Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant

Continuing that salty-savory theme from yesterday, Darcie and I have a flavorful, simple dish to finish up Small Bites Week here at the Advent Calendar. Mixed-olive tapenade is easy to whip up the day before a big party (in fact, it’s better if you do!) and you can throw the assembled appetizers together in a flash.

Tapenade can be mouth-puckeringly salty, which is fine in certain applications, but here you want something a bit mellower, so I take a two-pronged approach. Starting with the olives themselves, I err on the side of less salty, fruity varieties, like juicy Castelvetrano or Cerignola olives, both of which I always find at Fairway Market‘s amazing olive bar. If I’m using something a bit brinier, I’ll rinse and dry them before proceeding. And then, it’s really nice to add some nuts to the mix — just be sure they’re raw, or you’ll be defeating the purpose. I toast them lightly for flavor and find they really mellow out the tapenade and add a nice, smooth flavor, especially if you prepare this a day in advance.

You can serve this on crackers, but I encourage you to try the grilled Japanese eggplant rounds. They really complement the tapenade and turn it into a whole appetizer, rather than just a spread.  Let us know what you think if you try it!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Tapenade-Eggplant Bites | Amy Roth Photo

Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant


Grilled Eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplants (sliced 1/2)
  • olive oil (for brushing eggplant slices)


  • 2 cups pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1 anchovy fillet (rinsed and dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons brined capers (rinsed and dried)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch fresh thyme (chopped)

Tapenade (Optional)

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • grana padano (shaved, for garnish)


If the olives you’re using are especially salty, rinse and dry them before proceeding. I like a hefty proportion of green olives in this mix, and used a combination of Castelvetrano and Liguria for this preparation.


Grilled Eggplant
Brush cut sides of eggplant with a little olive oil. Grill on outdoor grill at medium heat or in a grill pan on a burner set to medium-high heat until cooked through.
Place all tapenade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in one-second increments until blended. Process less for a chunkier texture and more for a creamier one. Add a little extra olive oil if you prefer it thinner.
To serve, spoon a tiny scoop of tapenade onto a grilled eggplant round and top with a piece of shaved grana padano, if desired.


Field to Feast: Dill

Fresh dill

When Kasha suggested dill as an ingredient for this week’s Field to Feast challenge, I was stumped. It doesn’t grow well on my deck, so I never have it around and therefore haven’t really experimented with it beyond the occasional pickles or recipes here and there that call for it. So perhaps this post is a little uninspired (salmon & dill? yaaaaawn), but I’ve really been wanting to make my own gravlax for a while and this seemed the perfect opportunity.

Gravlax | Minimally Invasive

I turned to the internet, as always, and most of the recipes I found were pretty similar — salt, sugar, dill and perhaps some spices to shake things up. Keeping with my preference of staying simple the first go-round, I chose to follow Mark Bittman’s recipe with a beautiful Copper River salmon filet I picked up at Fairway.

Gravlax | Minimally Invasive

I don’t know what scared me off of this for so many years because honestly, it couldn’t have been simpler to make. Removing the pin bones was the most tedious part, but with the help of a dedicated pair of tweezers, it took all of three minutes. Then I piled on the cure mix, sprinkled it with a little vodka, and packed on the chopped dill. After that, it’s just a matter of wrapping it in plastic, putting it in a dish covered with a flat surface (I used a tiny cutting board), and weighing it down with cans. And waiting. After two days, a lot of liquid had been extruded into the dish. I unwrapped the salmon, removed a little of the cure, and sliced off a few pieces to try. It was salmon flavor x10, lightly cured and silky on the tongue. I couldn’t be happier with the results of my first experiment. More to follow with added spices…

Gravlax | Minimally Invasive


Field to Feast: Spinach

Kasha and I are back with more Field to Feast posts this week! Head over to The FarmGirl Cooks for more ideas on what to do with what’s in season.

Spinach never was something I ate as a child, so I’m not sure when or where I developed my love for it, but love it I do. And after hardneck garlic, it’s my favorite thing to buy from Bialas Farms at the market. We see it a couple times a year — first in Spring, when I gobble it up after a long winter of the industrial, bagged stuff. Then, after I’ve eaten my weight in summer-ripe tomatoes and corn and think another zucchini might be the death of me, it crops up again when the weather cools down. So by June, I’ve waited the better part of a year for spinach to come back to market and what happens? I’ll tell you what happens. A sinus infection happens! A disgusting sinus infection that sapped my energy and kept me shuffling between the bed (for naps) and sofa (for marathons of Doc Martin and Wallander) for a full week. (Side note: My ass is tired of all the sitting, which seems ridiculous, because aren’t asses made for that very thing? My body craves movement and walking for more than 20 feet at a stretch. When I’m able to do a downward dog again, I have a feeling the angels will sing.)

