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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FOR THE LOVE OF "SMALL BITES" or "TIDBITS"


As far back as I can remember, before we knew what "Tapas" were, we, that is my friends and family, were always more enamored with appetizers, grazing on small plates, or casually noshing on small "bites"....


We preferred it to the large holiday dinners, and for many years on Christmas Eve, we looked forward to our favorite Christmas treat, which was an evening filled with different appetizers and Champagne....We always had too much food, as my Mother would always point out, but it never went uneaten as we all headed home with small bites of "this and that" to nosh on for a few days to come...


I had dinner out last night with a couple of my oldest friends...We have known each other since High School, and have what seems to be a million years of memories. We don't get to see each other as often as we would like, but when we do, there is nothing that we cannot share with each other, as though we had just seen each other.


As we perused the menu, we had so much to catch up on, that we could not be bothered with devoting much attention to what we wanted to order. The THIRD time that the waiter came by the table, he suggested the sharing of a small plate of marinated Mediterranean Olives, which was accompanied by almonds and garlic rubbed grilled toasts.....The pairing of this small bite with my lovely glass of light Chardonnay was perfection.


I have been working like a DOG for the last couple of weeks...(Why do we say working like a "DOG", when all I ever see most dogs do is sleep?)

I greatly looked forward to my few days off this week to sleep late, read, and try some new recipes or make them up....These activities always relax and please me (especially the part about sleeping late, because I am now getting up at 4AM!!! to go to work...)


Now that I AM working very steadily, I grocery shop, but don't do a lot of cooking because I am not around as much. Hence the need to buy smaller quantities of food that is good for on the go..

Now when I refer to food like this, I mean sumptuous Goat Cheese, French Feta Cheese, Marinated Greek and Green Olives, Peppers, loaves of Rosemary Seven Grain Bread, Sourdough small loaves, good Olive Oil, Garbanzo Beans and Tahini for Hummus, Greek Yogurt and English Cucumber for Tsatziki, Cans of my Favorite Tuna, Lemons, Garlic, Greens, Chicken Breasts, and all sorts of fresh Herbs....


With these fresh ingredients in the kitchen, I can whip up just about anything that I might be interested in making, or grab a quick snack so as not to have to make a "big deal" out of a meal...

This morning I wanted to take something over to my parents house for them to enjoy....Maybe something that they have never eaten and hopefully would find to be delicious...


Out of the refrigerator I grabbed log of Chevre' (natural goat cheese), a small amount of some French Feta, and a bit of Cream Cheese....I also pulled out the last of some walnuts, toasted them, and in the veggie drawer grabbed the herbs that I had on hand, some Dill, Tarragon, and Italian Parsley.....At this point I settled on a jar of "Party Olive ANTIPASTO" a product made in Greece and manufactured by the "PEPLOPONNESE" company...It contained olives, green peppers, cauliflower, carrots, and red peppers...PERFECT...(Believe it or not, this jar was found in the Grocery aisle where the olives are at my local KROGER...Really! Just gotta look for these goodies....)


I decided that a great cheese spread made with this Antipasto could be very delicious, and absolutely divine on some homemade CROSTINI....So easy....

I happened to have a loaf of small rounded Sourdough bread, as well as the end of a Rosemary Seven Grain Loaf bought at La Madeline....The Bread slices were the perfect size, but had they been too large, they could have been easily sliced in half....More about the making of the Crostini later.....For now back to the.....


"MEDITERRANEAN WING IT CHEESE SPREAD"

In your food processor, clean and throw in a handful of each and every fresh herb you have or want to use (be sure to take off any stems...)...Throw in a peeled garlic clove or two...Dash a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in and process until it is finely chopped.

Add all of the cheese, room temp, and process until combined. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the Antipasto along with a little marinade (but not a lot, as it is quite salty)....Grind some pepper into the processor bowl, as well as a bit of cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne (if you have it, which you should since it is FAB in just about everything but chocolate cake....)


Turn on the processor and process until really smooth almost like a "mousse"....After this is done, add the toasted walnuts (I used about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)....Turn the processor on and off a couple of times or so, as you want the nuts to still be intact, though not large....


TASTE...


ALWAYS taste your food...What does it need? Too salty? Add a bit more cream cheese...Bland? I doubt it will be, but if so, you could add some additional marinated olives, or just regular green or Kalamata olives....(Again, these are very salty, so go easy...)


Fill a crock jar with the spread and if giving away, tie a pretty ribbon around it...(this is a great idea, and some day I will buy ribbons just for this very reason....As for now, the jar will remain naked....)



THE CROSTINI

Oven preheated to 350 degrees...

Take your largest cookie sheet and line it with parchment...Place the small sized bread, (Sourdough, French, or Italian is best), on the sheet....Cut larger sized bread in half if you wish, though I think that the smaller rounded "toasts" are the most attractive...


Sprinkle or brush each piece with Olive Oil....Bake for around 7 minutes or so, but watch carefully after 5 minutes...They don't have to be brown in color, just toasted like a large crouton....


As you pull the crostini from the oven, and while they are still warm, rub each piece with a peeled garlic clove....


Put them on a wire rack to completely cool, then store them in a large plastic ziploc until ready to serve....


I hope that you will try this Spread, as it is quite tasty, or at least gather some inspiration from the recipe, and give it a try yourself with your own choice of cheeses, herbs, and other ingredients....You could do a roasted pepper one or do one with the roasted tomatoes that you have made yourself....(i.e. see post before this one...mine were all gone!)


This is the kind of cooking that I love to do, and find to be the most creative...A bit of this, a bit of that, and who knows? You might be the creator of something amazing! I think that one of the keys is to keep you refrigerator stocked with the freshest of ingredients, the best that you can afford in terms of quality, and items that you and you family/friends like....


As Summer shows its heated little head, especially here in Texas, glasses of Chilled Wine, Lemonade, and "Small Bites" sound more and more the answer to mealtime...


I hope that you will enjoy this addition to your favorite "Tapas," or as my sister and I called them growing up, "Tidbits"....







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