Tag Archives: dip

Tapenade with French Bread Toasts

26 Feb

I made this tapenade for a wine tasting at O’Gourmet Food Hall. It was paired with a Santanegro Syrah 2008 – a light red wine. I think tapenade is one of the most delightful of the vegan/vegetarian starters – its so easy to make, and yet has such complex flavours, particularly if you get the balance right. Because its so simple, its important to ensure that all the components are beautifully presented.

I used a really good quality french bread for the toasts – sliced on the diagonal, and then brushed with a mixture of virgin olive oil, Maldon salt and a few cloves of garlic. Baked in the oven until golden brown, they were then covered with the tapenade, and a small sprig of parsley. Obviously, the parsley isnt neccessary, but it makes it look so pretty and elegant.

I love the lemon in this tapenade. It brightens the dark complexity of the olives and oil, and brings a freshness and clarity to the taste of the paste. You could use this as a starter, or in so many other things – a few tablespoons mixed with angel hair pasta gives you a quick and satisfying dinner; a teaspoon or so spread on bread is the basis for a sandwich with intriguing depth, and as a dip for crudites, this is strong and delicious.

This recipe makes about 2 – 2 1/2 cups. I made 20 appetisers and had enough left over for a snack later!

Tapenade with French bread toasts

For the Tapenade

  • 2 cups black olives (drained and pitted if needed)
  • 1 cup green olives (drained and pitted if needed)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (organic if you can find it)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 – 3 tbsp caper berries

In a large bowl, combine the olives, about half the olive oil, the grated zest of the lemon (I use a Microplane lemon grater), the garlic cloves cut in half, and the caper berries. You can use a food processor to blitz everything, but I actually like using my immersion blender. It gives much more control, and you can decide when the tapenade is of the consistency that you prefer. I personally like it a little chunky, but you can process until almost smooth.

Squeeze the juice of half the lemon into the mixture, and stir well. Taste and adjust flavourings. You shouldnt need salt as the the olives are usually quite salty, but if you really want it, add. I usually adjust the lemon a little, or the caper berries.

Cover the tapenade with the remaining olive oil, and set aside for at least 2 hours, or overnight to let all the flavours meld.

For the toasts and to serve

  • 2 small (or 1 large) loaves fresh, crusty French bread
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • large pinch of Maldon Salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thickly
  • Small bunch of Italian parsley

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment or baking paper.

Slice the loaves on the diagonal, and place the sliced bread on the baking sheet.

Mix the olive oil, salt and garlic together in a small bowl, and using a pastry brush, brush the bread with the olive oil mixture. Add extra olive oil if needed, but you dont want it too oily.

Bake the toasts in the oven for approximately 5 – 10 minutes until light golden.

Can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.

To serve, spoon about a tablespoon of tapenade on each toast. Top with a small sprig of parsley, and serve.


Baby Shower!

20 Jan

This coming Sunday, I am hosting a baby shower for one of my dearest friends. It was going to be a rather casual affair, but we suddenly realised we have more than 60 people coming! Luckily, we live in the tropics, and the party can spill out into the pool area.

Cooking for those you love is a form of service and joy. I have cooked for birthdays and weddings, for those who are ill and for those who want to celebrate. I dont think I have ever cooked for a baby shower though. This crowd is going to be a lovely mix of women, some who are new friends, and others who I have known for decades.

Making food for a celebration is always special – but to celebrate a new life, well, now, thats just a beautiful moment. My friend is gathering around her all those who mean much, and it is such an honour to be able to provide the food for such a group.

I love cooking for parties, but I have to admit, 60 people is a bit daunting. At least we invited them for tea, and not for a major meal! AngelKitten and I have been working quite hard to come up with a balanced and delicious high tea, that has luxurious and exotic elements to it.

Here is what we are going to serve:

