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Diamond Chef Arkansas 2015

2 Jun
Chef Justin Patterson (right) and sous chef Daniel Rogers plating during the competition. The team won the preliminaries and will compete against Marc Guizol in the final on June 2.

Chef Justin Patterson (right) and sous chef Daniel Rogers will battle reigning Diamond Chef Marc Guizol tonight at the Statehouse Convention Center.

At somewhat the last moment, I have decided that I’d rather not slog my laptop into the formal venue tonight at Statehouse Convention Center during the Diamond Chef Arkansas competition benefiting Pulaski Technical College.

However! I hope you will follow along on Twitter, as I will be furiously tweeting each round of action on the stage and each course of the lovely meal I’m sure they have in store for us.

In case you missed it, tonight’s event is the final battle between last year’s champion, Marc Guizol of the Capital Hotel, and this year’s winner of the preliminary competition, Justin Patterson of the Southern Gourmasian. Oh, how I wish I could be a judge tonight and taste the dishes they put out!

I do plan on taking copious photos of those dishes, so check on Twitter and later tonight on the blog for all the goods.

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Historic Arkansas Museum 10th Ever Nog Off Tonight

12 Dec
Overhead view of the gorgeous atrium at Historic Arkansas, during a previous Nog Off

Overhead view of the gorgeous atrium at Historic Arkansas, during a previous Nog Off

It’s time to get your nog on with the “10th Ever” Nog Off at Historic Arkansas Museum, held as part of the 2nd Friday Art Night tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

As you may know, I was the PR director at Historic Arkansas during the transition from its former name, the Arkansas Territorial Restoration, and the opening of their incredible new (at the time) facility. (Confession? It hurts my feelings to say it’s not so new anymore!)

Back then, which was 12-14 years ago, we had a really great annual staff Christmas party that always included museum director Bill Worthen making eggnog. And this wasn’t any eggnog — it was 100% historically accurate, made exactly from the recipe of William Woodruff, one of the museum site’s original residents in the mid-1800s. Let me tell you, that was some stout stuff that this lightweight couldn’t roll with.

Somewhere along the way, the staff had the amazing idea to open the eggnog festivities to the public, inviting them to enter their own ‘nog for judging and public consumption. Today, a dozen-ish competitors offer their drinks to the attending public, and from last year’s experience, I can tell you that they’re all very palatable. (Well, I can’t say ALL…I’m no lush, you know.)

This year’s competitors include Cache Restaurant, Capital Bar and Grill, Copper Grill, The Empress, Loblolly Creamery, Bridget Fennel Ferris, John Selig and Family and Stone’s Throw Brewing.

10th-nogoff

This year the competition will begin with a ceremonial cracking of the first egg by the first two inducted Nog Emeriti – Louise Terzia, the First (and Second) Ever Nog-off winner,  and David Burnette of South on Main who has won the Nog-off in various categories a record four times.

Visitors can start 2nd Friday Art Night at Historic Arkansas Museum’s 10th Ever Nog-off, where there is plenty of free parking, and later catch the trolley to other participating venues. Shuttle service ends at 8:30 p.m.

While at the museum, check out the museum’s new exhibits: Capturing Early Arkansas in Depth: The Stereoview Collection of Allan Gates and “this is the garden: colors come and go” Works by Rachel Trusty.

10th Ever Nog Off
Friday, Dec. 12, 5 – 8 p.m.
Free admission and parking
Historic Arkansas Museum
200 E. Cumberland St. (Corner with 3rd), Little Rock
(501) 324-9351

On Conferences, Food Blogging and Business (#AWBU, AHA and #IFBC this month)

4 Sep

COLLAGE

I’m a little busy this month.

You may have noticed some changes around here lately at Fancy Pants Foodie. And if you’ve been with me a while, it might look familiar.

Back in 2009 when I started this blog, it was basically about what I cooked at home, teaching you how to do the same if you wanted. That morphed into my experiences at culinary school, and later I wrote quite a bit of local food industry news, often in awkwardly newsy style.

