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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Spreads & Dips

TIP OF THE DAY: Asian Peanut Sauce

For both Asian- and Western-style salads,
peanut sauce is a delicious dressing. Photo
courtesy National Almond Board.

 

If you enjoy a plate of Asian sesame noodles, that yummy, peanut butter-based sauce is equally versatile as a:

  • Dip for raw vegetables (crudités)
  • Grilled chicken, fish or tofu sauce or dip for
    skewers
  • Pasta sauce
  • Rice and grains sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Sandwich and wrap condiment
  • Steamed or grilled vegetable sauce
  •  
    While peanut butter, coconut milk or cream, garlic and soy sauce are common to all recipes, there is no one version of peanut sauce. Every region has its own signature style.

    For example, Indonesian peanut sauce uses lemongrass, tamarind juice and miso; Thai peanut sauce uses lime juice and cilantro.

     

    You can make a double batch and keep it tightly sealed in the fridge, ready to add flavor to so many different dishes. It’s a quick and nutritious snack with baby carrots or hard-cooked eggs, and delicious with leftovers (one of our favorites: mix with leftover rice; add some peas, chopped green onions and diced bell pepper).

     

    ASIAN PEANUT SAUCE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce†
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  •  

    Grilled fish is delicious with peanut sauce. Photo courtesy Pollen restaurant.

     

    *For more heat and colorful flecks, add red chili flakes to taste.

    †If you don’t want to buy fish sauce just for this recipe, substitute Worcestershire sauce. If you think you’ll be making peanut sauce regularly, invest in the fish sauce.
     
    Preparation

    1. WHISK together ingredients, except cilantro, in a small bowl.

    2. MIX in cilantro just before serving.

    3. FOR A THINNER SAUCE OR DIP, dilute with water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Nonfat Cucumber Yogurt Dip

    A few hours ago, we were discouraged to hear one of the anchor team members on our favorite morning show opine that Super Bowl foods “should be the foods we love to eat, not vegetables.” She was referring to the fatty, high-calorie usual suspects.

    Fortunately, another team member jumped in in support of the veggies.

    We admire people who watch what they eat, and we always have a crudités (raw vegetables) platter and a fruit platter or fruit salad as part of any party buffet. We’re also personally grateful to have something better to nibble on than cholesterol.

    The morning show discord inspired us to publish this recipe for a tasty, nontfat cucumber dip, adapted from a recipe provided by the Australian Institute Of Sport.

    TIP: Make this dip at least two hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop. It can be made a day in advance.

     

    Nonfat cucumber dip: Serve it with crudites or as a sauce. Photo courtesy Australian Institute Of Sport.

     

    CUCUMBER YOGURT DIP RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 seedless cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • Optional: salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional heat: chili flakes or a dash of hot sauce
  •  
    PREPARATION

    1. PEEL cucumbers and cut in half lengthways. If not a seedless variety, use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds.

    2. GRATE the flesh, and place in a bowl with dill, garlic, yogurt and mint. Stir to combine and serve chilled. Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with fresh dill, if desired.

    Makes about 1½ cups.

    MORE USES FOR CUCUMBER DIP

  • Dip: For pretzels, potato chips, pita chips and other snacks
  • Layered or Mezze: In a layered dip or on a mezze plate with babaganoush,hummus, tabbouleh and other ingredients (see layered dip recipe)
  • Garnish: On baked potatoes, rice and other grains, cooked vegetables
  • Sauce: On grilled or poached fish or seafood, including shrimp cocktail
  •  
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE DIP RECIPES.
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Layered Dip Recipes, Part 2

    Take the ingredients of a Greek salad and
    turn it into a layered dip, served with pita
    chips. Photo courtesy
    SouthByMouth.Blogspot.com.

     

    Yesterday, we discussed layered dips, beginning with the layered Mexican dip, also known as a layered bean dip and seven-layer dip. We also introduced a layered Middle Eastern dip.

    In Part 2, we travel beyond Mexico and the Middle East to Greece and India.

    If you use a base of nonfat Greek yogurt layered with vegetables, your dip will be low in calories.