  • Baked spinach and artichoke dip – this one is a standby that is delicious every time we make it. We have adapted it somewhat to suit the Asian palette – we add a lot of very hot chili powder to the mix. It transforms the dip into something very special.
  • Mini cheddar cheese scones – stuffed with herbed cream cheese / chili jam / cranberry cheese – I love these, and they are easy to make and delicious to eat. Stuffing them with a variety of fillings gives variety from a single bake.
  • Avocado and feta dip – salty, creamy, fresh and bright. Avocados always feel luxurious, and feta is the perfect complement to the cool green flesh. A little lemon juice and some herbs make this dip complex, and yet it is so easy to make.
  • Sliced carrots and chips on the side – so that those who want a little indulgence can have chips, and those who want a lighter option can munch on the carrots!
  • Truffled potato salad – because sometimes a new, decadent twist on an old favourite is called for! I like having at least one dish that is different, and that will spark people’s interest and appetites. I will probably use mascarpone with the truffles … simple and deeply flavourful.
  • Starry starry night cookies – these baked truffle cookies, made with bittersweet chocolate, honey, almond flour, eggs and sugar, are my friend’s favourite. They are so good.
  • Ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting – a request from my friend. I have some gorgeous ginger curd from O’Gourmet Food Hall which I am considering using in the cake batter to make it deeper, damper and more delicious. Luckily, we also found some Bentong ginger at O’Gourmet, so I know that the cake will be bright and beautifully gingery.
  • Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting – because you cant have too much chocolate, and because AngelKitten and I were worried that with 60 people, one cake wouldnt be enough!
  • Fruit salad with iced raspberry puree – a fresh alternative to all the rich desserts. We have a watermelon, kiwi and dragon fruits… and we are freezing raspberry puree into ice molds. These will be dotted amongst the salad, and will keep it cool and fresh, as well as add flavour and taste.
  • Iced fruit tea with starfruit

And for thank you gifts for all our guests, I am making blondies – ten per person … Ive just filled about 45 little gift bags, and will do the rest tomorrow.

What do you think? Any other suggestions? 🙂

Spinach Artichoke Dip

26 Sep

Artichoke DipI am on my way to my friend M’s house tonight – see her new baby and new house, and just hang out with one of my best friends for a while. So I thought I would post now, rather than later tomorrow trying to catch up 🙂 This Spinach Artichoke Dip was part of the birthday party yesterday. Its delicious. So good – piping hot and bubbling right out of the oven, at room temperature during the course of the party, and cold from the fridge the next day as part of a post party makeshift lunch.

And easy?! This is all about your sense of taste – so eyeball it, taste, adjust, and repeat. I use organic garlic powder here rather than garlic salt (which I find too salty, and too chemical tasting) or minced fresh garlic, which I find too sharp. Garlic powder adds a round sweetness to the dish which I love. As for the spinach and artichoke? Frozen and canned, albeit organic. You dont need the fresh here – in fact, the frozen and canned are better because they are sturdier. Just get the best quality you can.

This dish reminds me of the time I worked as a waitress in college over one Thanksgiving. A very wealthy woman was having a party, and needed help. Memorable because I made a huge amount of money but thats besides the point – amongst all the amazing things she served, she made one thing that stood out in my memory. In a large ramekin, she mixed mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese and a heaping amount of parmesan. She then baked this concoction in the oven quite high and served the bubbling unctuous slightly burnt cheesy result as a dip. I was amazed at such alchemy. This dish is a little more healthy (it basically has the addition of vegetables!) but the principle is the same – the mixture is so much more than the individual ingredients – and their transformative space is the heat of the oven.

Plus, people will tell you not only how good it is (“Its like you get at the restaurant!”) but also how complex the flavours. Its difficult to tell them that it takes about 5 minutes to put together 😉

For a medium baking dish, you will need:

  • 16-ounce packet frozen chopped spinach
  • 14-ounce can artichokes
  • 8-ounce packet cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup (or so) roughly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (or so) roughly grated romano cheese
  • Couple heaping tablespoons sour cream
  • Couple heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried basil

Preheat the oven to 130C (350F)

Drain the frozen chopped spinach, and squeeze tightly with you your hands to get rid of as much liquid as possible. Put into a large mixing bowl.

Drain the artichokes, and roughly chop. Add to the bowl.

Cut the cream cheese up roughly straight into the bowl.

Add 1/2 cup each of parmesan and romano, and a few heaping tablespoons each of sour cream and mayonnaise. Using a fork, stir to combine. Make sure that everything is fully incorporated.

Sprinkle over garlic powder and basil and combine again.

Taste. This is the most important part of the recipe. You might want to add more cheese, more garlic powder, more sour cream – its up to you, and is what will make your recipe taste individual. Basically, just make sure the mixture is the texture of a stiffish cookie dough. Keep adjusting until it tastes exactly as you want it.

Transfer the mixture to a baking pan, and sprinkle a bit of additional cheese over the top if you like.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and the cheese has browned nicely.

Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Wonderful the next day as a spread, on toast, or reheated.