ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

While it is only mid-October, I know many people are making plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. November reminds us that our kitchen tables are a sacred space. A hub where we can gather with loved ones and celebrate in our abundance. In our home, the kitchen table is a verb and not a noun. In our house the kitchen table is a place where our children learn responsibility, and manners, by engaging in conversation, helping prepare meals, set the table, and helping clean up after. It is also the place where homework is mulled over, canvases are covered with paint, Legos are stacked, manicures are glossed, and dinosaurs are sketched. It is a place where our cell phones and tablets are put away and we give each other our undivided attention.

Growing up my family embraced visitors at our kitchen table with bottomless cups of strong coffee, homemade baked goods, and as a child it is where I learned to value of the power of stories. At times I was excused, if the conversation was not fit for small ears, but the majority of the time I was a welcome participant in a glorious mix of laughter and a legacy of tales from the past. The kitchen table is where we mourned the loss of my grandparents, welcomed the hearty appetites of friends who helped my father raise the trusses on our new home, and where my mom fed my teenage friends after the Homecoming dance.

I believe that the best meals are made with simple ingredients. Therefore, you will find recipes on my blog that are not complicated to make. In addition, I want to share food ideas with you that are wholesome and nutritious for your family.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this hummus recipe makes a great dish to pass at a gathering,

While protein packed hummus is often my go-to choice – it can get a little bland and boring – so I try to give it a boost with a variety of ingredients. If your hummus needs a little interesting nudge, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

ITALIAN HUMMUS SPREAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CAPERS, AND OLIVES

*Hummus (you can use store-bought or find the recipe that I use is below)
*1 teaspoon of dried oregano
*1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
*1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata Greek olives
*1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley

*1/2 cup of chopped artichoke hearts
*1/4 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper
*1/4 cup of chopped green olives
*3 Tablespoons of capers
*3 Tablespoons of olive oil
*3Tablespoons of pesto 
(store-bought or homemade. In place of pesto you could also use finely chopped fresh basil)
*Loaf of crusty bread (you can also use crackers, pita bread, tortilla chips, or raw vegetables for dipping)

HUMMUS
*30 ounces of

*1/4 cup tahini
*1/4 cup lemon juice and zest
*1 garlic clove
*1 teaspoon cumin
*salt to taste

Stir in oregano, sun-dried tomatoes, Greek olives, and parsley into hummus.

*Note – in place of raw garlic I added one head of roasted garlic to my hummus.

If you have never roasted garlic before, you have to try it. Roasting garlic makes it sweet, mellow, and creamy.

ROASTED GARLIC

Slice the end off of the garlic bulb (the wider end). Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap in tinfoil. Pop into a preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees (depending on your oven).

After roasting the garlic flesh will become soft and will slide right out of the bulb. It’s marvelous spread on bread, in hummus, and works well in any recipe that requires garlic. I always use all of my roasted garlic immediately, but it would keep well for a week in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

 Spread hummus evenly on platter. Sprinkle on artichoke hearts and bell peppers. Drizzle with pesto and add the green olives and capers.

Slice bread, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven or broiler until crisp. Serve and enjoy!

Hummus can be infused with endless herb combinations. Great additions are: avocado, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, feta, and goat cheese. Sometimes I like to add a little bit of nut butter and honey, and I love to whirl in pumpkin, roasted squash, or eggplant.

Other ideas for hummus are as a sandwich spread (or stuffing for a pita pocket), dollop on top of a green salad, or as a layer in a jar salad.

My wishes to you and your family as you necklace your kitchen and dining room tables to celebrate in your blessings. As we pass into winter and the season of hope, let us remember to be thankful all year round. We will make a space at our table for members of our community and break bread together.

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Bruschetta – The Multifaceted Topping

“…star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.”
~Pablo Neruda

Is it just me — or do ripe garden tomatoes feel like nature’s apology that summer is almost over? My response is hearty forgiveness! In February I have dreams about tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. In September and October my pressure canner seems to run round the clock, my salad plates are deliriously joyful, and I try to be present in the moment – because nothing compares to a juicy tomato fresh off the vine.

If you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes this recipe will make your taste buds sing. While many traditionalists will say there is only one way to make bruschetta, I say be creative to your heart’s desire. While I love to top a crusty slice of Italian bread, if you are watching your starchy carbs – top a zucchini round, a portabella mushroom cap, spaghetti squash, or add a generous helping to your chicken or fish (either add before baking – or right before serving depending if you want the tomatoes raw or cooked). This recipe also makes a fine addition to a green salad (or layer in a Mason jar salad) or as an add-in to an omelet, crepe, pasta dish, or as a pizza topping. I use Parmesan and mozzarella in this recipe, but over the years have subbed goat cheese or feta as well.

BRUSCHETTA

  • 1 pint of cherry/grape tomatoes quartered (any ripe tomato will do. Grape/cherry tomatoes mean less cutting if you are in a time pinch.)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup of chopped basil (fresh works best)
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of mozzarella cheese (sliced or fresh mozzarella balls also work well)
  • 2 Tablespoons of chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic (roasted garlic works well in this recipe)
  • Juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix everything together (except for the mozzarella cheese), and if you have time, allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours so the flavors marry (it will keep for several days). 

