Olive Tapenade with Sun Dried Tomatoes

My favorite foods tend to be something you can spread on bread. This is definitely one of them, next to hummus, slabs of good cheese, olive oil, tomato jam, ect. Its really simple to make, much less expensive than the jarred stuff. Try it!

Olive Tapenade

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
12 kalamata olives in brine, drained
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
3 springs rosemary
salt to taste
olive oil to taste

Directions:
Peel garlic and add to bowl. Toss in a pinch of salt and, using a pestle (or back of a spoon), grind the garlic into a paste. Pit and mince finely the olives. Mince the tomatoes into a paste. Toss together in the bowl. Mince the rosemary and add to the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to taste (I used just a little, about 1 tablespoon). Salt to taste.

Tip: let it sit for a day or two so the flavors can blend well. Although it is still delicious immediately (I usually don’t wait).  Serve over toasted bread.

Greek Salad, Guatemalan Style

Greek Salad

I eat lots of salads these days, and they are continually changing and evolving depending on the ingredients we happen to have, how productive my herbs have been, and where my cravings may be leading me. In general, my “Salad” entries will probably be quite short (although this one is not), because there are plenty of them. And in all honestly they’re not that complicated, and perhaps not anything too out of the ordinary. But I love salads, and I am quite particular about the way I have my salads (I rarely order a salad as-is on the menu, and always ask for the dressing on the side because I abhor soaked salads). Besides, this is a blog about everything I love foodwise, so I’m gonna write about them anyway. Also, its often an exploration into ingredients that are new to me that I discovered in Guatemala. Perhaps you are already very familiar with them, or perhaps they will be ingredients that are difficult to find outside of Guatemala or Central America, and maybe sometimes they will be ingredients I am longing for (like sweet wide-leaf basil).

This is a Greek-style salad. I say this mainly because it has olives (yes, we found a shop with high-quality Kalamata olives with pits in the brine – I also abhor canned olives), tomato, and a white crumbly cheese — all things that remind me of a good Greek salad. Also, I don’t care for cucumber unless peeled and seeded, so that will always be left out of my Greek Salad. This salad is different, however, because the cheese is not feta. Feta you can find here in Guate, and its not all that expensive (1/2 lb for 3USD, does that sound reasonable? I really don’t remember). Nonetheless, queso seco, a crumbly salty dry (seco means dry) is much more common, less expensive, and very Guatemalan. Despite my love of international cuisine and goods, I really enjoy keeping with Guatemalan goods and produce wherever possible. After all, when I eventually move away, it will be difficult to find some of these things. So I used queso seco.

Additionally, I added to my salad some toasted pepita, or pumpkin seeds. I was not very familiar with pepita before coming to Guatemala, although have seen them used in a few bloggers’ recipes. Here in Guate they use it on everything. They put toasted and ground pepita on unripe mangos with lime and salt, on oranges, and they even make a fresco, or juice, from it. I use pepita in a lot of my recipes, both whole and ground, especially lately. They are very inexpensive, when toasted they offer a wonderfully crisp pop to in your mouth, when ground they add a nutty flavor and crumbly texture. I especially love the sound they make when toasting — in just a few seconds in a hot pan or in the oven they pop very much like popcorn. I like to prepare everything in my salad and then toast them, and throw them on top still warm and making popping noises. I know people say to let everything cool before putting them onto greens, however I love the effect the hot seeds have on the rest of the textures and flavors.

Greek Salad Guatemalan Style (for one):

Ingredients:
3 Leaves Red Escarole, or two handfuls of any other green you prefer
1 roma tomato, diced (seeded if you prefer, but I like the juice)
5 olives, pitted and sliced
Red onion, slivered (use as much as you like)
2 Tablespoons queso seco (alternatively, finely grated romano)
2 Tablespoons toasted pepitas (perhpas sunflower seeds as an alternative)
A dash of red wine vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lime (both are lovely)
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (the cheese is salty, so you may not need any)Directions:
Start with the greens finely torn. Add the diced tomato and sliced olives, and cheese. Salt and pepper a pinch and few turns. Vinegar and Olive oil last, tossing with your fork.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

IMG_2261

This is a simple, healthy, Mediterranean-style salad which can be served as an entrée or as an accompaniment. The fresh ingredients stand out for themselves, so there is little need for fancy culinary IMG_2216skills. It looks like a work of art, yet it is so simple. I would have added some nice fresh tomatoes, perhaps cherry, if I had had them, or also feta cheese.

Mediterranean-Style Chickpea Salad


Ingredients:
2 cups chickpeas, soaked, cooked, and patted dry (or 1 can, drained).
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, seeded, and peeled*
10-12 fresh olives with their pits
24 cloves garlic, roasted** (more or less to your taste)
Handful of  either fresh cilantro, basil, parsley and mint (I used a mixture of all), torn.
Olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lime

Directions:
Make sure the garbanzos are patted dry. Heat some olive oil in a pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beans. Sauté until the outsides become golden brown, and crispy in a few areas. Then add the chopped red onion and remove from heat. You may cook it all the way through, or leave it raw. I like it with a bit of a bite, but wanted to soften it a bit for this recipe. Heating it slightly in this way will start the cooking process but leave it with some of its sharpness. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Add a few glugs of olive oil, the lime juice, zest, and fresh herbs. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Let the mixture marinate for at least an hour. The longer it sits the better it tastes, in my opinion. I like this at room temperature, but it is good both hot and cold as well.

IMG_2252

*Roast the bell pepper at 400ºF for about 10 minutes, or until the pepper has become soft. Seal in a ziplock bag and let cool. Once cooled, remove from bag and the skin should easily peel off.


**Roast the garlic at 400ºF wrapped in foil, drizzled with olive oil for about 45 minutes until soft.