Avocado, olive & basil salad

Avacado & olive salad

[I apologize for posting a couple of times today. We’re going away for the weekend, and I don’t want to fall too far behind!]

My boys have a book called Mixed-up Animals. Each page has a picture of an animal and is broken into three sections. You can turn a part of the page to line up another animal with the first. In this way, you can make a creature with platypus feet, an armadillo body, and a caribou head. A platadillibou. They’ve also always loved the game exquisite corpse, in which each person draws part of a creature without seeing what the others have drawn. Isaac still gets very excited when the paper is unfolded to reveal a mis-matched monster! This salad reminds me a little of that. It’s part tapenade (olives & capers) part guacamole (avocado & tomato), part pesto (nuts & basil), and part caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil). I had a just-ripe avocado, and a small bowl of nicoise olives. These got the rusty little wheels turning in my brain, and the rest just sort of fell into place!! So you end up with guacenade. Or tapamole. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! We had it with some crusty bread, but you could make it into crostini, or serve it with big chips. Or just throw it onto a pile of mixed lettuces and call it a mixed salad!

She’s Strange – she’s got two double heads, two left legs, and her nose looks like the knees of a nanny goat, but Screamin Jay Hawkins loves her!!
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Deconstructed tapenade (With castelvetrano olives and french feta)

Deconstructed tapenade

Malcolm has standardized testing all week. These last few weeks he’s been working on essay composition. I decided to write this using the methods he’s been taught. Here we go…
“My goodness, look at those!” She cried, jumping back in surprise. [Narrative grabber] “Castelvetrano olives! I never thought I’d find them in a market so close to my home.” She bought as many as she could afford, and then her eye was caught by a creamy white cheese. “What’s that?” she queried. [Try not to use the words “said” or “asked”]
“Well,” responded the vendor, a short, pleasant woman with dark brown hair, [describe all the characters in detail], “It’s French feta cheese. Would you like a taste?”
It was the most delicious thing she’d ever eaten. [hyperbole] Creamy and juicy, with a nice salty edge, but much milder than Greek feta. She counted out her coins and bought a small slice.

There are several reasons I like castelvetrano olives. One is that they’re very pretty. They’re as green as serpents, as bright as spring grass, and as shiny as emeralds. [similes!] They taste so good, too. They’re have a very vegetable-y taste, they’re fresh and buttery and mildly salty. [List reasons and support with details and examples] I thought the feta would go very well with them, and as I drove home with little packets of each on the seat next to me, my mind whirred with the possibilities. I wanted to make a tapenade, but not pur√©ed – I wanted to retain the taste and texture and pretty colors of the olives. I thought of all the things I could add. Tart cherries would add a touch of sweetness, chopped hazelnuts would add a bit of crunch, and tarragon and chervil would lend their intriguing lemon/anise zing. Plus they’re half of that band “Les fines herbes.” They’re the bassist and the drummer, I think.

To conclude, I love castelvetrano olives, and I was surprised to find them at a market near my home. I made them into a chunky sort of tapenade that had a lovely mix of flavors and textures. It was delicious on small toasted pieces of baguette. We ate every little bit, and I was tempted to lick the bowl! Who knows what we’ll have for dinner tonight? [The conclusion should restate what’s already been said, in a slightly different way, but try to leave the reader wanting more with a takeaway ending.]

Here’s Chunky but Funky by Heavy D, to listen to while you chop olives for your chunky tapenade.
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Not necessarily hummus

Hummus is delicious – but the lovely subtle chickpea lends itself to all sorts of flavor combinations. Nothing could be easier than to whip up a chickpea dip, and it’s a wonderful recipe to have on hand to feed unexpected guests. In the summer, when it’s too hot to cook, or after work, when you just don’t have the time or energy to cook, this makes a nice dinner with some good bread and a good salad. Hummus, french fries and red wine is actually a favorite meal of ours! Store-bought hummus is surprisingly expensive. But a can of chickpeas is very cheap, and dried chickpeas are even cheaper. I tend to use canned – I do for most beans. I like to cook them from dried, but I don’t always decide what I’m going to make early enough to provide for soaking & cooking time. I’ve found that the secret ingredient to making a hummus with a light pleasant consistency is … water! A little bit of water added at the end and blended in really pulls everything together in a surprising way. Yup.

Here’s Hank Mobley’s The Dip, to listen to while you decide what to add to your chickpeas.
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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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