    GREEK LAYERED DIP RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 2 diced cucumbers (peel if waxed)
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Green bell pepper, diced
  • Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt, seasoned with fresh dill, garlic, salt and pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (fresh tomatoes in
    season)
  • Optional layers: babaganoush (eggplant dip),
    tabbouleh (bulgur, mint, finely chopped parsley, tomatoes)
  • Basil or oregano for garnish
  • Pita chips
  • Optional: anchovies, chopped flat-leaf parsley
  •  

    Preparation

    1. SPREAD seasoned yogurt across the bottom of a shallow bowl.

    2. LAYER with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

    3. SPRINKLE with crumbled feta and oregano/parsley.

     

    INDIAN LAYERED DIP RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup salted peanuts
  • 2 cups shredded or crumbled paneer cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup chutney
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Sliced naan or other Indian bread; or use pita chips
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND together the sour cream and curry. Spread across the bottom of a shallow glass bowl, baking dish or pie plate.

    2. ADD layer of coconut and peanuts, followed by the layer of paneer cheese.

    3. BLEND cream cheese with chutney and layer on top. Sprinkle with green onions.

     

    A warm pizza dip. Photo courtesy MyBakingAddition.com. See recipe below.

     
    4. SERVE with pieces/slices of Indian bread: chapata, naan, pappadum or whatever you can find (try an International supermarket). Or, pita chips will do nicely.
     
    WARM PIZZA DIP RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning*
  • 1/2 cup chunky pasta/pizza sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup diced pepperoni or sausage
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Toasted baguette or Italian bread slices (bagel chips and pita chips also work)
  • 9″ pie plate
  •  
    *Create your own Italian seasoning with dried spices, 1/4 teaspoon each basil, marjoram and oregano plus 1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage.

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F (175°C).

    2. BEAT sour cream, cream cheese and Italian seasoning on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pie plate.

    3. LAYER other ingredients in the order listed.

    4. BAKE for 10 to 12 minutes until heated through; top with mozzarella. Continue baking for 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

    5. SERVE warm with toasts.

    Here’s a recipe variation from the blog, MyBakingAddiction.com.

    MIX & MATCH: OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS FOR ANY LAYERED DIP

    You can add any ingredients to the layers that appeal to you. Some ideas:

  • Almonds, sliced
  • Artichoke hearts, chopped
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Pesto
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Raisins or dried berries (blueberries, cranberries)
  • Red onions, finely sliced
  • Sundried tomatoes
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Layered Dips, Part 1

    The original seven-layer dip recipe. Photo
    courtesy McCormick.com.

     

    The first layered dip we encountered was the iconic layered Mexican dip, also known as a layered bean dip/refried bean dip, nacho dip, taco dip, Tex-Mex dip and five-, six- or seven-layer dip. Dipped with taco chips, it was the rage.

    Made from healthful ingredients, it may be time to add into (or back into) your repertoire, starting with Super Bowl Sunday.

    The layered dip is typically built in a glass bowl that shows off the different colors and textures of the layers: refried beans, shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese, guacamole, diced tomatoes, salsa, canned green chiles, olives and shredded lettuce, with some seasonings such as taco seasoning or a dusting of cumin.

     
    Variations proliferated, including a bean-focused dip with whole black beans and pinto beans, with or without the refried beans layer; cubed avocado instead of guacamole; Greek yogurt instead of sour cream; cilantro and scallions, keeping the diced tomatoes and shredded romaine.

    One can regret that, after a few guests have dipped their chips, the pretty layered dish turns into an unattractive mush. If you have aesthetic standards, there are two solutions to this:

  • Make very thin layers on a flat dish (see this example of a thin layered dip)
  • Make individual flavored dip cups (use rocks glasses or plastic 4-ounce cups)
  •  
    Expand your horizons beyond Tex-Mex layered dips with today’s and tomorrow’s layered dip ideas.

    And enjoy them guilt-free: Even the Tex-Mex dip is relatively healthful, if higher in calories: The beans are protein, avocados are a great nutrition food and a top-quality brand of corn/taco chip (we like Food Should Taste Good, Garden Of Eatin’ and Rosa Mexicano) is whole grain.

     

    MIDDLE EASTERN LAYERED DIP RECIPE

    This recipe comes to us from ZoesKitchen.com.

    Ingredients

  • 1 tub (16 ounces) hummus (or make this hummus recipe)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (use fresh tomatoes in season)
  • 2 diced cucumbers (peel if waxed)
  • Crumbled feta
  • Diced olives
  • Basil or oregano for garnish
  • Pita chips
  • Optional ingredients: capers, sweet onions,
    chopped flat-leaf parsley
  •  

    A Middle Eastern layered dip. Photo courtesy ZoesKitchen.com.

