Tag Archives: appetizer

Swiss Chard Dolmades

Recently, my good friend Joey (owner of Maple Ave Restaurant in Virginia – if you haven’t eaten there yet and are near by, shut down your computer and go right now.  Or at least bring this with you on a laptop and get someone to drive you there) posed the question on her Facebook page “What’s your favorite Fall vegetable?”  I was completely in line with people’s responses of pumpkin and squash.  I even gave a silent nod, though no one mentioned it, to artichokes (oft thought of as a Spring veggie, artichokes actually love the cold).  But my answer, which came with not a moment’s hesitation, was swiss chard.

These noble leaves are the kings of greenery in my book – tender yet hearty, and full of earthy flavor that so much more refined than spinach.  Members of the beet family, the stalks vary in shade from paperwhite to golden and garnet (just as you’d see of beets in the market).  While I typically love my chard sautéed simply with olive oil and garlic, or luxuriously bathed in locatelli, cream and melted shallots, the leaves are so versatile, you can work them into pretty unique formats.  This recipe not only showcases the greens, but also leverages their quick cooking time.  Typical dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves, involve a lot of soaking and braising of the leaves to coax them into tenderness.  Swiss chard needs no such thing – just a quick dip in some boiling hot water to make them pliant, and a short cooking time of a mere half an hour.  Something to think about during the week when extra time is at a premium (“What? The Office is about to start?  Let me hurry up and finish cooking already…”)

These dolmades are made with ground lamb and rice, but feel free to replace the lamb with beef for simplicity, or leave the meat out entirely and make a batch with just rice and herbs.    I top the leaves with an Avoglomeno sauce that’s adapted from Greek queen of chefs, Cat Cora.  It’s a luscious blend of eggs, lemon and dill and is equally devourable hot or cold, and just elevated the dolmades to a whole ‘nother level.

UPDATE: For a kickass vegetarian filling, check out this recipe over at My Darling Lemon Thyme.  It’ll have you praising Spring for being one of the sexiest seasons around.

Let’s get crackin…

Recipe for

Swiss Chard Dolmades

1 bunch of swiss chard leaves (about 12-15 individual stalks)
1 lb. of ground lamb
1 c. of instant rice
1 tbs. of dried mint (can use fresh)
1 c. of onion, finely minced
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/8 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 tsp of olive oil
1 can of chicken broth

4 large eggs
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp. of pepper
1 tsp of dill
scant pinch of salt

Set a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.  While that is coming up to temperature, make your filling.

In a large bowl with your hands (or gently with a stand mixer) mix the beef, onion, mint, rice, pepper, salt and olive oil.  Make sure to combine all ingredients but not overmix.  Set aside.

Prepare your swiss chard leaves by cutting out the fibrous middle stem while keeping the rest of the leaf intact.  Set aside.  Once your water is boiling, take the leaves, one at a time, and plunk them into the boiling water for 1-2 seconds and then remove them to a plate.  Since we are not shocking them with a cold water bath after removing them from the hot water, the leaves will continue to cook a bit as they cool.  This is perfect for getting them pliant.  After you’ve cooked all of the leaves, set up a station where you can roll the dolmades.  On a clean cutting board, place a leaf flatly on the surface and add a heaping tablespoon of meat filling.  Fold the two sides of the leaf in over the filling and roll the whole thing up like the world’s smallest burrito.  Place the stuffed chard in a 13x9x2 pan, seam side down.  Repeat with remaining leaves until you run out of filling.

Pour a can of chicken broth over the leaves and cover with foil.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the leaves are tender and half of the stock has been absorbed.  Remove from the oven and let sit.

In a mixing bowl with egg beaters or a stand mixer, beat the eggs, lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill until frothy and pale golden.  Continuing to beat the mixture the whole time, carefully pour in the remaining chicken broth from the pan of dolmades.  Make sure to do this slowly, or you’ll have lemon flavored scrambled eggs instead of a smooth sauce.  Once it is all incorporated, pour the mixture into a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium.  Continue to whisk the sauce until it thickens enough to  coat the back of the spoon.  Pour sauce over your dolmades.

Serve them immediately as a hot dish, or let rest to room temperature or even cool as a variation.  These little guys are good every which way.

