The best tapenade in the world!!

Okay, so it’s probably not the best tapenade in the world, but it is really good! Most tapenades (all, maybe?) include olives and capers. These are bold and briny flavors. This tapenade tempers those flavors with roasted garlic, smokes it up with some paprika, spices it up with green peppercorns and cayenne, and mellows it out with nuts and honey. Complex, but really tasty, and oddly addictive.

This song, Bob Marley’s wonderful Hypocrites, might seem an odd choice, but I swear, every time I hear it, it seems to me he’s saying “Tap for tapenade.” So when I think about tapenade, I get this song stuck in my head!
Bob Marley – Hypocrites

Recipe after the jump…

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Butternut squash/red lentil soup…

…with a berbere spice!

Roasted B-nut Squash

Berbere is a spice mix found in Ethiopian food. This isn’t the real thing, it’s a simplification and an approximation, but it is tasty and does go well with red lentils and butternut squashes.

Here’s the meltingly beautiful Tezeta, by Mulatu Astatke to listen to while you stir your soup.

Mulatu Astatke – Tezeta
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How it all fits together.

These are small galettes with an oatmeal – peppercorn crust, and filled with french lentils, mushrooms, sauteed greens, and sharp cheddar cheese. A nice autumn dinner – a little earthy/smokey – warm and comforting, but not too heavy. Easy to put together with the recipes already posted! See! They all work well with each other – that’s the plan! You can make them throughout the week, and use them one day for a pie, and toss some in a salad the next.

Here’s a song that’s not really about food, but I love it. It’s very hopeful about trying something, and I’ve had a very nice week starting this blog. I promise to slow down on the posts!

So…some Nigerian funk…SJob Movement – You Only Live Once

Details on construction after the jump…
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roasted mushrooms

My favorite way to prepare mushrooms is roasted with shallots, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme. They’re delicious as a side dish, wonderful on salads, with pasta, on toast, or as a filling for a pie, which is how I most commonly use them lately. They’re easy to make, and your kitchen will smell like a holiday while they’re cooking.

Recipe to follow…
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Savory vanilla sauce & roasted french fries

vanilla tarator sauce
The other night, during a bout of insomnia, I started thinking about vanilla, as one does. I love the scent and flavor of vanilla. (I have recurring dreams about vanilla essence, actually. Wonder what that means?) I think vanilla has been unfairly labeled as plain and pale – almost a non-flavor. In fact it’s wonderfully flavorful. I started to ponder the fact that, in my experience, vanilla is always used as a flavoring in sweet dishes. Why shouldn’t vanilla find its way into a savory dish? Other sweet staples, like cinnamon and chocolate have done it. Then I started thinking about fries and a vanilla milkshake. Such a perfect pairing. One hot, crispy and salty, and one cool and vanilla-y. That’s when I came up with the idea for this combination.

The sauce is a tarator sauce – it’s nut-based, and though it’s quite creamy, there’s no dairy in it at all. And the french fries are actually roasted in olive oil in the oven, but they become as crispy as you could hope for. Keep reading for recipes…

Roasted french fries


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Don’t fear the crust!

Pie crust has a bad reputation. People think it’s tricky and time-consuming to make. Unwieldy, difficult, and not all that good for you. Not true! Pie crust is exceedingly simple to make, and it doesn’t take much time at all. It’s not difficult to work with, and when it’s cooked it generally looks good no matter how much you mangle it. In fact, pie crust is one of those things that thrives on neglect. The less you mess with it, the better it tastes.

Here’s a recipe for basic pie crust. Flour, salt, butter, and ice water. Simple! Also called short crust or pate brisee, this pastry is extremely versatile and can be used for just about any of your pie crust needs.

The trick is to keep it quick and keep it cool.

recipe after the jump…
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Sofrito!

Sofrito…it’s fun to say and delicious to eat. It’s also one of those foods that turns up all over the world in different guises. In Spain it’s a slow-cooked, intensely flavored tomato paste. Where different versions of sofrito show up – in the Carribean, latin America, the mediterranean – you’ll find different ingredients added or taken away. You’ll find green peppers, pork, cilantro, olives, capers, chilies, different seasonings. A sofrito is usually a base for another dish. You can add it to a soup or stew at the end to deepen the flavor, toss it with pasta, use it as a condiment. And it is the main ingredient of the empanada gallega, which is the mother of all empanadas.

paste tomatoes

I picked these paste tomatoes from our local CSA, but you can just as easily (well, more easily, really!) make them from a can of tomatoes. But use a can of good tomatoes – fire roasted is nice!

This is my version of a Spanish sofrito. I keep the seasonings simple (rosemary and beautiful smoked spanish paprika) because the sofrito will probably find itself in another dish, mingling with other flavors. I’m not sure this is authentic, but it is delicious!

Recipe after the jump.
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Autumn Tomatoes

Last week I went to our local CSA to pick tomatoes and herbs. It was a beautiful, glowing fall day, seeped in the bittersweet feeling that summer is really over. Many of the herbs were dried and done, but I found rows of purple basil, which I picked in such quantities they wouldn’t fit in my pail. The tall heirloom cherry tomato plants were full of fruit, and glowed like stained glass – walking through them was a giddy experience, with the buzzing of the bees, and the lovely smell of tomato leaves.

I came home with tomatoes of all different sizes and colors – some as small as a raisin and bright red, some larger, yellow and pear shaped. How to preserve their pretty, unique shapes and colors? I sauteed them quickly in olive oil and garlic, till they had just started to wilt slightly, and then tossed them with some diced mozzarella, and copious amounts of shredded basil.