We’ve made it to Friday, again. Yippee! I’ve got my thoughts on the weekend and all that I’m going to do, including a day-trip to NYC for my daughter’s camp reunion, and some Thanksgiving prep in the kitchen on Sunday. Have you started to get ready for Thanksgiving yet?
Thanksgiving, and the Holiday season, has a wonderful way for bringing people together to eat. My fondest memories of time with my family involves more than just the people who were present; the food always plays a role! I can recall countless visits at both of my grandparent’s houses, but what I can remember best are the meals that my grandmas made, the aromas wafting from tiny kitchens to large dining room tables, full of hungry eaters.
Why wait until the holidays to bring family together around food? Take a look at this herd of deer that I saw last Sunday afternoon. Not a holiday, just a regular afternoon for them, as they strolled around the neighborhood together and noshed on some delicious grass…
Seeing these deer together in the late afternoon immediately reminded me of one of my favorite family rituals: happy hour. Our happy hour practice is almost exclusively reserved for the weekends and for the cooler, darker months of the year. After a long week of work, school, sports and activities, we come together in the late afternoon for a delicious snack, paired with drinks and conversation or a tv show. Oftentimes, our snack is a cheese board, with several stinky cheeses, some crackers, olives, and a tapenade.
Tapenade? That sounds super fancy, I know. But it’s not fussy, it’s rustic and flavorful. A tapenade is a dish from the southern part of France, containing olives, capers, and olive oil. It’s generally eaten as a spread on bread as part of an appetizer course, although there are plenty of recipes which use tapenade as a stuffing for poultry. I have not tried that type of recipe, but I am fond of serving a tapenade as a spread. Its preparation is so simple and is best when made in-advance.
My current go-to tapenade is made of items that are always on-hand in my pantry: dried fruits, nuts, capers, fennel seeds, balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. I find that the addition of olives can overwhelm the flavor of the dish, so I typically keep olives on the side as an accompaniment. The tapenade is the perfect spread on a cracker or piece of toast, with or without cheese. With a glass of wine or port and my family around the coffee table with me, there’s no other place that I’d rather be at 5pm on a Saturday or Sunday.
Use food to bring your family together for occasions other than meals around the table. Sometimes, the most memorable moments, the ones that you’ll cherish for a long time, are the ones that happen when you least expect them!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Festive Fig & Apricot Tapenade
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
3 oz dried Black Mission figs, finely chopped
3 oz dried apricots, finely chopped
1/3 C water
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 oz pecans
1 1/2 t fennel seeds
1 T capers, chopped
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a small saucepan, add the figs, apricots, and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir, cover and remove from the heat. Keep covered and allow mixture to steam together for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans and fennel seeds. Stir often to prevent burning. Once the pecans are golden brown and the fennel seeds are aromatic, remove from the heat and pour into the saucepan with the dried fruit mixture.
To the mixture, add the chopped capers and olive oil. Gently stir to combine all of the ingredients. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
To serve, bring tapenade to room temperature. Serve as an accompaniment to cheese & crackers, or alongside pickled vegetables, dips and spreads.
recipe yields approximately 1 1/2 C tapenade
tapenade may be prepared 2 days prior to serving; keep chilled in a covered container until ready to serve
leftovers keep well, covered and chilled, for 2-3 days
substitute raisins or dates for either of the dried fruits to change the flavor of the tapenade
substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic vinegar for a more tangy flavor