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

If good Sicilians love the joys of a meatball, then it’s no surprise that good cooking Sicilians know how to whip one up with class.  Consider me a fan, nay a fanatic, of the meatball.  So much so that I love them in all shapes and forms, from the Vietnamese variety as delicious Bo Vien in a steaming bowl of pho, to this recipe for piquant albondigas, Spanish meatballs flavored with paprika and cooked in a red pepper and sherry sauce.  For you red sauce fanatics out there, this one is a lovely change of pace.

Albondigas are often found as part of tapas, a collection of small plates of both hot and cold nibbles hailing from Spain.  These are served in sauce in a small clay dish with nary a bit of pasta or rice as accompaniment.  As such, you’ll probably want to get a good-quality, crusty loaf of bread to use to sop up this absolutely delicious sauce.  Throw in a dish of garlicky olives, manchego cheese, marinated mushrooms, and manchego cheese for a simple Spanish spread.  Or make a few other cooked tapas, like a Tortilla Española (a simple Egg and Potato omlette) or Pollo al Ajillo (chicken sauteed with garlic and sherry), and feast like a champion matador minus the unnecessary bull-slaying.  Olé!

The real trick to these guys, as with most meatballs, is to sear them very well before plunking them into your sauce of choice for slow-cooking.  Doing this allows the meatballs to keep their shape, seal in the juices, and allow them to become meltingly tender after cooking.  You want them dark brown before adding to the sauce to keep things awesome.  And for you, I want nothing less than awesome.

Recipe for

Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)

1 lb. of ground pork
1 lb. of ground beef
3 cl. of garlic, minced
3 tbs. of chopped flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbs. of fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp. of paprika
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
2 tsp. of salt
1/4 of a large onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. of bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. of worchestershire sauce
2 tbs. of olive oil

24 oz. jar of piquillo peppers, drained (can use roasted reds instead)
1 16.5 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of sherry
salt and pepper

1/2. c. of chicken broth
1/2 c. of dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Add pork, beef, garlic, parsley, oregano, pepper, salt, onion and worchestershire sauce to a large bowl and mix well.  Mix in egg and bread crumbs and set aside.  Wash hands well and then wet them thoroughly.  Scoop out about 2-3 heaping tablespoons into your hand and roll into a ball.  Place on a plate and continue to roll meatballs.

To a food processor or blender, add the piquillo peppers, the tomatoes with juice,two tbs. of olive oil and the sherry.  Pulse until smooth.  Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.  Pour mixture into a dutch oven and put over medium-low heat to simmer.

Heat the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil in a skillet.  In batches, brown the meatballs on all sides, making sure to sear them well.  As they finish, add them to the piquillo pepper sauce.  When all meatballs are browned an the skillet is still hot, carefully add the white wine to the pan.  As the wine reduces, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the chicken broth and continue to reduce by half.  Pour liquid into the pot with the piquillo sauce and meatballs.  Cover dutch oven and place into the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, checking after a half an hour to make sure that the sauce hasn’t thickened too much.  If it looks as if there is no liquid left, add a 1/2 c. of water, recover and cook for the last 15 minutes.

To serve, remove albondigas to a dish and top with the piquillo pepper sauce.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Har Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with Bamboo Shoots)

I came across this recipe the other day in finding a cheaper way to nosh on the addictive Crystal Shrimp Dumplings from China Fun here in the city – the darn things are so delicious that when I eat them piping hot, the filling all falls out for lack of letting them sit and chill.  Waiting is overrated.

This recipe can be found on the lovely blog Rasa Malaysia – she has you make the dough in her recipe, but in the version pictured below I used the pre-made Yasoya Wonton Wrappers (available in most grocery stores where they keep the tofu).  Not 100% identical, but a heck of a lot easier, especially if you can’t get your hands on wheat and tapioca starch.  If you have an aversion to triangle-shaped har gow, use a round cookie cutter to make perfect wrappers of your own.  Fry the extra bits that you cut off and use as crispy noodles in some wonton or hot and sour soup.  Done and done.  Truthfully, though, the star of this recipe is the filling, particularly the luscious quality of the shrimp and bamboo shoots, so don’t go crazy with the wrappers.

Check out the recipe now >>

Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

The pork and chive dumplings you get in Chinatown here in NYC usually involve the thin skinned wrappers and garlic chives, a flat, milder flavored variety.  Because these can be hard to come by, I’ve modified this recipe to use a small amount of regular chives, some cilantro and a couple bunches of scallions. I use a traditional jiao zi wrapper made out of a cold water dough, making these heartier and more robust that the usual pork and chive dumplings.

