DIY Business Association Conference + Red Pepper Hummus and Beet Dip

Alternately titled The Little Food Processor That Could OR No One Girl Should Make All That Hummus
(skip to recipes at bottom)

I’m starting this post shortly after taking a way-too-expensive car ride home from the first (but definitely not last) DIY Business Association Conference in DUMBO, and I am glowing because WHOA, I am full of inspiration from a day of panels and chatting with friends, past and present colleagues, and new acquaintances who are all working on amazing creative projects.

In my running around all day, I failed to take photos; I’m sure other people’s will surface soon…

The DIYBA was started this year by Amy Schroeder, a close friend who began as my mentor; she founded the now-defunct women’s music and culture mag Venus Zine when she was a student at Michigan State (also my alma mater, though we’re 10 years apart). When I was in college, Amy took me on as an intern and soon after hired me as an editor, and it’s because of that experience — and the constant support from her and the other colleagues, mentors and friends I met because of it — that I truly believed I could make a living writing about music in New York. Just four years later I was able to make it a reality. Anyway, Amy put on an incredible conference (I helped out most of the day and with the help of Stefanie of The Petite Soiree and a kickass volunteer team, it was like clockwork) and every single person left with something new.

“Ideas need to have sex with each other”
Most of the conference focused on collaboration — Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge talked about seeking out people in communities outside your niche who share the way you think; Molly Neuman, who I work with at eMusic, talked about how Ted Leo (who she manages) has started collaborating with comedians to reach new audiences; bassist Gregory Jackson, who’s played with countless reggae, soul and R&B artists, talked about getting gigs that combine music and art. The conference today was a clearing for new ideas and inspiration, and I know there will be some cool projects related to this blog that came out of today. (Jessica H. Lawrence talked about ideas needing to “have sex with each other” and it’s true.)

Among the people I met today: Journalists Niema Jordan and Annie Reuter, who wrote concert reviews for me at VZ back in the day but I’d never met them in person; Shondes drummer Temim Fruchter; comedic songwriter Jessica Delfino; BUST Magazine designer Erin Wengrovious; Brian Merchant from the Utopianist; photographer (and fellow former State Newser) Eleanor Templeton; Patrice Fehlen at September Gurl PR and quite a few others. I definitely have some cooking and wine-drinking dates and collaborative ETB posts ahead of me.

Journalist Niema Jordan (of Essence magazine and others) and Temim Fruchter of the Shondes

So, speaking of food (of course), the other notable part of the day is that I offered to make snacks for the drinks and mingling hour at the end of the event; which was about 150 or so people … which I had never done before. Considering the logistics — I had to make it a day ahead of time and it had to sit in a fridge or at room temperature all day — I decided on roasted red pepper hummus and beet/goat cheese dip, with pita, carrots and cucumbers, and a huge fruit salad. I also have no perception of how much food should be made for that many people, and I spent Saturday hovering over my tiny, tiny food processor, making my weight in hummus. (I don’t even wanna talk about it. The morals of my story are 1) I need a bigger food processor, and 2) I should never make that much hummus again.) And before the conference I chopped up two watermelons, four cantaloupes and combined them with six cartons of strawberries and about four pounds of grapes. WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.

In my frantic planning and errand-running and food-making, I completely freaked out. I thought, “I’m representing my food blog and this food is totally nothing fancy and people are going to think I’m super lame” … and then I realized it actually doesn’t matter. At all. What I do on ETB is not fancy. OK, I guess sometimes it can get a bit elaborate — but it’s usually not, and that’s a lot of what this site is about. I’m a home cook, not a business. I’m not trying to sell you anything; I just love to make food and share it with people. And reminding myself of that made it totally fine that I was making two dips and fruit salad. And then at the end of the evening when people said they liked my hummus, I realized how silly I was for thinking people would judge me in the first place. It was a great learning experience. And since I made WAY too much of everything, I pushed hummus-filled Greek yogurt containers onto other volunteers and conference-goers, and I can only hope they eat it.

Anyway! If you tasted these at the conference or they just sound good to you anyway, recipes are below. Both are very simple, though I recommend using a large food processor if you plan to make more than a few batches.

