to roast for one hour. Remove and let cool.

Using your fingers, squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except for cilantro and jalapenos. If not completely smooth, add a dash or two of water until smooth consistency is reached. Test for seasoning. Refrigerate overnight if desired.

When ready to stuff the jalapenos, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spoon hummus in each jalapeno half, filling the crevasses, and transfer on a baking sheet. Depending on the size of the jalapenos, you might have some left over (eat it within a few days).

Bake the stuffed jalapenos  for 17 to 20 minutes, until jalapenos are tender but still slightly firm. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.