With my release of arfoodjobs.com and its own blog, I’ve decided to publish all new industry-related stuff there. So if you’re in the culinary or hospitality business, you might want to check that out! And back here at FPF, we’re back to food news, reviews and how-tos that relate directly to the home cook. We’ll continue to have an emphasis on gluten-free cooking (since that’s what I do, duh).

In the near future, I’m offering even more.

In the works: A whole new site design, video-based instruction, gear recommendations and more. I’m also writing up some publications you’ve told me you’d like, such as an elimination diet guidebook and a seasonal, local gluten-free recipe book.

This month is a great time to think new, bigger and better, because it’s conference season. I have THREE in the next few weeks! The first, this coming weekend, is Arkansas Women Bloggers University (#AWBU), a fabulous smallish event that has grown into a full-fledged blogger conference on par with just about any other of its size. For me, this one will be about the usual blog-improvement business, but even more so about learning to connect with other people, my local lady friends.

Next is my favorite industry event all year, the Arkansas Hospitality Association Convention and Tradeshow! This includes the Culinary Classic, the live Iron Chef competition, on-site seminars (I’m teaching one on gluten free foodservice!) and loads of great freebies and contacts.

And lastly, my big leap of faith, the International Food Blogger Conference by Foodista. I went to one #IFBC event a few years ago in New Orleans and it was mind-blowing, in a different way from the others I’ve mentioned. It can be summarized in whom I ended up sitting next to at the round tables during sessions. One day, it was the lead food photographer for the New York Times. Another day, it was the author of the book we used in my Professional Food Writing course in culinary school. And that doesn’t even get into the high-end companies looking for partners, the generous swag and the amazing bloggers themselves…several of whom were “internet famous.” Everyone was very welcoming and willing to chat, which I understand is not always the case at these big blog conferences.

I say that #IFBC is a leap of faith this year because it’s not just an easy drive to the Big Easy this time…it’s a flight to Seattle. I’ve never been there, and I don’t even know my roommate yet, other than a few messages online! But I know it will be great.

Starting tomorrow at #AWBU’s Foodie Friday event, I’m ready to be inspired. Want to hear more about it? Follow me on the Twitters (@ARFoodie) or just search for the #AWBU hashtag.

Crispy Polenta Cakes with Red Sauce and Roasted Vegetables

21 Aug

Crispy polenta cake with red sauce and roasted veggies. Oops, I forgot the parmesan here. Sue me.

Crispy polenta cake with red sauce and roasted veggies. Oops, I forgot the parmesan here. Sue me.

It was the best of times; it was the busiest of times. 

This Monday, I cheered a little (okay, a lot) when the kids went back to school. We’ve been needing a return to normalcy around here. But on that very same day, I was scheduled to do a cooking demonstration at our local Gluten Intolerance Group of Central Arkansas

Craziness prevailed all day — because, of course — so I felt a little spazzy during the demo. But, we ended up having a good conversation and a few bites of this amazing dish, which can be prepared as a main dish or an appetizer. 

Yeah, it’s a little fussy. You could cut down on the fussiness with a prepared tomato sauce and/or a prepared package of vegetables, I guess. You could also skip the whole step of cooling and shaping the polenta…it’s delicious right out of the pot; just serve the other stuff right on top. Either way, if you want to wow your family or guests with a delicious meal that NOBODY will notice is gluten-free, this is it! 

By the way, this is my favorite, simple method for making an everyday tomato sauce, seen similarly here. Sure, there are times that I use real onions (I’m slightly allergic so they have to be cooked WAY down, and the dried ones are easier), add red wine, and other upgrades. But this is the one you can throw in a pot (if you’ll be home) or in a slow cooker (I like my new pressure cooker/slow cooker, because it can vent and thicken the sauce) for hours and hours. Yummm. I’ve made it on the stove in 30 minutes, and I’ve left it for 4 hours or more. Longer is better, but however you can get it done is best. 🙂

For the veggies, you can use absolutely anything you want, especially what’s in season. You can just do mushrooms (my husband would die of gag), or go all out with summer squashes, root vegetables, whatever you like. Just chop it up, toss with olive oil and roast. If you have some kale or spinach laying around, you can add that, too; you’d just have to cook it separately. 

I promised the recipe, so here you go! 

