Recipes

Carrot and Last Minute Pear Soup

cp4I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Soups are great. They are easy to make and a good food option for all seasons. Warmer weather calls for cooler versions. When winter sets in, you want to nestle up with in a blanket and a steaming bowl of your favourite soup. Such a marvellous way to warm up. 

Recently I needed a reason to use up a big chunk of the carrots in our garden. Soup came to mind. Who wouldn’t love a bright orange soup made from freshly picked carrots? 

Whilst pureeing the soup, a bowl of pears on the counter caught my eye. Hmmm. Well why not? I  grabbed a few and quickly peeled and cored them berfore tossing them into the blender as well. Delicious. The vibrant colour and subtle taste of carrots went seamlessly with the fresh hint of pear. 

I do love when I hear a symphony of “mmmm’s” around the dining room table. It is one of those simple pleasures in life I never tire of. This time around it was with each spoonful. 

This recipe is a keeper. Equally as good warm as chilled.

Jens

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6 large carrots

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup pear eau de vie

1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt

pepper

4 pears

dollop of crème fraîche

chives

 

Peel the carrots and onion and cut into 1” pieces. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves.         

In a large pot, over medium high heat, heat up butter and olive oil then sauté the vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the eau de vie. Let cook for a minute, stirring the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until carrots are soft, about 20 min. Take off heat and let cool slightly.

In the mean time, peel and core the pears. Cut into 1” pieces. Add to a blender.

Transfer the soup to the blender as well and pure until smooth. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche, some finely diced chives and a sprinkle of sea salt.cp2

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Asian Stuffed Peppers with Orange Vermicelli

sp1Being sick can have its perks. People close to you pay you more attention. They dote on you and supply what you need in order to make you feel better and to make your suffering as light as possible. A few weeks ago it was Bruno’s turn. A pinched nerve in his back forced him to lay still for much longer than first anticipated. I wanted to lift his spirits and so I asked him one afternoon for dinner suggestions. Surprisingly, he said stuffed peppers. This is something I don’t make often. To be honest I only think I’ve made them once or twice. Usually when we crave them we visit Bruno’s parents. His mom makes wonderful stuffed peppers. Since I didn’t want Bruno comparing mine to what he was used to, I decided to come up with something completely different.

A peak in the fridge and I realized no ground beef was to be found. Ground chicken on the other hand we had. An Asian inspired dish came instantly to mind. Now, I was getting excited.  I decided to leave out the rice which is usually mixed with the beef and instead served the peppers on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles tossed in orange juice and green onions. And the chicken? Well, lemongrass, cilantro and good helping of ginger. Loveliness.

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Peppers Filling:

1 stalk lemongrass

1 small zucchini 

7-8 shiitake mushrooms

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp cilantro

1” piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 green onions

1000g ground chicken 

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp horseradish

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 tbsp sambal oelek

Zest of one lime

 

6 yellow or orange bell peppers 

Parmesan cheese

 

Vermicelli:

250g vermicelli rice noodles

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp soya sauce

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. 

 

Stuffing:

Peel the lemongrass and finely dice the soft centre part. Also finely dice the zucchini, mushrooms, celery, cilantro, ginger and onions. 

In a large pan sauté the ground chicken in the olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Let cook on medium heat for 5-10 min. Add the chicken back into the pot. Stir well. Set aside.

With a small pairing knife, cut around the top of the peppers and lift out the centre. Clean the inside of the peppers from white flesh and seeds. Trim bottom of peppers carefully to make them stand up straight, but make sure not to cut through. They need to stay as a sealed bowl.

Place the peppers on parchment paper on a baking sheet then stuff the peppers with the chicken mixture. Grate parmesan cheese on top, then put in the middle of the oven for 40-45 min. until slightly browned and soft. 

Vermicelli:

In the meantime, cook the vermicelli according to the package. Drain and set aside. 

In a large bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the vermicelli and stir well. Keep warm.

When serving, place some vermicelli on a plate and place a stuffed pepper on top.

Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.sp3sp4sp5

Gruyere Stuffed Arancini with Spicy Tomato & Basil

a6“What are the odds of me leaving to go to the city to help our friend move, while you stay here and deal with the tasting room?” I asked Bruno a few days before a busy August weekend. After an unexpected all clear and green light, I quickly made firm plans with Natalie – our good friend in great need of a moving partner for the weekend. Two long days and sore backs later, I popped open a  bottle of our sparkling pinot noir. We toasted work well done on her balcony while watching the Toronto skyline and sunset. 

Magical. 

“Let me take you out for dinner” she said. “Where do you want to go?”. 

I told her to choose a place I hadn’t been before. As you all know, I love food and I love eating. So, needless to say, I was very excited when we walked through the door of Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, known coloclially as: The Nose. Such a marvellous place! Italian all the way. Small plates, perfect for sharing, which I found difficult – much too delicious to share. One of the dishes was arancini. Stuffed, deep fried rice balls, served with an oh so tangy yet sweet tomato sauce. Finger licking good.

In September my parents came over for a three week visit. A few days in Toronto is always a must on their list. “Let’s go somewhere we’ve never been before” they said one evening when discussing what to do for dinner. I instantly knew where to go. Back at The Nose we ordered one of most things on the menu – the arancini being one of them. Watching my parents share these rice balls was a joy. Talk about kids in a candy store. I recently decided to make them myself. I started with the tomato sauce. The key to good tomato sauce is time. Let it simmer and simmer. And simmer. 

Heaven.a5

Tomato Sauce:

3 cups plain tomato sauce

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped basil

1/4 cup maple syrup.

1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 cup onions, finely chopped 

2- 3 tbsp sambal oelek

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

 

Risotto:

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp oregano

2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Salt 

Pepper

 

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese 

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Sunflower oil

Add all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally. I let the sauce slowly simmer until the Arancinis are fried and ready to be served.

Prepare the rice by adding all the ingredients for the risotto in another pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer over low heat, covered, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Add more chicken broth if needed. It needs to be sticky, not too wet when done in order to roll the balls properly. When cooked, set aside to let cool. 

Cut the cheese into 15 equal size squares. 

Add the beaten eggs to the rice. Mix well. 

Grab a small handful of rice and place it in the palm of your hand. Take a piece of cheese and place in the middle of the rice. Enclose the cheese in the rice, creating a ball. The ball should be 1 1/2″-2″ diameter. Set aside on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese then carefully roll the balls in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

In a large pot, add oil about 2″ deep. Heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350F. Fry the balls, a few at a time, until golden brown. This will take about 4-5 min. Place on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve hot with the tomato sauce. Makes roughly 15 Arancinis. a1a4a3

Tiramisu – In a Glass

t5I am always drawn to it whenever I see it on the list of desserts during a nice dinner out. Tiramisu. How true the saying, there is always room for dessert. Bruno is more of a dessert person than I am. I mean, he LOVES desserts. I don’t mind them once in a while. I can easily go without them. Face starting to twitch. Sweets don’t do it for me. I’m really neither here nor there about it. Nose beginning to grow. If I never had dessert again – ok, fine, who am I kidding. I too love desserts. I don’t think I’ve ever turned one down. Whether it’s offered to me, or teased in front of me in the shape of a nicely printed restaurant menu. My inner monologue about not having dessert is gone, evaporated. 

A couple of days ago I decided to make lady fingers. Decadent cookies made from egg whites gently folded with egg yolks, sugar and vanilla, then baked until fluffy and weightless. I’m not sure why I came to think of them, but I’m certain my subconscious craving for this moist cake had something to do with it. 

I have to admit we ate most of them with coffee that same afternoon. Trust me, eating just the one fresh out of the oven lady finger is nearby impossible. Not having enough cookies left for a proper cake, this is what came out of it. I replaced whipping cream with ice cream. Blended all the ingredients together and voila- the elegant flavours of tiramisu- in a glass. t7

 

8 lady fingers cookies

1 double espressos, cold (or 1/4 cup strong cold coffee)

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1/2 tbsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp cocoa

2 cups vanilla ice cream

4 Lady Fingers for decoration

 

Place the lady fingers in the bottom of a bowl and pour over the espresso. Set aside to soak. Add mascarpone cheese, vanilla and cocoa to a blender and mix until smooth. Add the softened cookies and leftover liquid to the blender. Scoop the ice cream in small pieces and add as well. Pulse a couple of times, but not until completely mixed.