Jiao Zi © Spice or Die

For something a little lighter, use thinner pre-made dumpling wrappers (found in Asian Supermarkets) and cook like traditional potstickers. Basically, you steam the dumplings in a covered skillet with 1/4 to a 1/2 c. of water and a few drops of oil until the water evaporates and the bottoms crisp up.  Hence the name “potstickers” – I know, sometimes the world just makes a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it?  For a great potsticker recipe from start to finish, check out my good friend Chef Tim Ma’s Pan Fried Pork and Chive Potstickers.

The best part of this recipe, and all homemade dumplings, is that the quality is much higher than what you’ll find at restaurants and dumpling joints.  You control exactly what is added to the little delicacies, and you still end up keeping the price down.  Fresh ingredients at a low price is a hard thing to come by these days, so definitely celebrate a little when you tuck into a plate of these bad boys.

Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Jiao Zi

4 c. of flour
1 1/4 c. of ice water
1/2 tsp. of salt

3/4 lbs. of ground pork
2-3 raw shrimp, minced (optional)
1/4 c. of water
1/2 in. of ginger, minced
1 tsp. of cornstarch
2 tbs. of soy sauce
2 tsp. of sherry
2 tsp. of sesame oil
1/2 tsp. of salt
4 tsp. of sugar
3 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro (10-15 stems with leaves), minced
1 small bunch of chives (the plastic pack from the store is fine)

Start by making the dough for the wrappers.  Add the four cups of flour to a bowl along with the salt.  Slowly stream in water, stirring as you go and making sure not to put any actual ice cubes in the mixture.  Add only enough water to get the dough to hold together – if it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.  Knead dough until silky and elastic (about 5-8 minutes) and then wrap with plastic and let chill in the fridge.

Mix all ingredients (except for scallions, cilantro, chives and water) until smooth and a little stringy, making sure to stir all in the same direction.  Next, stream your water into the mixture in small amounts, stirring in between each addition.  Lastly, add the scallions, cilantro and chives and stir again.  Set aside.

Break out your dough and pinch a chunk off the size of a clementine.  Run the dough through a pasta roller or roll out by hand to about 1/4 in. thick.  Cut out 3-4 in. circles using a cookie cutter or the mouth of a large cup (I use one of my hubby’s beer steins).  Place a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the wrapper and pleat the edges to close.  Set aside on a floured cookie sheet.  Continue to fill the dumplings until you run out of filling or dough – whichever comes first.

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.  When the water is ready, plunk in about 8-12 dumplings and watch the water go from a boil to a simmer.  Let the water come back to a boil and then pour in a rough cup and a half of cold water.  Let the water come to a boil again and then add cold water a second time.  Let the pot come to a boil one last time and then remove dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon.  Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the dumplings that you could possibly eat in one sitting.

Serve with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce.


For a different taste, pick up the thin, round pre-made dumpling wrappers from your local asian market.  You can even use the wonton wrappers found in the deli aisle of the regular grocery store, and cut the squares into rounds with a ring mold.  Fill your dumplings and set aside on a floured cookie sheet.  Add 3-4 tbs. of cooking oil to a skillet and turn on high.  As the pan warms up, place the dumplings, seam side up, in the pan one next to another.  When the pan is super hot and the oil starts to sizzle (a few minutes), add about 1/2 c. of water to your pan.  Immediately cover to trap the whaft of steam that arises when you add the water to the hot pan.  Cook until the water has evaporated and the bottoms of the dumplings crisp up.

Creamy Feta Spread

Looking back on my cooking proclivities, I realize that many of my best recipes were created in that tender moment when you curse the heavens at your lack of preparation and guests on the way.  What the hell are you gonna make?  A couple of weeks ago, our good buddy Chris came over to pre-game before he and Dennis went to the Yankee game.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel strange having people in my house without at least a nibble or a treat to offer them.  Tough stuff when there is pretty much nothing awesome in the fridge.  This was born of a surplus of cream cheese (after buying double by accident for a batch of cupcakes) and a pack of feta cheese.  I decided to whip the two together with garlic and herbs and serve the whole mess on Triscuits.  Majesty.

Creamy Feta Spread © Spice or Die

Similar to my fake-me-out Boursin recipe, this dip is a lot more impressive in taste than it’s humble ingredients.  Lemon zest and garlic and depth of flavor and brightness, and olive oil smooths everything into a spreadable delight.  Serve this with crackers, toast points or crudité.  Or slice grilled chicken breasts in half and slather a bit in the middle for a yummy dinner.  Whatever you do, don’t fuss too much because I certainly didn’t when I put it together the first time.