    Preparation

    1. SPREAD hummus across the bottom of a shallow bowl

    2. LAY:ER with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

    3. SPRINKLE with crumbled feta and basil/oregano.

    Do you have a favorite layered dip concept? Please share.

    And tune in tomorrow for more layered dip ideas.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try A Pimento Cheese Cheeseburger

    A cheeseburger using pimiento cheese from
    ZoesKitchen.com. Photo courtesy Zoe’s
    Kitchen.

     

    We recently received a shipment of cheese spreads from Tonya’s Gourmet Creations. The company makes cheese spreads in Carolina Blend, Dilly Beef, Feta-Greek, Smokey Bacon Cheddar, Southwest Chipotle and Sun-Dried Tomato.

    It reminded us of our mom’s pimiento cheese spread, which she enjoyed on toast with a tall glass of iced tea.

    Pimiento cheese is a Southern specialty—along with barbecue, catfish, deviled eggs, grits, fried chicken and sweet tea.

    Sharp Cheddar cheese, chopped pimientos and mayonnaise create a spread that’s used to fill celery sticks, to slather for cheeseburgers, to spread on crackers or toast and to make grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese omelets.

     

    RECIPE: PIMIENTO CHEESE SPREAD

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimiento, drained
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
  • 1 block (8 ounces) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 block (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE mayo, pimiento, Worcestershire, onion and cayenne in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese.

    2. CHILL in fridge to let flavors meld. Serve at room temperature. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

    Variations

  • CAROLINA STYLE: Add 1/4 cup diced olives and jalapeños.
  • CREAMY: Make the spread creamier by blending in 4 ounces of cream cheese.
  • HOLIDAY: Add 1/4 cup cranberry sauce. (We like whole cranberry sauce.)
  •  

    Add cream cheese for a creamier spread. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

  • MEXICAN STYLE: Add 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo sauce, drained; or 1 teaspoon dried chipotle. Adjust quantity to taste.
  • ONIONY: Add finely-diced red onion and fresh parsley to taste.
  • SMOKY: Add 1/4 cup cooked bacon, drained and crumbled.
  • SWEET & TANGY: Add some pickle relish. Start with a heaping tablespoon, drained.
  •  
    MORE WAYS TO USE PIMIENTO CHEESE

  • Breakfast Tortilla: Warm a corn tortilla in a skillet or the microwave. Spread with pimiento cheese and top with two fried eggs and salsa. Optional garnishes: chopped green onions, sliced black olives, chopped fresh herbs.
  • Cheeseburger: Spread a heaping knife-full of pimento cheese atop a grillled burger. Add the top bun and wait a minute for the cheese to melt.
  • Dip For Fries: Dipping works better with a creamier style pimento cheese (see above). Or, thin the spread with milk, sour cream, mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt.
  • Toasted Egg Sandwich: Spread pimento cheese on toast; top with fried, scrambled or sliced hard-cooked eggs.
  • Wrap Sandwich: Spread instead of mayo on a ham, turkey, grilled veggies or other wrap. Sprinkle with chopped green onions; add shredded lettuce and tomatoes.
  • Taco: Warm a small flour tortilla and spread it with pimento cheese. Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, taco-seasoned beef, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa.
  •  
    Share your favorite uses and variations with us!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Veggie Salsa Of A Different Color

    Grilled chicken with tangy veggie salsa.
    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Salsa is the Spanish word for sauce.* It can be any type of sauce, but most Americans identify it as a tomato-based hot sauce used as a dip with tortilla chips.

    There is no one classic salsa recipe: Every region of Latin America has its own style of salsa. In Mexico, recipes are divided between tomato based red salsas and the tomatillo-based green salsas. Even in this division, there are many different salsa styles (see our Salsa Glossary).

    We recently received a variety of condiments from Black Angus Saloon, a specialty food company in Lake Ozark, Missouri. The packaged foods are an extension of the local Black Angus Saloon restaurant.

    The first two we sampled were salsas: Veggie Salsa† in Sweet and Tangy (with vinegar) and Sweet & Spicy (with chiles). There’s no tomato or tomatillo, making these “clear” salsas. The minced vegetables and small beans provided a charming topping to grilled chicken and fish.