Pour into glasses, powder with cocoa powder and decorate with a Lady Finger. Serve immediately.Serves 4.t2

If you don’t want to buy lady fingers but want to make your own below is the recipe I use. It is taken from Hilaire Walden’s The Great Big Cookie Book.  

 2/3 cup plain flour

pinch of salt

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

icing sugar for sprinkling

 

Preheat oven to 300F.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with a thin layer of icing sugar.

Sift the flour and salt together twice. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Beat in the remaining sugar until glossy. Sift the flour over the yolks and spoon a large dollop of egg whites over the flour. Carefully fold in with a large spoon or spatula, adding the vanilla essence. Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. Pipe 3in long lines on the parchment paper about 1in apart. Sift over a thin layer of icing sugar.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until crusty on the outside but soft in the centre. Cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.t9t6 t3

 

Tarragon Chicken

tc1Memories. Some of them will bring a smile to our face and some will make us turn bright red. The other day a song by Phil Collins came on the radio. In an instant, I was thrown back 25 years to the 9th grade. A week long school trip in a double decker bus to Paris. I remember killing travel time by listening to this live album on my portable “Walkman” cd-player. Even though I had a proper seat assigned to me, most of the trip I sat in the corner of the spiral stairs connecting the first and second floor of the bus. Not sure why since it wasn’t the slightest bit comfortable and people constantly bumped into me on their way up or down. Maybe it was the quietest spot around. I’m not sure. Either way, it didn’t seem to bother me. I was a serious day dreamer growing up. Part of my brain was always in my own world. I drifted away, gazing out the window, pretending to be attending an amazing live concert by Phil Collins. 

A few hours before arriving in Paris the bus pulled off the road and we all got out in front of what seemed to be a rather non-pretentious and run down gargote. I turned off Phil. Time for lunch. I ordered the special – tarragon chicken. Ridiculously delicious. Chicken cooked with vegetables and broth. A splash of cream and lots of tarragon. What a match. When I got back home I told my parents about the dish and that evening my mom made the Swedish adaptation of the same dish. Very close. She said it’s a Swedish classic. Who knew.

I wonder if Phil Collins likes tarragon.tc3

1 large carrot

1 large onion

1/2 bulb of fennel

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

8-10  skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 cups chicken stock

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup white vermouth

2 tbsp flour

1 green onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

Peel and roughly dice the carrot, onion and fennel. In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter and olive oil. Brown the chicken on medium-high heat 2-3 min/side. Drain off the fat from the chicken, then add vegetables and chicken stock along with the garlic and half the tarragon. Let simmer for 20-25 min or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and drain the broth into a separate pot. Discard the vegetables. On high heat, reduce the broth by half or 2/3. Add cream and vermouth. Mix the flour in a little bit of water and add to the broth. Finely chop the green onion and the rest of the tarragon and add as well along with salt, pepper and mustard. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice or potatoes. Serves 4-5tc6 tc2tc4

Crumble – Apple or Blueberry?

c1And just like that it’s fall. The excitement of harvest. A flurry of activity. Long days. Very long days. Our grapes have all been picked, hand sorted, fermented and pressed. It’s a nice feeling. We are now in control, rather than being dependent on Mother Nature. I have to say, she’s been generous most of the summer. A bumper crop is always nice to get. 

Now that the grapes are in, the apples are next. Luscious golden russets. Bin after bin arriving at the winery to be sorted, crushed and pressed into what will be 2015 sparkling cider. They are good apples. Crazy good. Just as we constantly taste the grapes at harvest, we munch on the apples when they come in as well. 

