Tag Archives: tapenade

Give generously. Look fabulous doing it.

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I really hate shopping for gifts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love buying things for people. At the mere mention of something meaningful I will spend hours chasing down a childhood book, favorite food or memoir of a home town. But the thought of just having to buy something is torture.

Over the years I have learned an important lesson. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you give, but that a special someone has something to unwrap on the big day; on Christmas morning, you can hand them a brightly wrapped gift and say, “I love you. Enjoy.” Upon opening, the recipient can hug you saying, “thanks.” Sometimes, it is not the gift that counts, but the giving.

Holiday entertaining is the same. Sometimes holiday get-togethers are more about fellowship than food. That, however, is no reason not to impress.

There is a generosity in offering your guests the gift of  luxury, in letting them spend a few hours living finely and fabulously. However, it is a gift doesn’t need to work your last frazzled, holiday nerve, nor does it need to be the last straw on a stretched budget.

Learn simple dishes that taste divine. Work with inexpensive ingredients and layer them with flavor: onions caramelized in butter, hand-whisked mayonnaise with bright herbs served alongside fresh, local crudités. Take a minute to think through the garniture for each one. Pipe a little sauce on top, arrange a whole parsley leaf, and crack some fresh black pepper. Light plenty of candles, buy inexpensive, fresh flowers and mass them in large vases, and play Bing Crosby’s classic holiday album.

Or try this. A favorite every time. Pretty, delicious, and easy. You’ll feel relaxed, have plenty of time to do your hair before your guests arrive, and they’ll think you had the evening catered.

Tapenade

Nothing out of a jar compares to the flavor of fresh parsley and garlic. No matter how much you think you hate anchovy paste, please go ahead and use it. You’ll never taste the anchovy and it does incredible things for the flavor of this spread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbs capers
  • 1/8 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • Red wine vinegar

Directions:

  • Place olives, garlic, herbs, cheese, capers and anchovy paste in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times for a rough chop.
  • With processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Process to bind.
  • Scrape tapenade into bowl and season to taste with vinegar and black pepper.
  • Serve with crostini.
  • Dress it up! Spread a tablespoon on crostini, top with a slice of buffalo mozzarella*. Broil for 1-2 min. to soften cheese. Top with a basil leaf.
*Buffalo mozzarella comes packaged in a plastic container in brine. You will either find it at the deli or in the cheese case.

Crostini

There is no excuse for not making your own! Grab a baguette and slice on the bias into 1/4″ thick slices. Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until golden. Let cool and store in a ziplock bag for up to 5 days.

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Mushrooms (generally) aren’t poisonous.

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Sure, there are some poisonous mushrooms out there. But most of them are perfectly safe (please, however, consult an expert before picking and eating anything not found in a grocery store or farm market). My dad would have you believe differently.

Dad hates mushrooms and has made it a lifetime commitment to keep them off the table. Fortunately, I have my mom, sister, brother and husband to back me up on this one. Plus, much to his chagrin, dad secretly loves the flavor of Porcinis.

Last weekend I came home with a bagful of beautiful Oyster mushrooms, Shitakes and Hen-of-the-Woods. Their scent was rich and meaty, earthy and begging for butter and herbs. I thought of them chopped fine, softened and browned and a tapenade came to mind. No mushrooms, but salt, vinegar and layer-upon-layer of flavor.

Capers were obvious (thanks Jim!). The anchovy paste less so. BTW if the mention of anchovy paste got your cursor speeding across the screen to close this window as fast as possible, STOP! You won’t taste it at all. At least not that you recognize. It will smell super-fishy when you first add it, but that goes away and just adds a little je ne sais quoi to the recipe, otherwise known as the flavor umami. I double-dog-dare you.

We first put this on toasted baguette. I also happened to be roasting a chicken with potatoes, and we spooned the mushrooms over both. Lots of them.

Wild Mushroom Tapenade

Ingredients:
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 lg shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste*
  • 4 cups chopped wild mushrooms**
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 2 tbs capers, rinsed and minced
  • 1 tbs chopped oregano (thyme and rosemary work well too)
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
* I’m not letting this go. It really does make a difference in the flavor, but you won’t taste any fishiness at all. You can find anchovy paste in a tube in the italian or spanish aisle in your grocery store. If not, buy a jar of them, preserved in oil, and mash it into a paste with a fork.
**You can use just about anything here. Portabellos, Chanterelles, Shitakes, Oysters etc… If you are making this for a crowd, save yourself a few bucks and use criminis or white button mushrooms for up to half of the total volume.
Directions:
  • Melt 2 tbs butter in a large sauté pan over med-low heat. A big pan is important so that the mushrooms are not crowded later. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 5 min.
  • Add garlic and anchovy paste and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Raise heat to medium, add 2 tbs butter, melt, and add mushrooms.
  • Cook mushrooms until softened and golden, about 8-10 minutes. When you first add them, watch for burning. They will immediately suck up all the butter. Then they will release their own liquid. As that liquid evaporates the flavors will concentrate and deepen.
  • Add capers, oregano and parsley, stir through and cook until fragrant. 1 minute.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and possibly a squeeze of lemon juice.