So that’s why this post is so slim. My nasal passages apologize for the interruption, but promise that next week’s post will be a doozy, so be sure to tune in.

My busy schedule of TV marathons and napping notwithstanding, I DID manage to work up a new spinach recipe this week. I wanted to make gluten-free spanakopita for you, but let’s get real. There’s NO WAY I’d attempt to make my own phyllo dough (gf or otherwise), so I thought spinach turnovers would be an acceptable substitute.

Spinach Turnovers at Minimally Invasive

And they were entirely delicious, if not the same texture as flaky spanakopita. For the pastry, I used the pie crust recipe at Cup4Cup minus the sugar, then adapted the filling from Vegetarian Times. I rolled out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness, then cut out individual turnovers with a 4″ round cutter, which made a nicely-sized turnover to be eaten in a few bites. You could size these up or down without too much of a problem, as long as you adjusted the amount of filling in each. Believe me, what looks like a paltry amount of filling can become a big mess when folding and crimping if you’re not careful. Just a word of warning.

Spinach Turnovers Recipe at Minimally Invasive
Click on the picture to embiggen.

Spinach Turnover at Minimally Invasive

And since everyone (me included) seems to be on a green shake kick lately, I’ve included the one I make for myself nearly every morning. It’s a good baseline to use and produces a very pretty shake. You can always add other fruits or vegetables to it. Just know that strawberries and blueberries, while delicious additions, mean you’ll be drinking a shake the color of a bruise. As long as visuals aren’t that important to you, carry on!

Green Shake Recipe at Minimally Invasive

Click on the picture to embiggen.

This post brought to you by Cefuroxime Axetil, Nasonex and DayQuil.

Recipes below, if you want to copy and paste text instead of referring to an image.

Spinach Turnovers adapted from Cup4Cup and Vegetarian Times

Your favorite double-pie crust recipe (I used this one, minus the sugar.)
8 cups spinach leaves
1 tablespoon garlic confit, or 2 teaspoons olive oil + 1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup feta cheese, finely crumbled1 egg, beaten
Maldon sea salt

Rinse and drain spinach and, with water still clinging to leaves, transfer to large skillet. Cover, and cook over medium-high heat until wilted. Rinse with cold water in a colander, squeeze out liquid, and coarsely chop.

Heat garlic confit (or garlic and olive oil) in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When it starts to sizzle, add onion and cook until softened. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes more. Transfer to bowl and cool.

Stir ricotta and feta cheeses into spinach mixture. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350˚F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll dough to 1/8″ thickness and, using a 4″ round biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Remove extra dough and place back in bowl. Put one tablespoon of spinach mixture in the center of dough rounds and wet edges of dough with water. Carefully fold dough in half, pressing out air, and crimp the edges with a fork. Poke holes in the top of the turnovers for air to escape during cooking. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush tops of turnovers with beaten egg and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.

Bake 30 minutes, or until turnovers are golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Green Shake

1/2 cup water
1/3 head romaine
1 handful spinach
2 tablespoons parsley
1 stalk celery
1/2 granny smith apple
1/2 lemon, peeled
1/2 cucumber, seeded
1/2 cup yogurt or 1/2 avocado

In a high-speed blender, combine the first four ingredients(water through parsley). Blend on high speed for 30 seconds. Add remaining fruits and vegetables and blend until combined. Add yogurt, if using, and blend for just a couple of seconds.

Delicious additions:

1/2 frozen banana
kiwi (if you like a tart shake)
1 kale leaf
1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seed


One Meatball (and No Spaghetti)

gluten-free recipe

Yes, it’s cold and snowy out there and I already only want to eat meat until spring, but I also work in New York, where it’s impossible to spend any time at all without having meatballs thrust upon you. (Er, “without encountering meatballs”? “Without reading about them” or “passing a restaurant that has them on the menu”?) Just off the top of my head, there’s The Meatball Shop, a recent meatball feature in The New York Times, Eataly‘s braised brisket meatballs (Woe is me, they’re across the street from my office!) and Deb at Smitten Kitchen happened to run a beautiful post a few weeks ago about Canal House Cooking‘s Scallion Meatballs. So who can blame me for having balls of meat on the brain?

gluten-free recipe

Naturally, I wanted something a little bit different (not Italian, not Asian-inspired), so I searched for lamb meatballs recipe with a middle-eastern riff, which I found from Nigella Lawson/Food Network. Shall we all take a minute here to breathe a contented sigh as we picture the lovely Ms. Lawson? (aaaahhhh)

gluten-free recipe

Her recipes have always worked for me, so tinkering was minimal, limited to replacing the semolina with quinoa flour to make these gluten-free. (Get the recipe here.)

gluten-free recipe
Please ignore the Eddie Murphy welfare burger appearance of this meatball.