*****************

Crispy Polenta Cakes with Red Sauce and Roasted Vegetables
Serves 6-8

For the Polenta:

  • Olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups Corn Grits/Dry Polenta (Rec: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley and/or basil, chopped
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan
  • Ghee or clarified butter (optional)

For the Red Sauce:

  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • One 28 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 T. dried onions
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil 
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    OR: Use 1 T. each of fresh herbs of your choice, chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For the Roasted Vegetables:

  • 1 lb. whole white button mushrooms
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), medium dice
  • 2 medium eggplant, peeled and medium dice
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Garnish:

  • Fresh parsley (Italian or curly), chopped or torn
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Note: Ingredients and method for polenta are adapted from Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits package. 

Polenta:

Prepare a sheet pan (a half-sheet jelly roll style with raised sides) with a generous coating of olive oil, including the sides. 

Bring the 6 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a large pot. Pour in the grits while whisking. It will seem very watery at first, but keep whisking. It will thicken up a LOT. 

Once the grits are all in the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low and keep whisking, off and on, for up to 30 minutes, or until the mixture is VERY thick. The longer you can stretch this process, the creamier the end product will be. 

When the mixture is thickened, add the butter and mix it completely in. Look for pockets of butter and make sure they’re all mixed in. Then, add the fresh herbs and grated cheese and fold it all together. Pour the polenta (isn’t it pretty?) into the sheet pan, smooth it out, and let it sit out to cool a bit. Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least a couple hours. 

Sauce:

If cooking on the stovetop, cook the tomato paste in the bottom of a large pot over medium-high heat for just a few minutes, until the paste starts to develop a bit of color. If using a slow cooker with a sauté function, do so in the cooker. If using a slow cooker without this function, you can brown the paste, covered, in the microwave (yeah, really!) or just use the paste raw. 

In your cooking vessel, combine all the tomato products along with your paste. Add the bay leaf, garlic, dried onions, and dried herbs if you’re using them. (If using fresh herbs, it’s better to add them a bit closer to the end, about 15 minutes before serving.) If using the stovetop, bring to a simmer, turn down to low, and cover with a spatter shield or a lid slightly askew to allow moisture to escape. For slow cookers, just start it up on low for up to four hours. If yours has a vent, set it to open. Before serving, taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. 

Vegetables:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash the mushrooms (no, water won’t kill them) and pop out the stems, saving them for veggie stock in your freezer. Cut into quarters. 

In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms, along with the diced bell pepper and eggplant, with a generous amount of olive oil, probably a 1/4 cup or so. The mushrooms will absorb quite a bit, and you need them to be oily to roast properly. Spread onto a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until they have a bit of color. The mushrooms will steam quite a bit and shrink for most of the cooking time, only roasting when they have released most of their liquid. 

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a couple pinches of kosher salt and pepper. 

Assembling:

Heat 2 T. of ghee, clarified butter or olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out large rounds of the polenta from the chilled sheet and place as many in the skillet as will fit without crowding. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pan to prevent spattering. Check on it in 10 minutes for a browned, crispy bottom. When you’ve got it, turn them carefully over to crisp the other side. When finished, you can hold these in a warm oven while cooking the next batch, if necessary. (Your oven’s still warm from roasting, right?)

On each plate, place one or more rounds on each plate, depending on if this is an appetizer or entree. Top with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables, then garnish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese. 

Help feed 50,000 hungry Arkansans next Sunday!

16 Jul

I received an Action Alert from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance this week that I thought many of you may be interested in. As you know, hunger is an issue that is important to me, and AHRA is doing great things to fight this ugly battle in our state.

Rather than rehash the whole thing, I’ll just forward the information to you directly:

 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!
 

Meal Packing Event to Feed Hungry Arkansans!

We need your help! The Alliance needs 400 volunteers to participate in a meal packaging event on Sunday, July 27th at the Statehouse Convention Center.

The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), with legislators from 13 states, is meeting in Little Rock, July 26-30. Each year at its conference, the SLC conducts the SLC/Mark Norris Campaign Against Hunger meal packing event.The goal of this year’s event, sponsored by CenturyLink, is to pack 50,000 meals for low income Arkansans. Volunteers are needed Sunday from 8:30-11:30am,  at the Statehouse Convention Center. You will work side-by-side with legislators and other volunteers to assemble meal packets that will be distributed to hunger agencies across the state.
 If you or your organization would like to volunteer, please email Caitlin McNally at cmcnally@arhungeralliance.org.

