Artichoke Tapenade and Avocado, Cannellini and Preserved Lemon Dip
Easy Mediterranean Appetizer Spreads
by Victoria Challancin
We all toss around the term "Mediterranean Cuisine" as if it were one thing. Did you realize that the Mediterranean encompasses 21 countries? Can you believe that? Twenty one! Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Malta, Cyprus, Monaco, and Egypt. Wow! All my favorites plus some I would like to explore.
And if I had to choose one group of world flavor principles to dominate my food, it would definitely have to be Mediterranean, whether Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, French, Greek, Turkish--or probably many of the others I don't know much about. Although I will forever be enchanted with Asian food (especially Thai and the wonderful melange of Straits' Cooking), Indian Cuisine, and others, the clean, sun-drenched flavors of lemons, olives, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs will always be my first choice. They truly speak to my heart, if not my soul.
These easy appetizer spreads sing with those very flavors and are deceptively easy to make. You probably won't even need a trip to the store! Easily whipped together, they are perfect if you have unexpected guests. The first is an artichoke tapenade recipe from Mario Batali that I first found on The Smitten Kitchen. Deb suggest serving it on crostini, as I did, but she also suggests it would be great tossed with hot or cold pasta.
Cook's Notes: A handfull of fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro wouldn't go amiss in this lovely tapenade. Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil is another possible addition.
Recipe: Artichoke-Olive Tapenade
(Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali)
Makes 8 to 10 appetizer servings
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoons capers
8-10 canned artichokes, drained well and quartered
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon chile powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Before cutting the artichoke hearts, squeeze them to remove excess liquid.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and olive oil until smooth, but still somewhat chunky.
Taste and add salt, pepper, chile powder, and additional lemon juice, if desired. Serve with toasted slices of baguette or crackers.
Storage: The tapenade will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
A plate with the two Mediterranean Spreads and Roasted Grapes
If you have never tried roasting grapes, you should. I made some in class a couple of years ago and since then they have become a favorite appetizer. They are terrific in salads (as are frozen grapes) or served with a strong cheese (gorgonzola works well). My recipe for Roasted Grapes with Garlic and Rosemary can be found here.
Cook's Note: If you don't have Moroccan preserved lemons, substitute 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest.
Serve with crostini or a good crusty bread--or crackers or toasted pita chips. I added a wee bit more spices than were listed. Of course.
Recipe: Avocado, Cannellini and Preserved Lemon Dip
(Recipe slightly adapted from kitchencaravan.com)
Makes about 2 cups
1 Haas avocado, halved, pitted, and skin removed
2 cans cannellini beans (14 oz each), drained and rinsed
1 preserved lemon, roughly chopped (skin only, discard pulp and pith) or 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 sprigs of mint, thinly sliced in chiffonade
Good pinch of cumin
Good pinch of paprika
Good pinch ground coriander (my addition)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Blend together the beans, avocado, and preserved lemon in a food processor. Add the olive oil slowly to keep the mixture moving. Add the herbs and spices and process again. Check and adjust seasoning to taste. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a bit of water or more olive oil. If you like the flavor of preserved lemon, you can add a bit more of the brine, remembering that it is very salty.
From a bouquet I admired...
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
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