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Sunday Small Plates, Family Dinner, & Mom’s Mandel Bread (Inspired by Beirut)

(The spread: Cheese/potato and spinach/ricotta pierogis; herbed goat cheese with crackers, apricots and almonds; Spanish tortilla; Mandel bread; brie and apples; three-olive tapenade; quinoa tabouli; toasted baguette; tomato bruschetta. Not pictured: hummus, tzatziki. Pretty much all of this was eaten.)

A small-plates feast and my mom’s Mandel bread (recipes + TONS of photos at the bottom)

Zach Condon of Beirut gets his musical influences from all over the world, much of it from Eastern Europe. It’s not always obvious what elements come from which culture; they’re all seamlessly mixed together and he manages to make complete sense out of it. To represent the tiny pieces from different cultures, my friends and I made a dinner of small-plate dishes — olive tapenade, hummus, quinoa tabouli, tomato bruschetta, tzatziki sauce, pierogis, a Spanish tortilla, a cheese plate, and mandel bread — and they don’t all necessarily come from the places represented in Beirut’s music, but that’s not really the point. My friends come from different cultural backgrounds, too, and our group makes about as much sense as this hodgepodge of a meal or Condon’s music — but it works.

I interpret Condon’s song “A Sunday Smile” to be about a romantic relationship, but ultimately it makes me think of peaceful, relaxing Sundays — which in recent months has meant lots of big dinners like this one. Every few weeks, a group of my closest New York friends (most of them from college, with some others we’ve picked up along the way) come to my apartment for what we call Family Dinner; a huge dinner that we make together. At first it was just for fun, but now it’s a constant reminder that even though most of our blood-related families are far away, what we’ve created here in the city is pretty damn close. We usually pick a theme — in the past we’ve made dumplings, sushi, tacos, holiday cookies — and go from there, and this sharing of cultures and food has become an extremely important part of my life. So these days, when Condon sings the chorus of “A Sunday smile, you wore it for a while,” I think about how the excitement from a Sunday Family Dinner carries over well into the next week.

My own cultural contribution to our small-plates feast was mandel bread (pictured above), a traditional Jewish/Eastern European cookie of sorts (it’s easiest to describe it as Jewish biscotti), which I remember my mom making when I was growing up. Last year I started baking it myself, with her recipe, and it’s become my all-occasion go-to treat. My mom was an amazing cook and baker (she passed away in July 1999), and food was always important in my family. So, I’m really excited to share this special recipe — and the experience of making and eating food with loved ones — with my family here, too.

Beirut is the project of Zach Condon, a 20-something from New Mexico who dropped out of high school to travel to Europe, where he was influenced by Eastern European and Balkan folk music. Condon plays the horn and sings, and his band tends to be up to 10 members strong, with instruments that include the tuba, trombone, accordion, sax, strings, and various forms of percussion.
Beirut on MySpace

<!–more Mandel bread recipe, links to other recipes, and photos below –>

Mandel bread

4 eggs
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c oil
1 tsp vanilla (I usually mix this with 1 tsp instant coffee before adding, but that’s optional)
1/2 c chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or dried berries (or a combination of these totaling about 1/2 c or a little more) — this time I used chocolate chips and dried cranberries. I recommend the mini chocolate chips, or coarsely chopping the normal-sized ones.
3 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon/sugar OR cocoa powder/sugar mixture (about 3-4 tbsp’s worth)


• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Mix eggs through baking powder in the order given (first eggs and sugar, gradually adding everything else).

• Grease a cookie sheet.

• Mold the dough into three long, flat loaves. The dough will be really sticky — don’t worry about these looking smooth and pretty because they won’t!

• Bake for 35 minutes.

• Pull out of the oven and slice; then sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar (or cocoa/sugar) mixture and bake for another 10 minutes.

The rest of Family Dinner: Small Plates Edition, in photos. (There are at least a few photos I didn’t take; I think Paul took the rest?)

Tomato bruschetta (Recipe)

Herbed goat cheese, white cheddar, dried apricots and almonds

PIerogis! Tonya’s mom’s recipe.

Quinoa tabouli (Recipe)

Olive tapenade — I think this was the favorite! (Recipe)

Tzatziki (Recipe)

Prepping food, goofing around, eating.

Tonya, the Ukrainian pierogi-making master

Teaching Chad.

Missy explaining her Spanish tortilla, a potato and egg dish that I somehow didn’t get a photo of by itself.

Hummus. There’s not really a recipe, I just put these things in my food processor and add stuff to taste: can of chickpeas, some tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, Greek yogurt, paprika and salt.