We can end hunger. You can help!

Good Morning Arkansas: Citrus Glazed Salmon and Quick Portable Snacks

29 May

DISCLAIMER: I received payment for today’s television appearance to share about bistroMD meal delivery service and some other products, listed below. As usual, I would not promote anything that I didn’t think was awesome. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m currently eating frosting out of a piping bag while writing about healthy foods. Carry on. 

Finished dish as presented on Good Morning Arkansas.

Finished dish as presented on Good Morning Arkansas.

So, I’m guessing you saw me today on Good Morning Arkansas! Maybe I’m still on right now, and you’re laughing at the fact that I dropped the salmon, or I over-sauced the carrots. (Not really, I hope…I’m writing this the night before.) I do want to tell you a bit more about the dish I made and share the recipe with you.

The Citrus Glazed Salmon recipe is from bistroMD, a healthy alternative to take-out and frozen meals that comes right to your door. They can customize your menu based on your particular health needs, from diabetes to gluten-free. You can choose from tons of breakfast, lunch and dinner options, and you can do just about any combination of those you want for your weekly program. A full week program, including 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 6 dinners (they figure you’ll want to go out once) is $159.95, delivered frozen to your door each week. Not too bad!

I will say this: The recipe I presented was a little tricky. Salmon can be hard for beginners to get just right without overcooking (luckily, mine turned out mostly fine). But the real stinker was those carrots! I love, love, LOVE miso paste, but it contains a lot of sugar and protein that likes to BURN in the oven, the method used in the original recipe. I finally tweaked the recipe to make them a little less, um, smoky. I see from bistroMD’s photos that the carrots are really (properly) caramelized when they do them, but it’s hard to do that at home just right without summoning cute firefighters, so I’ll give you some options.  See the recipe below.

Or, hey, just hire bistroMD to do it for you! Win.

*****

The snacks! I hope you were able to hear about all the snacks. (If I ran out of time, just keep reading and you’ll hear all about it!) There are some really cool things available now that you can easily carry in your purse or stick in your desk drawer. Here’s what I (hopefully) talked about today:

Carrington Farms Flax Packs: Flax seeds are extremely good for you, with Omega 3s and fiber and all kinds of good stuff. But they usually have to be refrigerated, and they have to be cut for you to absorb the nutrients. These packs are organic, portion sized and don’t need a fridge. Just put it right on your salad, yogurt or whatever. They’re available locally at Whole Foods.

I loves me some little glass iced coffees that you might see at the grocery store, but they don’t love me back…full of sugar and unnatural nasties. The new RealBeanz iced coffee is a healthy spin on these popular “ccino” drinks. There are several varieties, and they’re all 100% natural. I personally love that the “diet” one uses stevia rather than fake sweeteners! You’ll have to order this one online, either from the RealBeanz site or on Amazon.

Finally, my favorite…Perky Jerky. It’s not just a funny name, it’s actually really delicious. The “perky” part comes from the use of guarana, a plant that is energizing much like a coffee bean, in the jerky marinade. The marinade also includes pineapple juice, which tenderizes and sweetens through its natural enzymes and God-given yumminess. A jerky that isn’t tough and gross, and can actually pick me up on a long work day? Sign me up. I saw these tonight at Kroger (yay), and I hear they’re also at Target and Home Depot.

I hope you enjoyed my visit on the teevee today! Hopefully it was more educational and less laugh-at-me inducing. Either way, click the links here (I don’t benefit if you do, it’s just cool stuff) and read more about it!

*****

Citrus Glazed Salmon (serves 4)
Courtesy of bistroMD (slightly modified in places!)

 

Salmon:

  • 1 pound of center-cut salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 portions
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

 

Mmmmmm…salmon.

Mmmmmm…salmon.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Season the salmon fillets lightly with salt and pepper and place on a non-stick baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.

