Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade (Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.

This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)

I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade

(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed

Directions:

In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.

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Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.

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Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks

3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)

Directions:

On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.

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Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.

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Smoky Baked Goulash

(Becky, the Mama.)

The other night was crazy.

I performed my usual bedtime routines: bath, then walked through the kitchen on the way to the bedroom, put lotion on my feet and legs and got in bed.

Suddenly my feet were on FIRE! Could not imagine why, but I rushed to get a wet cloth and washed them off.  Thankfully, the pain subsided, so I padded back through the kitchen, applied  more lotion, back in bed. Feet on fire!

I trekked back to the  kitchen where I saw that while making the recipe, I somehow spilled Tony’s Cajun Seasoning all over the kitchen floor. So basically, I was putting salt and cayenne pepper on my feet, then rubbing it in with lotion.

I hate it with this happens, don’t you?

So enjoy this recipe for Smoky Baked Goulash, as it is delicious and easy and great for a crowd.  (When your family is tired of turkey, this is a great make-ahead dish to stick in the oven and serve with a simple salad.)   Just make sure to let it melt in your mouth, and not on your feet.

Smoky Baked Goulash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Serves six to eight people

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

1/2  lb  sweet Italian turkey sausage

(*Vegans: In place of beef and sausage, use a mixture of crumbled vegan sausage– Field Roast Apple Sage brand recommended; lentils or beans; and chopped Portobello mushrooms to equal about  2 ½ cups)

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

½ c. BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s brand)

1 t. cumin

1 t. smoked paprika

1 t. Hungarian paprika

½ t. Tony’s Cajun seasoning

Salt & Pepper to Taste

8 oz  Penne Noodles (I used a high fiber Barilla Plus brand)

½ c to 1 c. cheddar cheese

1 red onion, diced

1 chopped sweet red or yellow pepper (or mixture)

½ cup Lite Ranch Dressing

¼ cup sliced olives, green or black

Directions:

Cook noodles according to package directions.  While they are cooking, brown the hamburger and crumbled turkey sausage in a large skillet  (Vegans, use a little olive oil and sauté the mushrooms and vegan sausage, then add beans or lentils.)

Add can of crushed tomatoes, bar-b-que sauce and seasonings to browned meat in skillet  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate pan sauté onions and pepper in olive oil. (To save time, you can do this when you brown the meat.  But it is prettier to see that layer of color on top of the casserole.)

When noodles are done, lightly oil a large rectangle casserole pan, and place noodles in it, in an even layer.   Gently spoon the meat sauce over the noodles.

Next, spoon sautéed onions and peppers over the sauce.  Then sprinkle cheddar cheese over all, as much as you like.  (We go light on the cheese, but if you love it, go for it! Vegans, omit cheese or use a vegan cheese product.)

Then pour pretty “squiggles” of Ranch Dressing over cheese layer. (Vegans use Vegan Ranch Dressing or make Rachel’s awesome recipe!)

Finally top with olives.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until melts and dish is hot all the way through.

Variations: This is a great recipe for using left-over veggies: corn, diced carrots, mushrooms,  diced squash, beans — it is all good.

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The Title: Smoky Baked Goulash
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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Olive Tappenade and Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

An incredibly easy appetizer trio that will wow your guests.

Last week on vacation, Jared and I celebrated our anniversary at this adorable little wine bistro and had the most beautiful flavorful appetizer trio of hummus, marinated roasted red peppers, and olive tappenade. Though I love olives, I’ve somehow never eaten or made tappenade. I’ve been missing out. I immediately knew I wanted to recreate this rich briny dip when I got home. In fact, I wanted to recreate the whole trio, maybe even the whole evening.

Florida sunshine, live acoustic musicians, a handsome and charming date in flip flops, good wine (at happy hour prices), a flirty sun dress, and delicious simple food. This is my idea of a perfect evening out. I told Jared between sips of chardonnay, “I’m so glad we aren’t all dressed up in stiff uncomfortable clothes, surrounded by a bunch of “fancy,” wealthy people pretending to be something we are not.” His wallet, I mean he, agreed.

This trio of dips is the perfect entertaining appetizer. It presents beautifully and looks sophisticated, but it’s really all incredibly easy to make. You can make it up to a couple of days in advance, then set it out before your guests arrive and forget about it. I picked up a tub of hummus this time and just jazzed it up with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Of course, you can easily make your own hummus too.

