Mediterranean Appetizers

After buying 4 liters of delicious olive oil in the Valle de Guadalupe last weekend, I figured it was time to start making some food that required good olive oil. So last night I made four small dishes all centered around olive oil (and garlic). I love garlic, when I cook I tell myself “the more garlic the better.” This means my cooking isn’t for everyone (although I try to tone it down at times). A lot of people hate chopping garlic, some even resort to buying minced garlic in a jar. I’m not one of those people. I don’t even use a garlic press, I just really love chopping garlic. Since moving I haven’t had a really good garlic chopping knife, I’ve been getting by with a small knife, that does the job, until recently. Kinsee’s parents recently came back from Alaska and brought her a few things, including this “knife”:

Alaskan Knife

Alaskan Knife

I can’t remember what it’s called. And I think the label said something about cutting caribou meat with it, but seeing as how we’re both vegetarians, I guess it won’t see it’s full potential with us. However it makes for a great garlic mincing utensil. It’s comfortable in your hand and you can just roll it back and forth, chopping as you go.

As for the food I made… I guess they could all be described as appetizers, or at least side dishes. I recently got a food processor and I’ve been wanted to make both hummus and pesto with it, so instead of deciding on one or the other, I made both.

For the hummus I chose to make Kalamata Olive Hummus and with the food processor it was incredibly simple.

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 big spoonful of tahini
  • a couple cloves of minced garlic
  • a few generous dashes of cayenne pepper
  • about a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • half a cup or so of kalamata olives
  • the juice of one lime
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on. If it looks too chunky just add a little bit of water as it’s going and it’ll get smoother. Usually it’s made with lemon, but all I had was a lime which worked just as well. I would recommend rinsing the olives pretty well and trying to avoid getting much of their juice in there. The hummus is a bit on the vinegary side because I used some of the olive juice instead of water to make it creamier. But it turned out great and is a lot cheaper than buying prepared hummus at the store.

Pesto was the other thing I had really been wanting a food processor to make. It’s surprisingly simple, but this didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, and I’m not sure what I did wrong — however it could have been the way I was eating it… I just put some on toast, rather than using it as a sauce for pasta. Since I have plenty left we’ll see how well it does on some noodles. I was surprised at how good fresh parmesan cheese is, I guess I’m used to the powdered Kraft stuff.

  • basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • a handful of raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the basil and pine nuts in the food processor a few times. Add the garlic and pulse again. With a rubber spatula clean the sides of the bowl and slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on. Clean the sides again and then add the grated cheese. Pulse a few more times. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The thing I didn’t like about this was that it was sort of mushy, all the ingredients blended together. But on pasta it might be better than spread on toast.

Bruschetta is one of my favorite toppings for toast and so easy to make.

  • 6-8 basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tomatoes
  • a splash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh bread
  • another clove of garlic

Chop the basil by hand, then add the minced garlic. Dice the tomatoes and add to the mix. Pour in a splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix it all around. Toast the dry bread on a hot griddle for a few minutes. While the bread is hot rub the hot side of the bread with the whole clove of garlic and drizzle just a bit of olive oil on each slice of bread. Top with the tomato mixture and it’s ready to serve.

Last was White Asparagus with Olive Oil and Garlic. I had never heard of white asparagus before seeing it at the super market a few weeks ago. Just like the green stuff next to it, both were grown in Peru and both were the same price. I much prefer to grill asparagus, but this way works when there’s no grill around. And it was the first thing I was wondering when I saw it, yes, white asparagus also makes me pee smell funny.

  • white asparagus, rinsed with the bottoms cut off
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • olive oil for sauteing

Heat the oil in a pan to a lower medium heat and then add the asparagus, after a few minutes add the minced garlic. Saute until the asparagus is tender and the garlic is crispy but not burnt. I like to eat the crispy garlic as well. I was disappointed with the flavor of the white asparagus. It seemed to be more bland and dull than the regular green stuff.

I sampled everything and had a plate of appetizers for dinner. To top it all off, earlier at the store I had bought a bottle of Le Freak from Green Flash Brewing Company. The label said it was a combination San Diego Imperial Pale Ale and Belgian Trippel. The Trippel was definitely the dominant taste in the beer, and it was delicious. Below are pictures of the beer and the olive oil that started it all.

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

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