Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tapenade with Sun Dried Tomato

I’m a fan tapenade. And with the holidays upon us it is a great, easy to make appetizer spread. Everything goes in the food processor. No baking. Little fuse. But, not everyone likes olives and tapenade. My tapenade with sun dried tomato might just win them over. The sun dried tomato gives it a little bit of sweetness and cuts down on some of the briny olive taste. The sun dried tomato makes it a little extra special and the small flicks of red give it a little holiday festive flare.

1 pound Kalamata or other good black olive - pitted
3 tablespoons Capers - drained
2 cloves Garlic - minced
8.5 ounces Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil and Herbs, Julienne Cut - oil reserved
good Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons fresh Thyme - chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley - chopped
Crackers or toasted sliced Baguette

Combine olives, capers, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse a few times till very roughly chopped. Add enough olive oil to the oil reserved from the sun dried tomatoes to make ½ cup. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes. Add the sun dried tomatoes, ½ cup oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme and parsley and process until combined but still chunky. You still want to be able to see bits of the sun dried tomato.

Serve with crackers or toasted baguette. Makes a large potion enough for a good sized party.

I buy pitted olives and then cut each one in half. I find on average one pit per pound of olives. This recipe can easily be halved. Divide all the ingredients in half, just watch the amount of oil you add to get the consistence you want. To make a traditional tapenade: delete the sun dried tomatoes, use only olive oil, and add 10 anchovy fillets. Also, see the crostini blog post that goes excellently with this tapenade.

Grandma Ellen's Fudge

Grandma Ellen's Fudge, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

My grandma Ellen has a legendary sweet tooth. To this day she will start a meal with a slice of pie or other dessert so that she can be sure to "have enough room for it." I inherited her love of sweets, and her solemn understanding that the most important part of a, of a sugary confection, cake, or pastry.

Although she was reknowned for her pie-making skills (Best. Crust. EVER!), she was no shlub with candy either. One of her specialties was a rich, dense fudge that she made by the acre during the holidays. Now in her late 80's, she has given up cooking, but luckily my family and I have had a lifetime of working alongside her to learn her tips and tricks. One of the best lessons I learned from her was to experiment, and over the years I've figured out a few tweaks to her base recipe that sit well with my particular palette and culinary point of view. I now regularly include instant coffee and ground cardamom, both of which spice up the chocolate and really enhance the flavor of the fudge.

I naturally think of Grandma every time I make this fudge, and I pass it along here so that you can enjoy it as well. Fair warning: this fudge is really, really rich (which, come on, is NOT a bad thing when you're talking about fudge). You'll want a tall glass of cold milk onhand, and possibly some give in your waistband because I guarantee you'll eat several pieces. And you will be happier for doing so!

1 cup whole milk
1/2 lb unsalted butter
4 cups sugar
25 large marshmallows
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
12 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
12 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 T instant coffee
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of salt

Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish and set aside.

Heat milk, butter, and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until dissolved (I use a 5qt enameled cast iron pot). Stir in marshmallows until dissolved, then bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and spices until well blended. Pour into the buttered baking dish and refrigerate 4-6 hours, until solid.

To cut, remove from fridge & bring to room temperature. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container, separating layers with waxed paper. Store, refrigerated, up to 2 weeks. You can either serve it cold (meaning: eat it straight out of the container every time you walk by the 'fridge) or let it come to room temperature for a smoother texture. Either way it's delicious!