    You can purchase Veggie Salsa from BlackAngusBrands.com ($6 per 16-ounce jar) or make your own from our “approximate” recipe, below.

     

    While we tend not to like sweetness in our condiments (keep that sugar in confections and desserts, where it belongs!), we truly enjoyed the Sweet & Tangy Veggie Salsa—so much so that we made a similar batch the same day and enjoyed it on grilled fish. We also sprinkled the sweetened vinegar marinating liquid on our salad.

    There’s no cooking involved (unless you want to cook the beans from scratch); just chopping.

    We love salsa, so are always looking for a twist to our standards. Salsa is a food bargain: fat free, gluten free, vegan, all natural and low in sodium. Traditional recipes don’t use sugar, either; so they’re low carb, too.

    *The Spanish word salsa derives from the Latin salsa, meaning salty, which itself derives from the Latin sal, salt.
    †The name may seem redundant as all Latin American-style salsas are “veggie salsas”: no dairy, no meat or fish-based stock, just vegetables, spices and vinegar. It would have been more interesting to call these products “clear salsa.”

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN SWEET & TANGY “CLEAR SALSA”

    Consider how much you want, and use appropriate proportions. This is a very versatile condiment: We also used it on eggs, on steamed vegetables, mixed into mayonnaise as a sandwich/wrap spread and mixed into cottage cheese and plain yogurt. We enjoyed the “salsa yogurt” plain, in a baked potato, and as a dip. And it’s a refreshing topping for bratwurst, burgers and franks (it’s much more complex than pickle relish).

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup small black beans
  • 1/2 cup small kidney beans (you can use whatever beans you have)
  • 3 tablespoons each shredded carrots, finely diced celery, minced red onion, green bell peppers and red bell peppers
  • Optional fresh herbs (toss in a tablespoon of whatever you have in the fridge)
  •  

    Black Angus Saloon’s tasty “clear salsa.” Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

  • Cider vinegar or other vinegar, to cover
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, brown sugar, agave, honey or sweetener of choice (e.g. noncaloric sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more salt and optional chile flakes or black pepper, to taste
  • Optional spices (we added a shake of clove and nutmeg)
  •  
    You can build on the ingredients by adding whatever you have on hand. We added sliced olives and chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to a subsequent batch.

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE chopped vegetables, herbs and salt in the bowl of a lidded container; mix until blended.

    2. COVER with vinegar. Place lid on container and let the salsa marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight (you can actually use it in as little as an hour, but the flavors blend with time).

    3. TASTE and adjust seasonings to taste and add any spices, like the clove and nutmeg we used.

    The salsa will keep in the fridge for two weeks or longer, but we doubt there will be any left after a day or two!

    Find more of our favorite salsas and dips.

      

    Comments

    THANKSGIVING RECIPE: Pumpkin Cream Cheese

    What’s for breakfast during pumpkin season?

    Bagels with pumpkin cream cheese spread!

    We recently devoured a whole wheat bagel with pumpkin cream cheese at Dunkin Donuts, and are now hooked on this holiday spread.

    It’s easy to make, with your choice of cream cheese (regular or fat free) or fresh goat cheese. Or, substitute sour cream or yogurt for the cream cheese.

    The pumpkin purée “stretches” the cream cheese so you don’t need to use as much. The result: more vitamins,* more flavor, less fat, fewer calories.

    We personally don’t sweeten the recipe: The pumpkin pie spices are more than flavorful, and who needs added calories and carbs?

    But if you’re of the sweeter inclination, add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, maple syrup or agave, plus 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

     

    Pumpkin cream cheese on a bagel (we chose whole wheat). Photo courtesy Dunkin Donuts.

     

    PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (substitute 1/4 teaspoon each clove or allspice and
    nutmeg)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT softened cream cheese until creamy.

    2. ADD pumpkin purée and spices; beat to incorporate.

    3. CHILL for at least an hour. Can be made up to a week in advance.

    4. SPREAD on bagels and toast. Yum, yum!
     
    *Pumpkin is a very good source of copper, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium and vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin) and C and a good source of vitamins B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folate) and E plus iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

      

    Comments

    HALLOWEEN & THANKSGIVING RECIPE: Pumpkin Seed Dip With Crudités & Tortilla Chips

     

    Mexican cuisine chef Rick Bayless of Chicago’s Frontera Grill knows about pumpkin. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexico, and pumpkin seeds, called pepitas in Spanish, are used extensively in moles and other recipes.

