Tag Archives: capers

A Savory Explosion!

There’s something about anything salty and savory that will always get my attention. Olives, capers, anchovies, in any recipe will certainly make me sit up and take notice. One thing that will give your creativity a boost is having a delicious and versatile olive tapenade on hand. During the holidays I try to incorporate it in appetizers, pasta and entrees in general. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, and if your making a larger batch, freezes well for several months.

Consider the following suggestions for using tapenade:

  • Serve it on top of hummus for a savory boost
  • Serve broiled fish with a dollop of tapenade on top
  • Use tapenade to stuff portabella or cremini mushrooms
  • Make a cold pasta with veggies and use the tapenade as the dressing with lemon juice
  • Top burgers with roasted red pepper, cheese and tapenade
  • Toss with steamed baby potatoes
  • Use on pizza to replace tomato sauce
  • Make a sandwich on focaccia with salami, ham, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, red onion, pepperoncini, mozzarella and tapenade
  • Make a wrap of hummus, red onion, roasted red pepper, arugula and tapenade
  • Make a pasta with tapenade, cherry tomatoes and toasted breadcrumbs (recipe to follow)

The possibilities for its use is only limited by your imagination! Although you can purchase store bought tapenade, it’s so easy why not make it yourself for a lot less! This blog will focus on whipping up this flavorful Mediterranean olive spread and a easy, crowd pleasing pasta when you’re busy.

OLIVE TAPENADE (MEDITERRANEAN OLIVE SPREAD)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces brine-cured olives, pitted and drained (Manzanillo and or kalamata work well)
  • 6 ounces California black olives, pitted and drained
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 2 anchovy filets
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Couple grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place drained and pitted olives in the bowl of a food processor. Add anchovy, capers, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and black pepper. Pulse several times until coarsely chopped.
  2. Scrape side with spatula and add olive oil. Pulse several times until a chunky paste forms, scraping sides as needed. Serve at room temperature.

TAPENADE PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND TOASTED BREADCRUMBS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces bucatini pasta
  • 1/2 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive tapenade
  • 3/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water generously with salt and then add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions.. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.
  2. While you pasta is cooking heat a few drizzles of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the fresh breadcrumbs and toast them until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Add the drained pasta back into the pot and add the tapenade, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss well to combine, adding additional pasta water if needed. Add 1/2 the cheese, the cherry tomatoes and parsley. Season with black pepper.
  4. Pile the pasta onto plates or shallow bowls. Top with cheese, parsley and breadcrumbs. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

“First we eat, then we do everything else.”

Hold The Mayo!

When the weather starts to break in the spring, one of the things I crave is salads, and one of my favorites is potato salad. Although I was raised on a mayonnaise based potato salad, loaded with onions and hard-boil eggs, I enjoy making them with a slightly lighter hand. This however, does not mean bland. I want a salad with a punch. Bold Mediterranean flavors, like capers, olives, red onion and herbs guarantees flavor in every forkful . Eliminating the mayonnaise and replacing it with a good quality olive oil is key. I like to turn this into a meal salad by adding imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil. It adds additional bulk, plays well with the other ingredients and looks showy served on a bed of greens. This potato salad is best served warm or at room temperature. I also enjoy adding about 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes, when they are available in June. Not a tuna fan? Simply omit it. So simple to adjust it to your own taste preferences.

Don’t allow the potatoes to cool before tossing them with the dressing. This when they really absorb the flavor. Also, don’t skip the caper brine! It’s just not the same without it.

MEDITERRANEAN POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or red skinned potatoes (or a combination of both) cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup drained capers, plus 1 tablespoon caper brine
  • 1/2 cup sliced and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounce jar Italian olive oil-packed tuna (optional)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed Italian parsley or basil OR a combination of both, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, red wine vinegar and oregano, set aside. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water to about 1-inch above the potatoes, and add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then turn down to medium-low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a potato meets no resistance.
  2. Drain the potatoes in a colander. To the large bowl, add capers, brine, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add hot potatoes and mix gently again. If using tuna, add next along with the parsley and basil. Taste and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Serve warm on a platter lined with greens.

Yields: 4-6 servings

“Food is the ingredient that binds us together.”

A Few Of My Favorite Things

As we enter week 9 of self-sheltering, it’s interesting to learn what ingredients in your pantry you find absolutely necessary. Of course we all need an assortment of canned and frozen vegetables when fresh are not available, along with flour, yeast, pasta, rice, beans and an assortment of dried herbs and spices. I can’t live without, garlic, onions, olive oil and olives; but the one thing that surprised me to be near the top of my list was ‘capers’. I use them in so many ways, from chicken salad, pasta dishes, pizza, potato salad, to top fish, deviled eggs, and fresh relishes.

I buy them in 32 ounce jars from our local Mediterranean grocery store. They simply pack a punch, adding texture and tanginess when added to a variety of recipes. Capers have long been a favorite in the Mediterranean region. They are well-known for being a star ingredient in Italian, French and Spanish recipes.

One of the easiest and tastiest dishes you can make with capers is Chicken Piccata. The sauce is a combination of creamy, tart and lemony and is wonderful served with rice or pasta and comes together quickly. The chicken breasts are lightly breaded and pan-fried which assures that you control the cooking time so they stay moist. Two halved and butterflied breasts will easily feed four.