The other night we had friends over for dinner and I wanted to make a crumble – Swedish style. It’s a fairly recurring dessert here. Simple, but delicious. I mostly make this crumble using blueberries but is equally as tasty using apples. One can opt for vanilla ice cream alongside the crumble, but nothing beats a smooth mouthwatering homemade vanilla custard. I always make the custard in advance and serve it slightly chilled with a warm crumble. Heaven.

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Crumble Blueberry or Apple

Crumble:

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup flour

125g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

3 cups blueberries

1/4 cup sugar

OR:

5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced in thin wedges

1/4 cup sugar

 

In a food processor, add the sugar, flour and butter. Pulse until the butter are in tiny pieces. This will not create a moist sticky dough. It looks more like a powder.

In a pie dish, add the apple slices (or blueberries). Sprinkle with the sugar.

Pour the flour/sugar/butter on top. Spread out evenly to cover. 

Place in the upper part of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until soft and golden brown. 

Vanilla Custard

2 cups milk

1 cup cream

8 egg yolks

2 tbsp corn starch

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

In a large sauce pot, heat up milk and cream over medium heat. Remove from heat when bubbles form along the edges of the pot. 

In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch and whisk until light and fluffy. 

Very slowly, while whisking, add the warm milk. It’s important to add the warm milk slowly since you don’t want to shock the yolks. 

Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the sauce pot and slowly heat it up over low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or flat edged wooden spoon. Take off the heat once the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon, 10-15 min. Set aside and add the vanilla extract. Mix well.

Use warm, or, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar if you want to leave it to cool. This will prevent skin forming on the surface.

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Fresh Figs – Three Ways

f2Fresh Figs – Three Ways

As I have mentioned in previous posts, living in the country certainly has its perks. Locally grown and raised food is easy to get your hands on. It’s easy to feel spoiled. There are certain things, however, that seldom cross your path. 

I was recently on auto pilot in the local grocery store in search for ideas for dinner. It had been a crazy busy weekend and my brain was fried. I was browsing through the produce section waiting for something to jump out at me. The corner of my eye caught it first and I instantly woke up from my haze. I turned towards these drop shaped, dark purple/black/green beauties. I stood, for a second, contemplating not whether I would grab some or not but rather how many. All of them? There were quite a few on display. While carefully placing them in a paper bag I opted for ten. The rest I left for others, most likely equally surprised.

I have to admit, I forgot all about dinner. Back home I happily presented Bruno with the paper bag. His eyes lit up and he devoured one before I had even time to blink. “Nom nom”, his lips smacked and down went the last bite of this perfectly ripe, fresh fig.

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– The savoury fig comes with a dollop of goat cheese/devon cream wrapped in prosciutto. Balsamic vinegar glaze and chopped walnuts adds so many subtle layers while the fig is still in focus. 

– The sweet bite is accompanied by a ball of marzipan, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chili pepper. Finish it off with a mint leaf. 

– Serving fresh figs on your cheese tray is a great classic. You can’t really go wrong. No explanation needed.

A glass of our Sparkling Golden Russet apple cider or Pinot Noir goes beautifully with either one of these fig options!

 

Savoury Figs

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1/4 cup goat cheese

1 tbsp Devon cream

5 fresh figs

5 slices prosciutto

Balsamic vinegar glaze

Chopped walnuts

In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese and cream.

Cut the figs and prosciutto in half, lengthwise.

Place a small dollop of the cheese mixture on top of each fig. Wrap in prosciutto and attach with a skewer. Decorate with a couple of pieces of walnut and a drop (you don’t need much) of glaze. Makes 10 pieces

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Sweet Figs

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5 fresh figs

Marzipan, room temperature

Honey

Chili pepper

Fresh mint leaves

Cut the figs in half, lengthwise. 

Roll small balls (about the size of a large chick pea) of marzipan.

Place marzipan ball on top of the fig, then drizzle with honey.

Sprinkle with chili pepper and decorate with a mint leaf. Makes 10 pieces

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Figs and Cheese

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Simply cut fresh figs in quarters and add to your favourite cheese board. No further instructions needed.