Creamy Feta Spread

1 pkg. of cream cheese (or neufchatel)
4 oz. of feta
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of black pepper
1 tsp of white pepper
1/2 tbs. of herbes des provence
1 tsp of lemon zest
1 tbs. of olive oil

Put garlic, pepper, herbs, zest and olive oil in the food processor and blend until finely chopped.  Add feta and blend until crumbled.  Add cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge.  Serve.

Sweet Potato Croquettes

There’s something to be said for the beauty of a small bite – as an eater, you are (hopefully) treated to a microcosm of flavors all combined in a single tasty morsel.  As the chef, you are tasked with creating a complex body of flavors, carefully melded together to treat the diner with a one-punch knock out sensation.  It’s goodness.  Nay, the bestness.  Unlike my grammar.

Sweet Potato Croquettes

This dish is a shout out to my love of Caribbean and Spanish flavors when combined and/or fried.  There’s something about spicy, salty, cool, crunchy and sweet that just makes me swoon big time.  One of my favorite examples of this is in this incredibly simple, savory croquette made with a combination of sweet potatoes and chorizo.  Based on the famous Spanish tapas, Croquetas con Picadillo, this dish is prepared under many names and with various flavor combinations (like the delicious Cuban twin, Papas Rellenas).  The potato/meat mixture is formed into small balls and then breaded and fried into a lovely golden morsel.  Play up the gorgeousness of sweet and salty by serving this with a light mango sauce, grilled pineapple or peach salsa.

Sweet Potato Croquettes

3 c. of mashed sweet potatoes
4 tbs. butter, melted
1/4 c. of milk
1 tsp. of pepper
2 tsp. of salt
2 eggs, lightly scrambled
4 tbs. of flour
pinch of nutmeg

1 lb. of fresh chorizo, removed from casing
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 c. of flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs. of water
1/2 c. of bread crumbs
oil for frying

Mix the mashed potatoes with the butter, salt, pepper, salt, beaten eggs and nutmeg.  Place in a fridge to chill.  In a large skillet, brown the chorizo well.  Once fully cooked, add the garlic and red pepper and continue to cook until fragrant.  Cool the chorizo filling and stir into the mashed potatoes.  Return mixture to the fridge to cool.

Scoop the mashed potatoes into portions 3 tablespoons each.  Wet your hands and form each of the portions into a smooth ball.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with a sheet of wax paper.  When you’ve rolled all of the croquettes, place in the freezer to allow them to solidify a bit.

While the  croquettes are cooling, break out 3 shallow dishes.  Add 1/2 c. of flour to one dish.  Scramble the egg and two tbs. of water together in the second dish.  Place the breadcrumbs in the third dish.  Take the croquettes out of the freezer and start an assembly line.  First dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Then, plunk them in the egg to wet them all over.  Lastly, dredge in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean dish or another cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Heat a pot of cooking oil to 340° and gently lower a batch of arancini into the hot oil (5 at a time is good).  Cook until beautifully golden on the outside, about 9 minutes.  Drain on paper towels and serve with a fat wedge of lime and a sweet dipping sauce of your choice.

Arancini (Sicilian Fried Rice Balls or Supplí)

I get a kick out of dishes that manage to both impress folks and meet their requirement for comfort-food status.  Let’s face it, gooey mac and cheese or creamy mounds of mashed potatoes are not loved for their looks.  In fact, the massive piles of goodness only make the foodie centerfolds because they bring back atavistic longing of the food of our childhood.  Which is exactly what comfort food does  – it nourishes us and brings us to a place just like home.  But if you really think about the taste profile of comfort food in an of itself, it’s typically simple in nature, and oftentimes mild in flavor.  Color-wise, it’s oftentimes blah as well – fried chicken, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and meat loaf all hang out in the beige to brown arena.  Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, or even that it’s the rule across the board – I just think it’s worth noting that the requirements of comfort food need only be that it’s tasty for the soul and consumable in huge quantities.  So, what if we celebrated the kinds of comfort food that not only felt good to eat, but also looked just as lovely.