SILKY CHICKEN PICCATA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 ounces of linguine
  • 2 large chicken breasts, butterflied and halved
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (3-4 garlic cloves), grated on a micro planer
  • 1 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon chicken stock (homemade if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Boil salted water and cook 12 ounces of linguine according to package directions. Drain and lightly toss with a little olive oil.
  2. After butterflying your chicken breasts, let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Mix together flour, salt and pepper to taste in a zip lock bag. Add chicken breast pieces and shake to distribute flour.
  3. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet on medium high. Add chicken pieces to skillet. Sear chicken, undisturbed until brown on the bottom, about 4-5 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook opposite side until golden brown. You may need to adjust heat a little lower, for an additional 4-5 minutes (internal temperature should be 165 degrees). Remove from heat and tent with foil to keep warm.
  4. Add garlic to pan (add a little olive oil if necessary). Saute until slightly golden. Add 1 1/4 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil, while scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Allow stock to simmer till reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  5. Whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon of stock with cornstarch, add to skillet along with lemon juice and zest. Allow to simmer until thickened slightly then remove from heat.
  6. Stir in butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces back into sauce to reheat for 3 minutes.
  7. To serve, place a portion of pasta in a shallow bowl. Top with chicken, then sauce. Sprinkle capers and parsley on top.

Serves 4

“We can do no great things…only small things with great love.” —Mother Teresa

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Give Me Shelter

As I sit at my desk right now, my home is silent and I recognize the daily importance of silence in my life.  Silence is a dear friend, the kind of friend that can sit with you and not feel uncomfortable when listening to the sound of the heart.  We are so bombarded with noise; we are plugged in and turned on.  Unabated noise can be an onslaught of constant stimulation in a way that confuses, rather than comforts.

During this period of sheltering in place or social distancing,  we are offered an opportunity to listen to our own thoughts. Living a rural life offers periods of time when you don’t see many people, yet I am never lonely.  Our social time largely centers around our weekly appearance at our farmers market to sell our wares.  I can be quite a talker and this is a great time for discussion and sharing.  Now that this is not an option, I do miss the absence of that scheduled human contact; the hugs, the warm conversations with customers, friends and vendors.  However this extended time away from our social connections, allows us to pare down even further in the discovery of what we really value in our life.

Adversity has the power to change us if we are open to that change.  It is my sincere hope that people pause and reevaluate what is most important to them and then act on that knowledge.  May this challenging time provide the reset needed, and the catalyst for manifesting better lives for ourselves and each other.

SALMON WITH ARTICHOKES, CAPERS AND SPINACH

Make sure you have all you ingredients measured and prepped, as this comes together rather quickly.  You don’t want to overcook your salmon!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-4 wild caught salmon fillets, weighing approximately 6 ounces each
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can 15 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  You will want to sear your salmon in a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet.  Generously salt and pepper your fillets.
  2. When your oil is hot, add salmon fillets flesh side down (skin side up).  Sear for about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and turn each fillet over (skin side down).  Sear for another 4-5 minutes until salmon is almost flaky.
  3. Remove salmon from skillet.  In the same skillet, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, grated garlic, chopped artichokes and capers. Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add fresh spinach, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until spinach wilts, 1-2 more minutes.
  5. Add heavy cream and paprika.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes more.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  6. Add fillets back to pan with vegetable and cream.  Heat gently for about 2 minutes.
  7. Serve with sauce spooned over fish.

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“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.  –Proverb

Bad To The Bone(less)

Yesterday was hot and humid at market; today our windows are closed after 2.5 inches of rain, with a high of 58 degrees.  Welcome to Michigan!  We have been very busy this week on the farm with planting lettuce, spinach, squash and potatoes.  Today is indeed a day of rest.  I think I have been overdosing on asparagus, so when planning dinner I decided on something fairly easy, yet piquant.  The result:  Chicken Piccata.

Because cutlets are lean and cook in just a few minutes, they produce very little drippings to use in a sauce.  A light coating of flour will act as an emulsifier and thickener, while a simple addition of fresh lemon slices, dry vermouth and capers create the classic piccata flavors.  Because I am gluten-free, I used a 1 to 1 All-Purpose flour from Bob’s Red Mill. Quick, easy, delicious.  Add a simple salad with a homemade vinaigrette and you have a meal that’s healthy and flavorful.

Chicken Piccata:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded into cutlets about 1/4 of an inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 fresh lemon slices
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Season both sides of cutlets with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.  Heat a skillet over medium-high, add olive oil until very warm.  Saute cutlets until golden on one side, about 3-4 minutes.  Turn over cutlets and saute the other side, covered for 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to platter.

Deglaze pan with vermouth and add minced garlic.  Cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, lemon juice and capers to pan.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for about 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to warm plates.  Finish sauce with butter and lemon slices.  Once butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

Melting butter with lemon slices

Melting butter with lemon slices

Bad to the Bone(less)!

Bad to the Bone(less)!

“It’s funny that day by day nothing changes.  Yet when you look back everything is different.”