Special Bruschetta Toppings–Versatile Too


It seems like the Super Bowl is becoming one of those “food holidays” like Thanksgiving, with the focus on all kinds of snacks, many of which are pretty much the antithesis of health foods.  Looking at the prices in the stores this week, many of the menu items planned are not necessarily budget friendly either.

Today’s recipes could be rather expensive too, especially tapenade. A quick online search found nothing below $22 for 24 oz, and most sources were even higher. My recipe is a version of  “Moroccan” tapenade without the heat of that country’s harissa, but it does not include the anchovies and/or capers that can bump up the price quickly. In addition, I buy olives in a two pound bag at Costco or Sam’s, with the price well under $2 a pound.

The sun-dried tomatoes are another ingredient that is not often a “frugal” choice, but watch for sales; last fall, Aldi’s was featuring some for a great price, so I stocked up with a couple of jars. The feta cheese is another item that both the warehouse chains have feta crumbles at wonderfully reasonable prices, another way to keep the costs down. If you are not sure about using the large size containers these stores have available, you can freeze the cheese. Yes, the texture becomes more crumbly, but since that seems to be the way most of us use this tangy cheese, the change is probably not a problem. (If you want some hints from some those who are real feta fanciers,  check out Greek Food–Feta.)

Finally, though I do keep garlic powder and jarred garlic on hand for cooking in a hurry, these really need the real thing. Once again, I go to the warehouse stores for my supply, buying their two pound bags at ridiculous prices. If that sounds like too much garlic, remember that it keeps a long time on the shelf, but it is also a fun thing to share with your cooking friends. (How’s that for a hostess gift? Here, I brought you a couple of heads of garlic–enjoy!)

I’m not sure what to call either of these mixtures–dips? spreads?–but they are wonderfully tangy additions to thin slices of baguettes, whether the latter are toasted or plain. They could also be used on crackers, though the tapenade, especially, is quite salty, so you really don’t want to add to that.

Some other ideas for serving Tapenade or Feta and Sun-dried Tomatoes could include:

  • As a garnish for scrambled eggs–a small dollop of either on top of deviled eggs gives them a special look and taste too 
  • Instead of mayo on any sandwich, especially vegetarian fillings for pitas
  • Stuffed into slit chicken breasts or fish fillets before grilling them
  • Added to oil and vinegar and used as a salad dressing
  • Stirred into hummus
  • The tapenade could be layered with feta or other cheese on unsalted crackers
  • Tossed with grated mozzarella and/or parmesan over pasta 
  • Either could be used to enhance the flavor of vegetarian sandwiches or pasta dishes–especially for those who still think every main dish needs some kind of meat

While these should be stored in the refrigerator, they are at their flavorful best if you let them sit at room temperature for a half hour or so. To be honest, I don’t know how well they keep, since they both seem to disappear virtually within minutes of being served! My guess is that the ingredients in both mixtures would allow for a pretty extended refrigerator life.

Quick Tapenade

1 c sliced, canned black olives, including up to a tablespoon  of the liquid from the olives
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1 T lemon juice
approximately 3 T roughly chopped parsley, including stems–pack tightly to measure
2 to 4 T olive oil
dash cayenne pepper, or to taste

1. Pulse olives and garlic in a processor until olives are very coarsely chopped.
2. Add the parsley and lemon juice and continue processing until the mixture is evenly blended.
3.  Sprinkle on a bit of cayenne, to taste, and then drizzle in the olive oil while running the processor, until the desired consistency is reached. It should be about the thickness of soft hummus.
4.  Serve immediately or chill. (Because of the oil content, the mixture will be slightly thicker if served cold instead of at room temperature.)

Makes about 1 cup of spread.

Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Spread

1 c sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil–measure with the oil included
1 to 2 T dried basil
1/4 c diced red bell pepper–about 1/3 to 1/2 a medium sized pepper
4 to 6 cloves garlic, to taste (but don’t skimp!)–peeled and coarsely chopped
2 t balsamic vinegar
black pepper to taste
6 oz (about 1 c) feta crumbles
olive oil, if needed

1.  Combine all but the feta in a processor fitted with the cutting blade. Pulse to achieve a uniform, coarsely ground, texture.
2.  Add the feta and pulse just a few times, until the mixture is well mixed.
3.  If the mixture is too thick, add a bit more of the oil from the tomatoes or a little olive oil. Taste for seasoning and allow to chill for half an hour or more to blend the flavors.

Makes about 2 cups of spread.

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