Arancini © Spice or Die

Arancini are gorgeous – the name itself means “little orange” in Italian and is an homage to the glorious golden color of these tangerine-sized delights as they are removed from the fryer.  Crunchy and light on the outside, and creamy and luxe in the inside, these little babies are comfort food at its best.  Probably my favorite part about this recipe is that you start with leftovers – the base of the arancini is risotto, left to coagulate and thicken to a point that you can form it into mini balls.  For those of you that make risotto from scratch, you know that it’s not so good as leftovers – the distinct grains of arborio rice turn into a porridge of sorts that’s a far cry from the glory that is served fresh out of the pot.  So what better way to resurrect it than to wrap it around bits of mozzarella, bread them and fry until lovely.  I say ye.

In a lot of these recipes that call for frying “until golden” I don’t ever mention the need for a thermometer – it’s silly given that a) I always use one and b) you should too.  A lot of the fear of frying comes from not getting the temperature just right – if the oil’s too hot, your food will burn on the outside before it cooks in the inside; cook too low and your food will come out greasy.  Remove the guessing game from the equation – buy a frying/candy thermometer and be precise.  You really don’t have an excuse as they are cheap and readily available (mine came from Bed, Bath and Beyond for like $7).  Besides, you are all about kitchen perfection. I know this for a fact.

I think that what sends this comfort food over the top is the brightness of presentation – beige is lightened up by bright, zesty marinara and basil.  It’s like a little Italian flag in every bite – a whole lot sexier than a mess of elbow macaroni.  Feel free to experiement with fillings and sauces – go decadent and dip them in a fontina funduta, or zesty with a nice basil pesto.  Stir spinach, peas or mushrooms into the risotto.  One of my favorite places in the whole wide world, La Fontanella, serves their supplíwith a savory meat ragu – they come as an appetizer but are just so filling, you could make a meal of them.  In the proverbial words of Humpty, “Dowhatchulike” and I am sure that you will be relishing in comfort-food majesty.

Arancini (Sicilian Fried Rice Balls or Supplí)

3 c. of leftover risotto
2 oz. of mozzarella, cut into 16 cubes
1/4 c. of flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs. of water
1/4 c. of bread crumbs
oil for frying

While your risotto is still cold, form into 16 small portions – sometimes I take a large bowl and put the risotto inside, and then score it like a pie into 8 slices.  I then take each “slice” and split it into two pieces.  Voilá – sixteen portions!  Wet your hands and form each of the portions into a smooth ball.  Push a cube of mozzarella into the risotto and roll again so that the cheese is completely covered by the risotto.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with a sheet of wax paper.  When you’ve rolled all of the arancini, place in the freezer to allow them to solidify a bit.

While the arancini are cooling, break out 3 shallow dishes.  Add 1/2 c. of flour to one dish.  Scramble the egg and two tbs. of water together in the second dish.  Place the breadcrumbs in the third dish.  Take the arancini out of the freezer and start an assembly line.  First dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Then, plunk them in the egg to wet them all over.  Lastly, dredge in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean dish or another cookie sheet lined with parchment.

Heat a pot of cooking oil to 320° and gently lower a batch of arancini into the hot oil (5 at a time is good).  Cook until beautifully golden on the outside, about 7 minutes.  If you don’t cook your arancini long enough, they will not be meltey goodness in the inside.  Drain on paper towels and serve with marinara for dipping.


  • Use any risotto recipe you’d like to make these guys – just make sure that it’s good and cool when you start working with it.  My recipe for Rock Shrimp Risotto is a good starting point – just leave out the shrimp and you are in business.
  • After you dredge the shrimp in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, you can freeze the arancini.  They can be fried from frozen at 340° for 9 minutes.

Tomato Bruschetta

I’m hoping that by posting this recipe, I’ll be making my sister Lexi really, really, really inspired to start making this for herself.  It’s her favorite – probably in the top five things that I make that she loves the most.  And accomplished chef and baker she may be, she always cons me into making it for her.  Maybe it’s like how I feel about a good grilled cheese – I can make it for myself, but it tastes so much better when someone else makes one for me.  Come to think of it, Lexi makes my favorite grilled cheese of all time – Tilamook cheddar, feta cheese and a tomato on slices from a pullman loaf.  Maybe we were meant to be sisters.

Tomato Bruschetta © Spice or Die

There are very few ingredients in this bruschetta, so you have to use the best ingredients possible.  Fresh ripe tomatoes, leafy basil and fruity olive oil make all the difference.  This topper is killer on toasted ciabatta, baguette rounds brushed with olive oil and baked, or even focaccia.  If carbs aren’t your thing, try it atop chicken paillard (or a simply grilled chicken cutlet) and a handful of arugula.  It’s a bistro meal without a ton of calories.  You can also toss this bruschetta with boiled, cooled potatoes and blanched string beans for my absolute favorite salad of all time (similar to my Potatoes Vinaigrette).