 

Citrus Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Mandarin Oranges, drained
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Lime Juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Scallions, chopped
  • Corn Starch, as needed

 

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the  lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice and rice wine vinegar. Heat until it begins to boil then turn down the heat to a low simmer and allow to slightly reduce. If a thicker sauce is preferred, add corn starch to thicken to desired consistency. Just before serving, add the oranges and toss to warm through. Spoon over salmon and garnish with scallions. (Note: Original recipe cooks the oranges and scallions in the sauce the whole time, which makes more of a chunky sauce. I wanted a glaze and separate oranges, and I like the scallions to be fresh and green, hence my changes. Make it how you want!)

 

Miso Carrots:

  • 16oz bag, Petite-Cut Carrots
  • 4 tablespoons Miso Paste
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame Oil

 

Oven method:

Preheat oven to 450F.

Toss carrots, miso paste and sesame oil together in a bowl. Spread onto a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Blogger’s note: I wasn’t as happy with this method, although it looks fine. See options below.)

Stovetop method:

Steam carrots by microwaving in a covered bowl with a tablespoon of water for 3-4 minutes, or in a steamer basket over boiling water on the stovetop. Alternately, you can roast the carrots, tossed in a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil (less likely to burn than the sesame oil) in the 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently.

Place miso paste, sesame oil and a tablespoon of water in a nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly, until the mixture becomes a thickened sauce. (This may not take much time with traditional miso paste; Kroger only has a very liquidy version that took longer to cook down.) When thickened, add your steamed or roasted carrots and toss to coat.

 

Ginger Snow Peas:

  • 12oz Snow Peas, fresh or frozen
  • ½ teaspoon Ginger, fresh, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon Sesame Oil

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat with the sesame oil. When oil is heated, add the ginger and sauce for 1 minute. Add the snow peas and toss to coat with the oil and ginger. Saute 2-3 minutes if using fresh. Saute 7-8 minutes if using frozen.

 

Bake Sale Results, Cheese-Off, and a Helena Pop-Up

9 May

BakeSale_wordmark_alternate_rgb_Domino_CH_horizArkansas Blogger Bake Sale Results

I am happy to report that, as of this writing, we are hovering around the $2,600 mark for this year’s Arkansas Blogger Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry!

While we’re a little shy of our $3,000 goal, it’s still a great haul, and it’s more than we raised last year. Many, many thanks to our committee members, volunteers, bakers, donors and everyone involved!

If you’d still like to help, I’m not closing our sale until next Friday, May 16. You can donate cash directly to No Kid Hungry at this link, and it will credit to our fundraiser. Share with your friends and co-workers!

(One day soon I’ll tell the side-story for that day…short version: I stepped out for a couple hours to hang out with MC Hammer, for business reasons.)

Get Cheesed Off: Pimento Cheese Competition and Tasting 

While at the sale, the PR Maven at Historic Arkansas Museum dropped by to pick up some goodies and tell us about some goings on this weekend. Every year, the day before Mother’s Day, the museum holds an awesome event, the Territorial Fair. (Seriously, if you have kids — or even if you don’t — you have to go!)

This year, they are adding an even more savory element: A pimento cheese competition. Oh my word.

Competitors include Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, Hillcrest Artisan Meats and Capital Hotel Bar and Grill. Visitors to the Territorial Fair can sample all the pimento cheese entries from 1 to 4 p.m., voting for a People’s Choice award to be given at the end of the day.

The Territorial Fair and the Pimento Cheese-Off are free. Historic Arkansas Museum is located at 200 E. Third Street in Little Rock.

421cherry

The original Interstate Grocery, which was the first sponsor of the King Biscuit Time radio show. This storefront will be the location of tomorrow night’s pop-up.

It’s Sold Out, And It’s So Cool: “Interstate Grocery” Pop-Up in Helena

Saturday night, Helena will host what’s likely one of the hottest culinary tickets in the state, a night with Chefs Shane Henderson and Jason Godwin. Henderson is currently a chef with food wholesaler Ben E. Keith (but you probably remember him as the opening chef for Argenta Market), and Godwin has experience in catering and restaurants, best known as the chef proprietor of Dogtown Coffee and Cookery.