    For Halloween, Chef Bayless has given us his pumpkin seed dip, which he serves with crudités and Frontera tortilla chips. Note that this is a savory dip, nothing like the sweet pumpkin purée dip popularly served with ginger snaps (of course, we like that version, too).

    This dip should be enjoyed with a good beer or a glass of wine.

    SAVORY PUMPKIN SEED DIP

    The recipe can be made up to two days in advance. Makes 2½ cups of dip.

    Ingredients

  • 1 jar (16 ounces) habanero salsa (we used Frontera brand, one of our favorites)
  • 1 cup hulled roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • Salt
  • Extra pepitas for garnish
  • Tortilla chips
  • Assorted raw vegetables (crudités)/li>
     
    Preparation

    1. CUT. Cut the vegetables and set aside with the tortilla chips for serving.

    2. BLEND. Put 1 cup (half) of the salsa, pumpkin seeds and lime juice into a blender. Process to a thick paste.

    3. STIR. Scrape into a bowl. Stir in the remaining salsa and cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

    4. PLATE. Serve with cut vegetables and/or tortilla chips.

      

  • Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Read The Label (Really!)

    Look closely: sugar is added to plain salsa in
    Whole Foods’ store brand. Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We love nutrition panels on food products. They tell you how good (or bad) for you a particular food may be. If you’re looking to avoid certain ingredients or calorie levels, you get what you need to know. If you want to ingest the amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories laid out for you, you do it with eyes wide open.

    Sometimes, though, you skip the reading of panel. A jar of olives, a can of water chestnuts, a container of salsa—you know what’s in the container, right?

    Not right!

    This week we got taken in by a container of plain salsa from Whole Foods’ new private label line, which beckoned us from a standalone case, along with the company’s private label hummus line.

    We rely on salsa as a tangy, low calorie, good-for-you snack and condiment. So we picked up a container, brought it home, popped the top and eagerly inserted a spoon….

    What did we get? A mouthful of sugar!

     

    In fruit salsa, one expects some added sugar to enhance the mango, peach or pineapple. But adding sugar to plain salsa not only tastes bizarre—like adding sugar to the olives or the water chestnuts—it is unneeded and unwanted. It’s just wrong.

    Salsa didn’t become America’s number condiment, beating out sugar and HFCS†-laden ketchup, by being sweet.

    Now, we’re back to reading labels—even on bottled water (we previously purchased what we thought was a bottle of lime-flavored water, to find it was loaded with an unwelcome noncaloric sweetener). With the processed food industry in need of sugaring up every product they sell, we can’t be too safe.

    The good news: Whole Foods isn’t adding sugar in their private label hummus (yet). And the hummus flavors, from Greek hummus with the spice blend za’atar* to lemon hummus to tabbouleh hummus and the gamut of established flavors (jalapeño, olive, red pepper, etc.)—are great. The low price ($1.99 per eight-ounce container) is a bonus.

    MORE ABOUT SALSA

  • The history of salsa
  • The different types of salsa (Salsa Glossary)
  • Salsa trivia quiz
  •  
    *Curiouser and curiouser: za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb blend but is not particularly associated with Greek cuisine. It’s a blend of oregano), calamint, thyme and satureja, which can be mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac and salt. Popular Greek herbs and spices include basil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory tarragon and thyme. So, Whole Foods folks, why is this flavor with za’atar called Greek hummus?

    †High fructose corn syrup.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Tapenade

    Tapenade-topped crostini with a garnish of
    fresh tomato. Photo by Kelly Cline | IST.

     

    Back in our college days, a fashionable new restaurant opened in midtown Manhattan. It had a menu that was very exciting for the time.

    For starters, instead of serving butter or olive oil with the bread basket, there was an exotic dip: creamy and a bit salty with the flavor of seafood. The bread basket included delicious and sophisticated slices of Melba toast.

    We learned in short order that the toasts were called crostini (cruh-STEE-nee) and the dip was tapenade (TAH-pen-odd). They became our favorite hors d’oeuvre for years to come.

    In addition to helping us maintain our food-forward-thinker status, tapenade was ridiculously easy to make. Just open three cans or jars, place the contents in the food processor with some seasonings, and pulse.

