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

Ingredients

Grilled Eggplant

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

Tapenade

  • 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)

Note

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.

Directions

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.
Tapenade
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.

 

From the Pinterest Files: Roman Summer Salad

I can’t promise that From the Pinterest Files will become a weekly feature, but I do plan to cook from my Pinterest board more often, so who knows? Whenever I do, though, I promise to let you know what I think, good or bad.

This Roman Summer Salad by Giada De Laurentiis is perfect for me, and you too, if big, bold flavors are your thing. It’s basically a salad version of pasta puttanesca, with tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic swimming around with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. To make it a touch more salad-y, I added chopped spinach and red komatsuna, both from Bialas Farms. Granted, it’s nowhere near tomato season here yet, but this recipe really made its presence known, and I just couldn’t wait a month to give it a try. And now that you know about it, you’ll be ready when tomato season comes your way, if it hasn’t already!

Roman Salad | Minimally Invasive

 

Cup4Cup Week: The Bread

FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!

Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Even though the taint of the Saints’ scandal lingers and I’m still smarting from the BCS championship game last January, I can’t help but be excited for the start of the season. We Saints/Tigers fans are an optimistic lot. The booze helps.

Of course, you’ll need good food for the games this weekend, and you could do so much worse than a muffuletta, the Sicilian-by-way-of-New-Orleans sandwich invented by Salvatore Lupo at Central Grocery. It shares a meat-and-cheese situation with the Italian sub, but goes above and beyond in two important ways — the bread (a soft, round Italian loaf that’s light but substantial enough to take on the filling) and olive salad (with pickled vegetables and heavy on the garlic). Since I have no hope of ordering the sandwich in north Jersey or of getting a gluten-free muffuletta loaf at the bakery, I made my own.

And, well, I have to say the bread was not great. Looked nice, though:

I really don’t know if it was the flour, the recipe, my own incompetence, or some combination of those factors, but it didn’t work for me at all. The bread rose — more than I expected, actually — but emerged from the oven dense as dwarf star matter. Still, I had loads of meats and cheeses and a ridiculous amount of olive salad in the fridge, so I plowed ahead with the muffulettas, hoping a good soaking with olive salad oil would render the bread pliable enough for ingestion.

I used Emeril’s recipe and thought his olive salad was delicious, but lacked garlic. I KNOW, RIGHT? Craziness. Emeril is garlic’s ambassador, its Kris Kardashian. He revels in garlic the way David Foster Wallace reveled in footnotes — unashamedly and without regard for the reader. “Perhaps you could add another footnote or five, David?” The effrontery! But this is no time for balance and restraint; the more garlic you throw at olive salad, the clearer its point becomes.

If not for the bread issue, it would’ve been a damned fine sandwich even with the garlic paucity. Each muffuletta probably was less than a quarter of the Central Grocery sandwich, but I still only managed to eat a half, and that without the top of the bread which threatened to destroy the roof of my mouth. No thank you, bread; my Cap’n Crunch days are long behind me.

So all good experiments must come to an end. I’ll look for a new bread recipe with the Cup4Cup and let you know how it turns out. But do give the muffuletta a try if you have access to good bread and a cast iron stomach.

And happy footballing!