I like to toast the bread under the broiler for a few minutes (brush with a little olive oil and rub with roasted garlic if you desire). Top bread (or other ingredients) with the mixture (don’t forget to stir well and the drizzle with the flavorful juices), top with mozzarella cheese, and broil for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

If you are serving a large group, you can slice a loaf of bread in half and top each half with the mixture. I have used ready-made garlic bread (in the bakery or freezer section) and it made an indulgent side to a pasta dish!

As summer slips-through our fingers, do not forget to feast on what is fresh and ripe in the garden or farmer’s market. Share your abundance with a co-worker, friend, or neighbor and your heart will be double happy! Make sure you check out the tabs on the top of this page for more healthy and vibrant food ideas. 

 

 

Seasonal Simplicity – Squash

We do not have to look at the calendar to be reminded that the winter holiday season is upon us. Christmas displays started popping up in stores right along with jack-o- lanterns, while television commercials repeat a dizzying array of gift ideas. Not to mention that we all have that one friend on social media who has their Christmas shopping finished at the end of September. Unfortunately, I am not that friend. Though every year I want to be.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As my husband and I try to become more self-sufficient in our food production, I have embraced the idea of rustic elegance when it comes to meals. Not only does it suit the farm-to-table lifestyle, but it can be an efficient way to cook.

I welcome food prep that can carry over into a variety of meals. Cooking in bulk can
serve a busy schedule well – especially during the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. For example, a large pan of roasted Brussels sprouts can be a healthy holiday side dish and the leftovers can hearty up a breakfast quiche, add flavor to a spinach salad, or be an unexpected addition to a pasta dish (and with the time you save you can wrap up those last minute gifts).

One of the foods that has come a long way from the bad rap that many of us gave it as kids, is squash. Not only does it grow easily in a garden, but it will keep a long time (several months) when stored in a cool place. If you do not have a green thumb, you can find a wide array of squash in the supermarket.

While I am known to use spaghetti squash as a healthy alternative to pasta, I enjoy preparing butternut and acorn squash. Both can be served whole (or more accurately halved) and they can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients (think rice, quinoa, or farro. Nuts, dried fruit, and even sausage). The squash can also be cubed and roasted, or even mashed. Since it can be prepared ahead of time, you can warm it up or serve cold as a salad. As long as you have the oven turned on, you might as well prepare a few extra squash and puree the leftovers with broth (and cream if you’re feeling indulgent) for soup (I also like to add apples to butternut squash soup).

Since both butternut and acorn squash are quite hard and difficult to cut, I prepare them whole: Pierce Butternut Squash and place in a baking dish (add a couple of cups of water to bottom of the dish)

Roast squash for 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Peel squash and remove seeds. If you want to cube the squash and roast it, you could prepare using the above technique for a shorter amount of time until it is soft enough to cut easily. Once you have the squash cut, drizzle with olive oil and spices and roast until slightly caramelized and soft.

I recommend serving squash on a large serving platter. For a real rustic feel, do not peel but “scoop” the squash to serve.

A great accompaniment to squash is roasted cranberries, walnuts, and a homemade
Pumpkin Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also makes a fantastic dressing for a green salad and it will keep over a month in the refrigerator.

Roasted Cranberries:


If you have never roasted cranberries before, you are missing out. Not only will your house smell amazing, but the sweet-tart flavor is astounding. Plus, you control how much sugar you want to use. You might want to make a triple batch (or more). Roasted cranberries are delightful as a topping for oatmeal (hot or refrigerator oats) and they make great appetizers (serve on toasted French bread or crackers with brie or goat cheese).

The sweet tart flavor of cranberries is incredible in refrigerator oatmeal.

*Bag(s) of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
*Juice and zest of one orange
*1 teaspoon of rosemary (more to taste)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more to taste)
* ¼ cup of honey (to taste. You can also use maple syrup or brown sugar)

 Roast for 20-25 minutes at 375-400 degrees
 Serve warm or cold (as they cool they will thicken)

Pumpkin Vinaigrette:
(make sure you check out the recipe Apple-a- Day Mason Jar Salad that
incorporates this dressing)

* 1/2 cup of vinegar (I use raw apple cider vinegar. You may want to vary the amount of
vinegar based on how tart you like your dressing. I recommend adding a little bit at a time
and tasting the dressing as you go)
* 3/4 cup of pumpkin
* 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup of water (the dressing tends to be thick so I thin it out with water. You could add
extra vinegar.)
* 1 large clove of garlic
* 1 lemon ~ juice and zest
* 3 green onions (you can use a Tablespoon of regular onion)
* 1 inch of fresh ginger root
* 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup (you could also use honey)
* 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
* Salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing until smooth. The combination of sweet, savory, tart, and spicy ingredients make it a pleasing combination.

This holiday season I hope you find many moments to make memories with your friends and family. If you are responsible for preparing a feast, remember that many foods can be made in bulk to serve many recipes and save precious time. Keeping our menus simple and rustic, does not mean that we have to sacrifice taste. Nature provides us with complex flavors and textures. One of the best gifts that you can give loved ones this year is a meal cooked with fresh and wholesome ingredients. From The Waldo family to yours – may your table be filled with holiday blessings!