I decided to add a pomegranate glaze just because I wanted a bright contrast to the earthiness of the lamb. It worked so well, it’ll become a permanent part of the rotation, I believe. If it’s not too frou-frou, maybe I’ll even make it for a Super Bowl appetizer (though it won’t go well with the inevitable cheese dip).

gluten-free recipe

But it was a late lunch for us today, so I served it with apricot and caramelized onion brown rice to make a meal of it. The rice was superfluous; we could’ve made an entire meal of the meatballs and lived happily to tell the tale.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “One Meatball (and No Spaghetti)”

From the Market — Week 3

Caramelized Scallops with Strawberry Salsa

I haven’t come close to using everything I picked up at the market this weekend, but here’s a good sampling of what we’ve had.

Strawberries. Oh, yes. Divine, luscious, sweet, knock-your-socks-off strawberries, the memory of which will drive me away from the display at the grocery store that tries to tempt me, so redly and smugly. “Hey Amy, it’s still summer. Doesn’t a large, mealy strawberry sound delicious right about now?” Erm, no. Even more so (possibly) than tomatoes, they’re just so much better from the local growers.

They deserved a more special treatment than sliced over homemade yogurt (though they popped up there, too), so I worked up a strawberry salsa to top caramelized scallops. I tempered the fruity salsa with red wine vinegar so it would balance the naturally sweet scallops.

And we both loved it — if only I’d made more than just the appetizer portion you see here! But I set some aside for a very different, but still delicious appetizer, inspired by this post at Chocolate & Zucchini. Instead of using smoked sea salt, I smoked the remaining scallops with alder chips in my Camerons Stovetop Smoker, but otherwise stuck to the general recipe, then topped them off with fleur de sel.

It wasn’t difficult, but was a bit more trouble than the original would be. I think I’d happily feature the radishes with smoked salt for a party, just for ease of assembly.

My refrigerator is also seriously stuffed with all sorts of greens which I haven’t delved into (much) yet, but weeknight dinners are looking up!

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market — Week 3”

A little dip for your chips

I enjoy blogging, but it’s a solitary activity and really can be a slog (especially in winter when faced with nothing but root vegetables in your CSA). I do my thing, hit “publish” and that’s it for the most part. Since I haven’t quite hit on a formula to make this more of a give-and-take affair, I’ve been intrigued by the Food52 community for some time. Members can post recipes to the site with an intro about its creation, then the community is off and running, commenting and making suggestions for improvement.

The site also hosts weekly recipe contests based on a theme, and the winners of each contest go into a cookbook at the end of the 52 weeks (hence the name). When they posted a contest for your best short ribs a few weeks ago, I entered my latest version of ragu for kicks and couldn’t have been more surprised when it was chosen as a finalist, then actually won! (Also, Jen got a wildcard spot in the cookbook for her Hunter’s-Style Chicken that same day, so it was doubly exciting.) The upshot is, after five+ years of this site, I’ll actually be in two cookbooks later this year (Food52, plus the book I styled and shot photos for over the holidays)!

Last week’s recipe contest got into the spirit of the playoffs by looking for your best dip. Encouraged by the positive response my previous two recipes got, I worked up a new one. No way this one will rise to the top (seriously, there are some incredible recipes entered in this contest), but I’m pretty happy with it just the same. What’s not to love about a caramelized onion & mushroom dip, especially when paired with crispy, salty kettle chips?

Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Dip also posted at Food52

3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1/2 pound button mushrooms, minced
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in 1 cup hot water, drained & minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
1 tablespoon demi-glace, optional
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt half of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions with large pinch of salt until just golden brown, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until deeply browned and caramelized. Remove onions from pan.

In the same pan, melt remaining butter and sauté mushrooms with a large pinch of salt until they stop releasing water. Add sugar and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are deeply browned and caramelized. Add onions back to pan and stir in dry vermouth and demi-glace, if using. Cook until all liquid is absorbed. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Set aside one tablespoon of onion-mushroom mixture to use as garnish.

Add yogurt and sherry vinegar to the rest of the onions and mushrooms, mixing well. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add as much black pepper as your heart desires. This dip has a real affinity for it. Garnish with reserved onion-mushroom mixture.