They’ll serve four courses of Delta-centric delights at this sold-out event, meant to highlight not only the foods of the region, but also the success a similar permanent restaurant might enjoy in the area. Tickets were $30.

Julia Malinowski, director of the Helena Advertising and Promotion Commission, hopes the event will bring attention to the city’s potential for a “date night” type restaurant.

“Many of our residents are traveling 45 minutes to Greenville (Miss.), where investors have opened up opportunities for several restaurants to open,” she said. “We have some people willing to invest right here in Helena in a great restaurant if just the right person comes along.”

While it’s too late to join the party this Saturday, it’s pretty much a done deal that there will be more. Watch this space for details (with more notice next time, my bad) on future events.

 

 

It’s Time, Y’all! Arkansas Blogger Bake Sale this Saturday!

29 Apr
Smores

I’m bringing these gluten-free s’mores cookies to the sale, as seen on Good Morning Arkansas!

Note: If you caught me on Good Morning Arkansas today, find more info about the recipe I made here.

**********

You’ve seen features of the participating bloggers. You’ve heard our pleas for baked goods. You’ve salivated at the photos posted by bloggers getting ready.

It’s time.

This Saturday, May 3 is the Arkansas Blogger Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry, at the Argenta Farmers’ Market, 6th and Main in North Little Rock, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

If you’ve been under a rock or something, here’s the scoop. No Kid Hungry is a national nonprofit that fights childhood hunger in a number of ways, from summer feeding programs to cooking and nutrition education. (The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance administers all the NKH programs in Arkansas, in case you want to get involved or need services.) Five years ago, bloggers across the country started holding bake sales to raise funds for NKH, all on the same day. The past four years, Arkansas has participated and raised a ton of cash, holding our own against bigger cities’ sales. (Not that we’re competitive. Much.)

This year, we aim to raise $3,000 for No Kid Hungry at our Arkansas sale. That means we need you to come out and buy stuff! We’ll have cookies, cakes, brownies and breads from home cooks and bloggers, as well as items from professional bakers like Dempsey Bakery, Solfood Catering, Sweet Love and kBird.

Can’t make it, or don’t eat delicious baked goods? No problem. Click here to securely donate cash, which will be credited to our Arkansas group’s fundraiser. You can also check out the online auction we have going on, ending Friday at 5 p.m., for larger baked goods, as well as many goods and services.

This is a big deal, y’all! I hope you’ll join me this Saturday to fight childhood hunger in Arkansas and beyond.

Easy Olive Tapenade for Holiday Entertaining (or, Ode to the Kroger Olive Bar)

21 Nov

This recipe, if you can call it that, was part of the recent ‘Tis the Season event at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock. I shared some appetizer ideas for holiday entertaining, along with some crazy stories and examples of ways to share love with people through food. If you were there, the ganache recipe is here (well, roughly…I’ll update soon with the exact one we made), and the bacon-wrapped dates from my friend Delta Moxie are in this issue of Farm Bureau’s Front Porch magazine. 

**********

Tapenade pinTapenade, if you’re new to the stuff, is a lovely, briny olive mixture that can be a gorgeous and easy appetizer for holiday entertaining. I’ve mentioned it before, but this one is different. And actually yummier. It’s great on little toasted rounds of bread, rice crackers (they don’t get soggy), or just about anything, really.

This is the fairly-fancy-but-no-time-to-waste version. It does require a food processor, at least for the super-fast version, although you could definitely use a knife or even one of those slap-chop kinda things if that’s your speed.  The recipe is also born of inspiration based on a super-crazy week, which I’m sure I’ll see again come Christmas entertaining time.

The crazy, that is. The inspiration will have to carry over.

You may have figured out by now that I am a huge Kroger fan. They don’t pay me to say that (although, to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, they could if they wanted to); it’s just true. One store in particular here in North Little Rock is my happy place: the Indian Hills store on JFK Boulevard. (Cue angels singing.) I shop there like most ladies shop for shoes at the mall, or wherever it is that trendy ladies shop for shoes.