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Rhubarb Juice

r3Every summer growing up I couldn’t wait for them to ripen. When my mom would finally get me the green light, I ran through the vegetable garden, past potato plants, onions, tomatoes, beans and herbs to the very back. There it was, somewhat unruly, with large green hats, slowly moving in the wind, greeting me. The rhubarb patch. 

I had been told not to take the largest stalks because they would be tougher to eat. That was a difficult thing, since at that age, one tend to want the biggest piece of everything. A medium sized red beauty caught my eye. I lightly pulled on it, twisting a bit until it came loose. I quickly ran back through the garden and into the kitchen. I handed my mom the rhubarb, who cut the big green hat off, reminding me not to eat it as she placed it upside down on my head. She then handed me a small bowl of sugar. It was time. Sitting on the front steps of our house, bare feet, sun hitting my face while dipping the rhubarb stalk in the sugar for each bite was magic. Pure summer indeed. 

My mom used to make this amazing summery rhubarb concentrate. I haven’t had it for years and recently decided to make some. Just as I remember, the hint of rhubarb is beautifully sweet and subtle. Ideally it should be enjoyed outdoors, in your favourite spot in the garden while reading a good book and listening to the birds singing. 

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3 lb rhubarb

2.5 cups water

6-7 cloves

500 g sugar

Rinse the rhubarb and cut it in 1/2″ pieces. In a large sauce pan, bring the water to a boil and add the rhubarb and cloves. Cover and let simmer until rhubarb is cooked and falling apart, about 10 minutes.

Put a sieve over a large bowl and pour the rhubarb mixture into the sieve. Let sit and drain for 30 minutes. 

Discard the solids and measure the juice. Pour back into the sauce pan and add the sugar (500g/litre juice). Bring back to a heavy boil. remove foam with a spoon and let cool. Store in sealed glass jars or bottles in the fridge for up to 7-10 days.

Simply pour about an inch of the juice in a glass. Top it up with chilled sparkling (or still) water and a couple of ice cubes.  

If you want a more adult version, here are two simple recipes that will please your guests at your next summer get together.

Rhubarb Martini:

1.5oz vodka or gin (both work really well)

1oz rhubarb concentrate

0.5oz lemon juice

Shake vigurously then pour into a chilled martini glass.

Rhubarb Bubbles:

Add about 1oz of rhubarb concentrate into a champagne flute and top up with sparkling wine or champagne.

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Asparagus Bisque

a1A few weeks ago I squealed with joy as friends of ours dropped off a big bag of freshly cut asparagus from their own garden. I get this tingling feeling in my whole body every spring when I know the asparagus is ready and the local farm stands will soon begin displaying these bundles of bright green beautiful stalks. A true perk to live out in the country. For me it’s the best part of the year. The kick-start for the fresh produce season. I fully indulge and eat as much asparagus as I possibly can during its rather short span and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The great thing about asparagus is that there are endless ways to prepare it. Fry it, cook it, steam it, roast it, bbq it, puree it, eat it raw – the list goes on and on.

One of my asparagus favourites is this oh so simple bisque. It’s delightful both hot, room temperature or slightly chilled, depending on the day. The asparagus takes centre seat while nicely backed up by fennel and cumin. A dollop of lemon crème fraîche tops it off. The bisque can be made a day in advance to make your lunch or dinner as enjoyable as possible. Perfect.

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2lb asparagus

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

5-6 shallots, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

5 cups chicken broth

1 tsp lightly crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp lightly crushed cumin seeds

White pepper and salt to taste

1/2 cup crème fraîche

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest from one lemon

Cut off the bottom 1” of the asparagus and cut them in 2” pieces.

In a large heavy sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Sauté the shallots until soft ~ 5 minutes. Add the garlic, asparagus and spices and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until asparagus is soft, about 10 minutes.

Let cool before transferring the soup to a blender. Purée for a couple of minutes or until very smooth. Pour soup through a sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a ladle in the sieve to push the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Mix together the lemon juice with the crème fraîche and decorate each serving. Garnish with the lemon zest. Serves 4.

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Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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