Olive Tappenade

Olive Tappenade

Ingredients

1 cup of mixed kalamata and green olives, pitted* (I used a 5oz jar of unpitted olives and it equaled 1 cup pitted olives)
1/2 t. capers
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 T. roasted red peppers (use from the recipe below)
2 T. olive oil
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 t. black pepper
pinch of sugar

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor, scraping down the sides as needed. Blend until the olives are chopped very fine — a little chunky is fine. I used a magic bullet and it worked perfect for this size batch. A small food processor would probably result in a tappenade with a little more texture.

Serve with toasted bread or crackers. I used one ciabatta roll, one olive loaf roll, and Mediterranean matzo crackers. The bistro we went to served rosemary focaccia and pita bread with theirs.

*To quickly pit the olives, whack them with a meat mallet and pop the pit right out. I knew I hung onto my meat mallet for some reason!

Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

Roasted Red Peppers in Garlic Oil

Ingredients

2 red peppers
3 T. olive oil
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 t. salt

Directions

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil and garlic on medium until the garlic is soft. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon or fork.

Place peppers directly on the flame of your gas stove top or under the broiler of your oven on a pan, turning until the skin is charred on all sides. Once charred on all sides, place immediately in a plastic freezer bag or in a bowl sealed tight with saran wrap. Leave for about 10 minutes (or longer). Discard the inner seeds and stem and gently remove the skins. A damp paper towel can help if they aren’t peeling off easily. Chop the peppers into large bite-size chunks.

Pour the garlic infused oil over the roasted peppers, toss with the salt. Refrigerate for later use or serve at room temperature with toasted bread.

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Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches

A Favorite of Momma's Dishes

Happy Mother’s Day to each one of you, whether a mother, a daughter, a son, or even a husband. We all have someone’s life to celebrate today. My mom and I both have a special place in our hearts for those whose moms aren’t with them anymore or for those with difficult mom relationships. Today can be a tough day for some, we know.

I don’t ever take for granted how blessed I am to have  a relationship that is based on love, acceptance, trust, and laughter with my mom. I think the reason I don’t take it for granted is that I’ve watched her use her mothering and nurturing gifts (truly her spiritual gifts) beyond our family. She often spends her afternoons cooking up lunch for 20-somethings and their little chicks on her patio, many of whom are learning for the first time what motherly love should look like.

Several of these young women have become like sisters to me, a bonus to having a mom that girls my age love to hang out with. When we get together at mom’s house, we all know to expect it to look a bit like a monkey on speed was cooking in the kitchen. Literally, the way this woman cooks boggles my neat freak mind. Last time I visited, I watched her use 13 utensils to make one cake. But, she’s quick in the kitchen, which gives her more time to focus on her chickadees. So we don’t complain and we all pitch in after lunch to try and piece her kitchen back together.

This Messy Greek Sandwich is one of the typical lunches she whips up for “her girls” on the fly. She’s made it for me several times and it’s always a hit. It’s one of those sandwiches you really want to enjoy in the company of those you don’t have to try and impress. It’s big, it’s messy, and it’s delicious. Mom always laughs when she serves me this, because I vocalize my approval with each bite. “Mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm.”

Happy Mother’s Day Momma! Thank you for teaching me mothering is not just for mothers,  if you cook good food, guests will overlook a messy kitchen (and even help you clean it), and when all else fails, laugh…or write it down and hope you’ll laugh later.

Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
(Rachel’s Variation)

Serves 2 big messy sandwiches

Ingredients

Two Hoagie Rolls (or other hearty bread)
olive oil
garlic powder
salt
8 1/4 inch slices of eggplant
1/2 a bell pepper (any color of mix of colors), sliced
1/4 medium onion, sliced
4 T. Spicy Pepper & Olive Mix (a mix of green & black olives, pepperocinis, & jalapenos)
1 Avocado
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of Baby Kale or Spinach
2 T. Sundried Tomatoes

Directions

Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat (an iron skillet works well for browning veggies), add eggplant to the skillet, trying not to overlap too much, sprinkle with just a little salt. Let brown on one side, then turn over, sprinkle with a dash more salt and add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Once both sides are golden, set on a paper towel lined plate. Add onions, peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Don’t add salt yet and try not to stir too much. You want the mushrooms and onions to get nice and golden. Once the onions are soft, add in the kale, sprinkle with a drizzle more of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

Coat the inside of the hoagie rolls with olive oil and garlic powder and toast under the broiler until golden.

Now pile on the ingredients: avocado slices, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms, greens, sundried tomatoes and the spicy olive & pepper mix. You might want to tackle these with a knife and fork, or if you’re brave and don’t mind a mess just pick it up with both hands and go for it. As the old saying goes, Eat Like Nobody’s Watching (or something like that!)