At this particular store, they have a great olive bar, or Mediterranean bar, or whatever. It brims with yummies like fresh hummus (usually a couple kinds), marinated mushrooms, even some dolmas. They have three sizes of containers to choose from, one roughly double the next. (Sorry, I don’t know the exact volume, but you’ll see that it doesn’t matter.)

Tapenade in process, armed only with containers from the olive bar.

Tapenade in process, armed only with containers from the olive bar and a food processor.

If you live near this Kroger, or any store with a similar olive bar, here are the steps to an amazing, multi-tasking tapenade that will wow any party.

  • Pick up one large container (the biggest of the three), one medium, and two of the smallest ones, which are about a quarter of the size of the big one.
    .
  • Fill the largest container with the roasted red bell peppers from the bar. If you don’t see any, ask the attendant or someone at the deli and he/she will probably be glad to open a container for you. (At my store, she even offered to open one just so I’d have the very freshest, although the ones on the bar were perfectly fine.) Avoid getting large amounts of the packing oil in the container.
    .
  • Fill the medium container with pitted kalamata olives. They’re the purple ones. Drain out as much liquid as possible.
    .
  • Fill a small container with green olives stuffed with garlic. This will save you the step of peeling garlic later. Bonus! And yes, avoid the liquid. You don’t want to have to pay for that.
    .
  • Fill another small one with sun-dried or roasted tomatoes. They are packed in olive oil, which you should mostly drain off.
    .
  • Run by the produce section and get a container of Simple Truth organic fresh basil. (I’m digging on this new Kroger brand of additive-free foods.) They’re in little plastic packages, usually hanging above the mushrooms and baby potatoes and such.
The green olives stuffed with garlic, now a lovely paste with minimal effort.

The green olives stuffed with garlic, now a lovely nearly-paste with minimal effort.

Back home, put the green olives with garlic in the food processor first. This is because you want the garlic to be pretty fine. Nobody wants to bite down into that! Buzz the green olives and garlic until they are teeny, almost a paste. Remove into a large bowl but don’t worry about the processor being completely clean yet.

Put a handful of basil in the last batch of stuff you process.

Put a handful of basil in the last batch of stuff you process.

Now, put the other ingredients in the processor and buzz them until they’re in tiny pieces. Work in batches depending on the size and power of your machine; it’s all going the same place, so no matter. As you finish each batch, just dump everything into the same large bowl that already has the green olives and garlic. Add a handful of basil to the last batch you process and let it get minced along with everything else. Stir it all together.

Kalamata olives about to get the grind.

Kalamata olives about to get the grind.

What, no olive oil? No extra salt? Nope. The oil that the peppers and tomatoes were packed in is plenty. And you can surely add salt if you like, but the olives are super salty, so try the finished product first.

Guess what? You’re done.

This is best the day after it’s made, so put that bowl in the fridge and let it get happy the day before your party. The next day, drain off any excess liquid, stir, and put it in a pretty bowl. Garnish with a bit of fresh basil. Boom.

In our class, we sliced a baguette, brushed the slices with olive oil and toasted them in the oven before topping with the tapenade. To make things even easier, buy a container of rice crackers (in the Asian section of this particular Kroger) and call it done. They hold up beautifully under toppings, and your gluten-free friends (like myself) can enjoy them.

And isn’t that what food is about, sharing love with all your people? I think so. I hope your people love it.

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This “recipe” makes a metric ton of tapenade, like enough for 20+ folks. So, if you don’t need that much, just get the ingredients in similar proportions. (I know, gag, math.) Four parts peppers, two parts kalamata olives, one part green olives with garlic, one part tomatoes. If you liked the container method of measurement, this could be one medium container of peppers, one small container kalamata, and one shared small container of green olives/garlic and tomatoes.

However…

You may want a metric ton. I’m just saying.

Up next…an amazing pasta recipe that uses the remaining tapenade, should you have made a metric ton and have a bunch left after your party. Actually, it’s good enough to make the stuff for.

Standby

19 Jun

Hey folks…
I promise I’m still here.

Lots to tell, just suffering from a bit of writer’s block and scheduling drama.

Coming soon:
– Disney World and what it can teach people in foodservice
– Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmer’s Market (with a story about a local restaurateur buying there)

I still love you. I know you still love me. Hang tight.

Love,
Me