Recipe: Yummy Olive Tapenade

I tried tapenade for the first time at a café a few years ago. And I really liked it, so I sought out a good tapenade recipe—I finally settled on this tapenade recipe that I found at All Recipes, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Yummy Olive Tapenade

For best results, make the tapenade one to two days before you plan on serving it. That’ll allow the flavors to mingle, and it’ll be even yummier.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
    [When you go to the store, make sure you buy pitted kalamata olives.]
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    [There’s a chance that you might be able to get the two tablespoons from a single lemon. But plan on having two lemons around just in case.]
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel the garlic cloves and mince them. Then put the minced garlic in your blender or food processor and pulse to further mince.

  2. Use a fork to transfer the olives from the jar to your measuring cup. After you’ve filled the measuring cup, place your fingers over the top of the measuring cup to form a makeshift strainer, and turn the measuring sideways over your sink to drain the gist of any brine. Then empty the measuring cup into your food processor.

  3. Measure the capers and use the same finger trick to drain their brine before adding them to the food processor.

  4. Rinse the parsley, and gently pat it dry with a paper towel. Then chop the parsley and add it.

  5. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil.

  6. Blend until everything is finely chopped. Transfer the tapenade to a small bowl or serving dish, and then season it to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

    Optional: If you like your tapenade the way I make it, be generous with the pepper. Typically, I’ll go for three twist of the pepper mill, and then I’ll stir the tapenade with a spoon; then I’ll add three more twists of the pepper mill and stir the tapenade once more.

  7. If you don’t plan on serving the tapenade right away, put a lid or plastic wrap over the container and keep the tapenade in your refrigerator; take it out about an hour before you plan on serving it.

Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

My family has been using this chocolate chip cookie recipe since I was little. I think we originally got it out of a magazine, and it’s been one of our go-to recipes for years.

Our Family’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

For best results, set out the butter and eggs on your counter for a few hours beforehand so that they can come to room temperature by the time you have to mix them in with everything else. As a rule of thumb: The butter is soft enough when you can easily squish the stick between your thumb and index finger.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • one bag (12 oz.) chocolate chips
  • optional: kosher salt, to taste
    (I prefer Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but other types of kosher salt can work too.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

  2. Mix together the white sugar and brown sugar. Then cream with the butter.

  3. Add the eggs and beat well. Then add the vanilla.

  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and table salt. Then slowly add them to the wet ingredients.

  5. Add the bag of chocolate chips and gently fold those in with a spatula.

  6. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper, and portion about 6 dollops of dough onto each sheet.

  7. Place the cookies in the oven for 5 minutes, then swap the baking sheets and continue baking for another 5 minutes. When they’re done, their tops and edges should have just started to brown.

    (If the tops of the cookies are still batter-colored when your timer beeps—that is, the tops haven’t the slightest browning—put the sheets back in the oven for another 30 seconds.)

  8. Optional: Immediately after taking the cookie sheets out of the oven, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with kosher salt.

  9. Allow the cookies to cool for 5–10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Recipe: Ginger Molasses Cookies

My brother made some of these ginger molasses cookies over the winter break, and I rather enjoyed them. They have a crisp exterior but a chewy interior, and they sort of resemble a cross between gingerbread and spice cookies.

Later I asked my brother for the recipe and he happily passed it along, mentioning that he originally got the recipe from his friend Kristin. (They’re yummy, Kristin!)

Note: The full recipe makes about 40 cookies, while the halved recipe makes about 20. I’m including both versions since you might not always need forty cookies ;).

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Full Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: ¾ cup coarse or granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon kosher salt mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 2 cups sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place dough about 2 ½ inches apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake at 350° for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Ginger Molasses Cookies—Halved Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger (ground ginger from the spice aisle is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ stick butter, softened or at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • Set aside in a cereal bowl: 6 tablespoons coarse or granulated sugar with ½ teaspoon kosher salt mixed in with a fork

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt—set aide.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add 1 cup sugar, beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and molasses until combined.

  4. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. If need be, use a wooden spoon to stir in any remaining flour mixture.

  5. Shape dough into 1 ½ to 2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sugar & kosher salt that you had set aside. Place dough about 2 ½ inches apart on baking sheets.

  6. Bake at 350° for 12–14 minutes. If you’re baking multiple sheets at a time, swap the sheets halfway through. Bake the cookies until they’re light brown and puffed. After you take them out of the oven, let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe: Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I had been looking for a good recipe for some time and I finally found a bruschetta recipe that I liked on Allrecipes.

There’re not a lot of fancy ingredients here, but what I especially like about this recipe is that it calls for a thin layer of herb-cheese spread on the bread before one adds the tomato mixture. That rather effectively keeps the bread from becoming soggy, which is great if you may be setting out the bruschetta as hors d’oeuvres that need to last through a cocktail party or the like.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar [Among supermarket brands, I quite like Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico.]
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced [Apparently a Microplane can work well for this, if you have one.]
  • 7 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into ½" thick slices [I like to cut the bread on a bias to create a larger surface area for each slice. Plus it looks nice too.]
  • 1 (4 oz) package semi-soft cheese with garlic and herbs (such as Alouette)
  • (optional) Shredded deli Parmesan, to taste [This is often sold in a small circular tub of about 2" high and around 4" across.]

Directions:

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the basil, and then whisk those together with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl.

  2. Chop the tomatoes and stir those into the mixture with the whisk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (You’ll need to add salt and pepper, stir, and repeat the process a couple times—it may take three sets to get the mixture properly seasoned.)

  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 20 minutes. (The plastic wrap should be right on top of the tomato mixture to prevent it from drying out.)

  4. Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Spread the bread slices in a single layer on a large baking pan.

  5. Bake in the oven until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

  6. When the bread is cool, spread the semi-soft cheese evenly over each slice. Using a slotted spoon, spoon some of the tomato mixture over each slice. (You may as well leave the bread on the baking trays for this step; that way, if any of the tomato mixture topples over the sides, it’s not a big deal.)

  7. Optional: If desired, sprinkle some shredded deli Parmesan over each slice and, on the broiler setting, slide the bread trays back into the oven, taking them out once the cheese becomes melty.

  8. Depending how hot they are, you may need a spatula to transfer the bruschetta to a serving tray. (Sometimes a wooden cutting board can work nicely for this.) They’re ready to eat immediately.

If desired, the tomato mixture can be made a day ahead of time. In fact, a little extra marinating of the ingredients can make the final product all the more scrumptious. Just be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing it in the fridge.

Oscar Party Foods 2011

I love movies, but I’ve never been all that excited about the Oscars. I suppose that I don’t have that much interest in the pomp and circumstance of the awards and I generally prefer just to read the results the next day.

On the other hand, I do enjoy language and puns, and if you’re holding an Oscar party this evening, you’re welcome to use any of these. (I’ve grouped them by nomination category, although not every category is represented.)

I’ve listed only the names of each dish (with links to recipes), but if you hover your mouse over an item, you’ll see a tooltip revealing the nominee from which the dish was inspired.

(Some of them are more obvious than others, but if you need a hint, here’s the official list of this year’s nominees.)

Best Picture

Art Direction

Foreign Language Film

Makeup

Music (Original Song)

Short Film (Animated)

Sound Mixing

Visual Effects