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The Title:  Momma’s Messy Greek Sandwiches
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Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Meat Sauce over Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle

Now and then I get a hankering for something that tempts all the senses: salty/briny, sweet, garlicky, rich and tomato-y. And when I do there there’s nothing like Puttanesca sauce to satisfy.

There are hundreds of variations on Puttanesca, but basically, it is a rich marinara sauce with a touch of something salty and briny (capers, olives, anchovies, artichoke hearts, and or pepperocinis) to give it an extra tangy zip.  I also like to balance the zip with something sweet — chopped sun-dried tomatoes and/or brown sugar.

I recently served this dish, innocently, to a lovely group of female friends, many of them involved with some sort of Christian ministry.  They loved it, scraped the skillet clean!  In attendance that night was my good friend Lucille Zimmerman who is a writer and a therapist who loves to research little known facts with the passion of Curious George. She went right home and researched the meaning of the word, “Puttanesca.” She wrote to tell me that it means — oh, how shall I say this delicately? –“prostitute, whore, ladies of night, harlot,” just choose your favorite wanton woman term.  Probably not a “word of the day” you’d choose to teach your kids over pasta.

Apparently the potent aroma of this dish from Italy was so powerful that the scent lured in potential customers off the street, serving as an appetizer for, well, the other “desserts” on the menu.

Oh, well. There’s nothing I can do about the origin of this dish, but I can tell you there is something powerfully seductive about it!

Below is how I make my Puttanesca, but don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list: it is what I had on hand in the fridge. Just pull out whatever you have in your fridge or pantry — and as long as you have something salty & briny, and something sweet, to balance the basic marinara, you’ll probably love the results.

Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce Over Pappardelle Lemon-Pepper Pasta

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Becky’s Seductive Puttanesca Sauce

Into a medium high skillet (I love my cast iron for this) saute:

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 chopped onion in 2 T. olive oil

Throw in any mixture of the following that you have on hand, stirring after each addition. (I do highly recommend that you use the chopped artichoke hearts, to me they are the most essential ingredient!)

1/3 – 1/2 c. chopped marinated artichoke heart
1/2 c. to 1 cup, any roasted or left over vegies, diced.
1 T. capers
2 T. olives, chopped, any kind
2 T. pesto sauce (if you have it on hand… no worries if not)
2 T. chopped pepperocini peppers
2 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, preferably)
1 – 2 T. brown sugar (this will depend on your taste and also how many “sour” ingredients that you put in your sauce that will need balanced by sweet)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like the ones with basil and garlic)
1 t. Italian seasoning or oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Simmer until sauce is thick and chunky, then season with salt, pepper, and Italian spices to taste.

You can dress up the recipe from here and add some flavorful meat of your choice. It is delicious with ½ lb of ground beef sauteed with ½ pound Italian sausage (chicken or turkey sausage is great) tossed in.  Or you can go vegan and roast garbanzo beans (see recipe below) and serve over your favorite pasta,  or spaghetti squash (see instructions for this below as well).  My daughter and I made this vegan version together (she suggested we try it with roasted garbanzos),  and it was AWESOME.

I personally adore this sauce served over Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta (which is a wide ribbon-like pasta). I looked up the root meaning of “pappardelle” and to my great relief, it simply means “to gobble up.” Whew.  Much better  “Italian word of the day” for little ones.

A light sprinkle of Parmesan (Vegan Parm if you are going dairy-free) and it is ready to serve.  The aroma should draw hungry folks to your kitchen in no time.

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Roasted Garbanzo Beans ( Chick Peas )
Drain, rinse and pat dry a can of garbanzo beans. Pour them evenly on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with olive oil, then roll them around. Sprinkle with salt or your favorite spiced salt. Roast at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are browned and crisped. (Shake them once or twice while baking so they can brown on two sides.)

Spaghetti Squash
Take a spaghetti squash and cut it in half length wise. Scoop out seeds. Put 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a big microwave proof bowl. Put one of the squash halves in the bowl, hole side up. (If it wobbles, trim a thin piece of the squash off the bottom so that it sits more level in the bowl.) Put the other squash half on top of the squash in the bowl. Don’t cover it. Just put in microwave for 10 minutes. Test done-ness by squeezing the top squash with a pot holder. If it squeezes easily, it is done. Take a fork and scrape “strings” of squash in spaghetti-like fashion.
Lightly salt, then top with sauce and roasted garbanzo beans. (You can also serve leftover spaghetti squash with butter and pepper and nutmeg for a side dish.)

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