Tomato Bruschetta © Spice or Die

This bruschetta doubles and triples easily – make enough for friends, but not enough for leftovers.  It’s best eaten the same day before the tomatoes become soggy and too acidic.  It’s a carpe diem kind of recipe, so tuck in post haste.

Tomato Bruschetta

2 c. of chopped tomatoes
1 shallot, finely diced
3/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
5 tbs. of olive oil
2 tbs. of red wine vinegar
7 leaves of fresh basil, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced
toasted bread or crostini

Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, shallot and basil to a bowl.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar.  Taste for seasoning.  Top crusty slices of bread with a few tablespoons of bruschetta and serve with sprigs of basil for garnish.  Or put out the bread and bruschetta and let people assemble for themselves.  For non-vegans, you can serve bruschetta topped with slices of buffala mozzarella as an added treat.

Lima Bean Bruschetta

Luscious Lima Action

This recipe was born of a 100% “oh, crap” moment – I was cooking dinner for myself when I found out that a few good friends were on the way over to share a drink.  My Brazilian/Italian roots are firmly planted in perennial hospitality – if people come over and you’re eating, you absolutely share what you’ve got, small though it may be.  There’s a Brazilian song that says that the more people that come over, the more water you add to your beans to thin them out.  All are welcome.

Lima Bean Bruschetta © Spice or Die

My dinner for one was barely enough to share with 4 hungry ladies, so I found myself rummaging through the freezer and pantry for items to whip into something special.  In a moment of divine inspiration, I threw leftover lima beans, parsley, and lemon into the food processor and blitzed away.  The result, similar to what Cesar Cardini must have felt when he turned lowly anchovies, garlic, eggs and oil into caesar dressing, was majesty.

This recipe is similar to a popular crostini topping that I used to eat all the time in Orvieto – there it was made from fava beans (or broad beans) and drizzled with fruity, golden olive oil.  The lima beans are great because they’re easy to pull out of the freezer in a pinch, and cheaper than fava beans.  That being said, if you see fresh fava beans at the market, grab them and try them as a replacement for the limas – they are so lovely.  I like this bruschetta plain, but for a bit of decadence, you can crumble a bit of ricotta salata over the top for some added salty goodness.  Lowly limas never had it so good.

This recipe is hard to make smooth without a food processor, but you can certainly do it with a mortar and pestle (or a mocajete).  Just make sure to chop your herbs first, and then stage the ingredients in the same order as listed for the food processor in the instructions below.

Lima Bean Bruschetta

10 oz. of frozen lima beans
1 c. of water

1 tbs. of lemon juice, freshly-squeezed
2 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1/3 c. of olive oil
2 – 4 cl. of garlic
4 leaves of basil
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves removed and stems discarded (save stems for stock)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper

Put the lima beans and water in a pot and cook until tender, about 6-7 minutes.  Drain and rinse with water to cool.

To your food processor, add your garlic, basil, parsley, salt and red pepper.  Pulse until chopped finely.  Add the vinegar, lemon and olive oil.  Pulse until smooth.  Remove to a tupperware and chill.  Serve spread on grilled bread or crackers and drizzled with good olive oil.

Olive Tapenade

Like a Dirty Martini. Extra Dirty. Without the Martini…

Back when I fancied myself a writer and a thinker (ha!), I wanted to write a book on similarities and trends in people’s palettes.  I found that the folks that hated olives also hated coconut, avocados and other lovely things that I couldn’t imagine not eating.  It was like a package deal or something.  While my theories have yet to be tested on a larger scale, I definitely do believe that your palette can be trained to taste and eventually love foods that you may not like right now.

Olive Tapendae © Spice or Die

For me, one of the foods that I’ve come around to over the years are green olives.  I’ve always adored black olives – I was the little kid who put the canned ones on my fingers like a fool, only to eat them off – but absolutely abhorred green olives.  In a moment of revelatory tastetastiness (sure, that’s a word), I had olive tapenade at a local tapas restaurant as an amuse bouche.  The chef served it with plantain chips – a fun spin on chips and salsa.  Needless to say, I was hooked from that moment on. Continue reading Olive Tapenade