Monday, September 7, 2009

Recipe #3: A Trio of Spreads

Better than just tasty, this trio of spreads -- Roasted Red Pepper and Feta, Roasted Garlic Hummus and Olive and Artichoke Tapanade -- are quick and easy to do. If you're hosting a party and need appetizers to serve a few dozen people, this trio should be one (or three?) of them. You can serve them along with a sliced baguette, or do what I did -- take store-bought pitas, cut them in eight pieces, and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes. You're left with a tasty Greek treat! The first dip, tapanade is delicious and SO simple. Even my husband, who hates artichokes, loves it. The second dip, hummus, is nutty and delicious and is much fresher-tasting than store-bought. The third, the red pepper dip is "inspired" by that of a restaurant John and I went to in the Berkshires (Lenox, Mass., to be specific) last year, Firefly. I don't know what besides the named ingredients go in their dip, but it's worth the drive! I've kept the pictures to a minimum here, because the steps are pretty easy. Please note -- wherever you see a (*) next to an ingredient or tool, there is a comment about it below the recipe. Enjoy!

Olive and Artichoke Tapanade

Prep time: 5 minutes

1 6-ounce can of black olives, drained
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts*
3 cloves garlic*

food processor

Add olives and eight artichoke hearts from the jar to food processor. Pulse until blended, but not pureed. Slowly drizzle 1/4 cup marinating liquid into mixture while pulsing. Add garlic, process until desired consistency. Yields 1 1/4 cups.

-Artichoke hearts: You can use any brand of artichoke hearts, but make sure you know the brand you're using ahead of time. Personally, I used (and only ever use) Pastene brand artichoke hearts for this recipe. You can use whichever you like, but make sure you've tasted the marinating liquid ahead of time, since it's actually used in this recipe.

-Garlic: -Garlic: I don't usually use fresh garlic when I cook, unless it's going to be almost raw in the dish. What I use instead is a huge jar of Spice World minced garlic. It saves me the time of having to chop (and have my hands smell like) garlic for any given recipe. For this recipe, if you use the jarred garlic, use one tablespoon.

-Consistency: I prefer the consistency of this when I make it to be somewhat pureed. If you prefer it to be chunkier, just pulse it less in the food processor. I find when it's chunkier, it's harder to keep on the bread/pita when you snack on it. Trust me, I realize this dip isn't much to look at, but you won't believe how delicious it is.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Prep time: 30 minutes


2 cups canned chick peas (garbanzo beans)
5 cloves fresh garlic (Yes, REAL GARLIC!)
1/2 tablespoon sesame tahini*
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

food processor
aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel garlic cloves, place in center of aluminum foil square. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil, wrap in foil and completely cover garlic. Place pouch in oven for 25 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool.

Add chick peas and tahini to food processor, and pulse. Add garlic. When well combined, drizzle olive oil while mixing. Add salt to taste. Yields 2 cups.


-Tahini: Never heard of this? Tahini is sesame paste. I wasn't able to find this in my regular supermarket, but was able to find it at a different market. If your local store doesn't carry it, you can certainly find it at any kind of gourmet food store. For reference, Price Chopper (my local store) doesn't carry it, but Shaw's does, in the international food aisle. The jar is very similar, coincidentally, to a jar of peanut butter. Be sure not to add too much tahini, as you will notice even just by smell, that it has a slightly peanutty flavor. If you add too much, the nutty flavor will overpower the chick peas, and you'll end up with what tastes like peanut butter hummus. And NO ONE needs that!

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip

Prep/cooking time: 25 minutes

2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons canola oil*
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

grill (charcoal or gas)
aluminum foil
food processor
tongs (for grilling)

Wash and dry peppers. Brush with canola oil, and place on preheated grill. Try to maintain grill temperature of 500 degrees, but turn peppers every 3-4 minutes. Cook until skin is completely charred. (Pic below is when the peppers are almost there!)

Immediately remove from grill, place in bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Let cool for 20 minutes.

When peppers have cooled sufficiently to touch, peel char off with your hands. Also remove stem and seeds by hand -- DO NOT RUN UNDER WATER. Place on paper towel to remove some of the liquid "sweating" from the pepper.

Add pepper pieces and feta to food processor, blend until pureed. Yields 1 1/4 cups.

-Canola oil: You can also use vegetable oil for this purpose. And fear not, the oil isn't actually getting into what you're eating. You're just applying it to the outside of the pepper so the flame chars the outside consistently. It stays on the skin, which you're going to remove before making the dip!

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