Mother and child reunion

A couple of months ago, I was inspired by Maggie Mason‘s Mighty Life List (a Bucket List for the young, healthy and positive-minded) to make my own (though I’m not so young and some might argue the other two points). As you probably could guess, quite a few cooking-related items are on there, despite their relative unimportance to the bigger stuff. But I’d argue that perfecting my smoker technique or turning out a sublime focaccia could add more value to my daily existence than seeing the Northern Lights, becoming fluent in French or going on an Auntie Mame-style journey around the world. (OK, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.)

Not one to dawdle when I have a goal in mind, I took my first steps to making the Weber Smokey Mountain my bitch this weekend. I’ve selected Gary Wiviott as my mentor/guru/pitmaster for this journey, based on Jason Perlow’s review of his program at Off the Broiler. I used my smoker a few times last year with imperfect results, so I consider myself enough of a novice to follow Wiviott’s program to the letter (begging forgiveness for changing the marinade to something more of my liking). The entire thrust of this book is that everything you know about BBQ is dead wrong and what you really need to do is learn to build a proper fire, arrange the meat correctly, leave it the hell alone and trust your instincts. No futzing with a fancy thermometer or different fire-building techniques for different meats for him; because I run from complicated grilling/smoking setups, this works wonderfully for me too. He gives explicit instructions in the book, so I’m confident that someday I’ll be able to get all Jedi on that BBQ.

Anyway. I marinated chicken halves in harissa with some olive oil, sautéed onion and the juice of a small (and old and somewhat withered-but-still-going-strong) lemon. Building the fire proved a bit, um, challenging with the windy day I chose, but I eventually got the whole thing built to spec, assembled the smoker, and let it go. An hour and a half later, I opened the lid to find The Most Gorgeous Chicken I’ve ever seen (at least at my house):


After the chicken came off at the perfect temperature and at the exact moment Wiviott said to start checking for doneness, I threw a few hard boiled eggs on the top grate for smoked deviled eggs. As a mini experiment, I peeled three of them and heavily cracked the shells of the other three before smoking, hoping to get a Chinese tea egg effect on the whites. (It didn’t work; the eggs were much less smoky-tasting even with the cracks in the shells, so live and learn.) Because the fire was so low after 90 minutes with the chicken, I smoked the eggs for about 45 minutes, until the shelled ones turned a gorgeous amber color.

Homemade mayo has been vexing me lately, separating at the drop of a hat just to mock me. For these eggs, I wanted to give it one more try, and used the milk mayonnaise recipe from Food52 (which I’ve just joined – yay!). It came out thick, creamy, thoroughly delicious and was much, much easier for me to make than egg-based mayos (but also much, much messier).

I made a couple of fillings for the eggs and was pretty happy with both (though I lean more toward pickle flavor in my deviled eggs – personal preference).

with sun-dried tomatoes, up front

also, chives

So all told, it was a pretty good weekend for the Life List (which I’ll have to rename for myself sometime). Changes I’ll make for next time:

  • Marinate chicken for 8-12 hours — it was a pretty powerful marinade, but didn’t come through as strongly as I wanted, which was also the fault of…
  • Use pecan wood instead of hickory for chicken — hickory was delicious, but overpowered the marinade
  • Peel all eggs before smoking (and make the deviled eggs right away — a night in the fridge didn’t do them any favors in the looks department)

Recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Mother and child reunion”

The final countdooooowwnnnn

(OK, there’s nothing final — I hope — about tonight’s countdown. We’ve just been watching more Arrested Development this week.)

We’ll be ringing in the new year with blini, sour cream & caviar and toasting with prosecco. A bit of a culture clash, I’ll admit, but our movie marathon this year will be the great American saga The Godfather (parts I & II only), so you could say we’re into the melting pot thing. Though the cultures did clash terribly for Kay & Michael … hmm, maybe this is less a celebration of melting pot-ness than one of capitalism. The caviar is from Trader Joe’s, after all.

Because buckwheat just doesn’t do it for me, I made these blini with a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Because I’m lazy, I searched for a recipe that didn’t involve yeast. Don’t worry if you’ve never made blini; if you can make pancakes, you can make these. It’s only slightly more tedious measuring out the batter in tablespoon increments, but they cook so much faster than a full-sized pancake, you won’t really notice the extra effort.

As for new year’s resolutions, I try to avoid making them, but think it would be a very good thing if I could manage to worry less and enjoy things a bit more. How about you? Any resolutions this year?

Have a safe and happy turning of the page. See you all in 2009!

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “The final countdooooowwnnnn”