    The recipe for crostini even easier. Both recipes follow.

    Delicious with wine, beer and cocktails, these recipes are a reason to invite friends and neighbors for a casual get-together. Or make them for Mother’s Day.

     

    TAPENADE RECIPE

    You can substitute green olives for the black olives (some people use a half cup of each). If you don’t like anchovies, leave them out. If you don’t like anchovies and tuna, you can substitute artichoke hearts, cooked eggplant, mushrooms, red bell peppers or sundried tomatoes. This is an easy recipe to customize to your own preferences.

    If you want to spare the carbs (crostini), tapenade is also delicious with crudités.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted black olives(1)
  • 4 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)(2)
  • 1 tuna (5 to 6 ounces), drained
  • 1 can (2 ounces) anchovies, drained
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  
    NOTES
    (1) Canned olives are famously bland. If you like a stronger olive flavor, buy better-quality olives in the jar or from an olive bar—although you may need an olive pitter to remove the pits.
    (2) We find that the oil in the drained tuna and anchovies is often sufficient. Process the mixture without the added olive oil; then decide if you need it. The added olive oil will give the tapenade a thinner consistency. If you’d like it thinner still, add more olive oil, bit by bit.
     
    CROSTINI RECIPE

    Makes about 25 slices.

    Ingredients

  • 1 baguette(1)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt/kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation
     
    1. PREHEAT. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. SLICE. Cut thin baguette slices on the bias.
    3. COMBINE. Mix the oil and salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat one side of the bread slices with oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

    Yield: about 24 slices. At the table, we serve a plate of crostini with a bowl of tapenade and let guests top their own crostini. For passed hors d’oeuvre or an hors d’oeuvre plate, serve them already topped.

    You can serve the crostini plain or with a garnish: chopped tomatoes, a strip of pimento, some fresh herbs or whatever you have on hand.

    (3) Because the bread is toasted, you can use day-old baguette. In fact, we typically make crostini whenever we have a leftover loaf.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TAPENADE AND PESTO

    Pesto is typically based on basil although can use other ingredients, from greens (arugula, spinach) to sundried tomatoes. Tapenade is always based on olives. While pesto can be used as a dip, it is actually a sauce, used to coat other foods. Tapenade is a spread that can be used as a dip.

    Pesto
    Pesto, the Italian word for pounded, is an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil or other vegetable or fruit, plus olive oil and other ingredients. The sauce originated in Genoa, Italy. The classic pesto alla genovese is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and/or pecorino cheese and garlic, plus salt. There are many variations on the original recipe; some use herbs or greens instead of basil (arugula, cilantro, spinach, e.g.) or focus on other ingredients (pumpkin, sweet red pepper).

    Tapenade

     

    Bruschetta are larger than crostini, and grilled rather than oven-baked. Photo courtesy California Asparagus Commission.

    Tapenade is an olive-based spread, typically used as an hors d’œuvre, on crackers or bread. It can be used in recipes as well; for example, to stuff fish fillets. We serve it as a condiment with grilled fish, atop or to the side.

    Olives were among the first domesticated crops. Olive pastes and spreads—chopped or ground olives mixed with olive oil—have been served in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. The “classic” tapenade recipe enjoyed today was invented less than 100 years ago by the chef of the Maison Dorée in Marseilles, who added anchovies and capers to a black olive spread. The word comes the from Provençal term for capers, tapéno. Some recipes add tuna as a variation.

    And yes, there are olive pestos, that add olives to a traditional pesto—hold the tuna, capers and anchovies!

    As for the tapenade: You can use it to top bruschetta or crostini.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRUSCHETTA & CROSTINI

    Both bruschetta and crostini are Italian recipes based on toasted bread. The difference is twofold: size and toasting method.

  • Crostini are small, thin slices cut from a narrow, crusty loaf like a baguette. The word means “little toasts.” They are usually seasoned with olive oil and salt and/or garlic prior to toasting. They can then be topped with a spread or with cheese, meat, seafood, vegetables—often in combination (see photo above).
  • Bruschetta are typically sliced from a wider crusty loaf and toasted over coals or a grill. The word comes from the Italian bruscare, which means “to roast over coals.” Like crostini, bruschetta can be topped with a wide range of items.
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    Both will be a welcome addition to your culinary repertoire.

      

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