olive tapenade

     *This recipe was originally published in 2011 as part of a recipe for a delicious roasted chicken. It was sort-of lost near the end of the article. I make it so often and friends love it so much that I decided it should stand on its own, because...
     This tapenade is indispensable. I adapted it from one found several years ago. The original recipe used Kalamata olives and large, green Queen olives, but I utilize whatever I have.
     I have enlisted this tapenade to enhance an entree, add to an appetizer and snap up the flavor of homemade soup. You can whip it up in seconds. It stores in the fridge well. I try to always keep some on hand.
1 cup pitted black Kalamata olives
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons Jack Daniels
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Be sure to buy Kalamata olives in their own, lovely briney liquid. Do NOT settle for those fake-looking canned olives.
Place the shallots and olives in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the whiskey and with the machine running, pour in 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a slow stream.
     Serve with toasted bruscetta, or pita and homemade hummus. Spoon atop roasted chicken, dollop in soup... there are endless ideas.

aMAZing veggies two ways. on the side, then as fajitas

     You never know where inspiration for a recipe will pop up. I was working... shopping in a Sam's Club for an event I was cooking for. You know those Sams' people that try to feed you around every single corner of the store? Yeah, you know the ones. Most of the time, if it's something prepared or fried, I politely decline.
     But, on this day in the produce section, a lady was making fresh veggies. Portobellos, asparagus and fresh corn that had been stripped off the cob. She sauteed it very simply with Montreal Steak seasoning and a bit of canola oil.
     They were delicious! I could have eaten the whole skillet full... but, (whining voice,) she just wouldn't give me more than two little sample cups. So, I bought the giant mushroom caps and the huge bunch of asparagus. Point goes to Sams.
     If you've ever been to any shopping 'club' you know that their packages are quite large. Since we have a mere two people for dinner most evenings, I decided to make the vegetables for our small group dinner... around twenty hungry folks. (We meet once a week for dinner and a Bible study. They're my other family.)
     I originally intended to grill everything, since there is nothing better than grilled portobellos. But, too late I realized that the grill was out of gas. (If you're less scatter-brained than I and have gas in your grill, then by all means grill it. They're even better!)
     I already had frozen corn and some julienne carrots, plus I added the zest and juice of a lemon. We ate about half.
     So? What to do with the rest? Throw it out? Let it linger in the back of the fridge until your kids can use it as a science experiment? NO WAY! Re-purpose those veggies. Re-invent your leftovers. Give them a makeover, a second chance to shine!
Veggies, take two: I was looking for something to eat for a light lunch the next day. I had some mango salsa, black beans and flour tortillas left over from a recent fiesta. I warmed the beans and veggies, then turned them into aMAZing fajitas... Here's the skinny:
1 pkg. Portobello Mushrooms
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into manageable pieces
one package julienne carrots
1 c. frozen or fresh corn kernels
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. olive oil
1 T. Montreal Steak seasoning, divided
1 (more) t. olive oil for sauteing
1 t. butter
For fajitas:
Mango Salsa (also from Sam's)
refried black beans
flour tortillas, warmed
chopped cilantro
lime wedges
The portobellos take a bit longer than the asparagus, so when cooking them on a stove, cook them first. Place in a large bowl and toss with the oil and soy. Sprinkle with 1 t. Montreal. Saute in a large, flat pan until cooked through, but not too brown. Remember the big bowl they were in? Return to large bowl and set aside.. (They'll go back in in a minute.)
Heat (other) 1t. olive oil & butter in pan. Add carrots and cut asparagus. Cook on med. low for about three minutes, stirring often. Add the corn. If frozen, cook until corn it thawed before you add the mushrooms back in.
Okay, now add mushrooms back to pan. Continue to stir-fry until things get brown and amazing looking. Don't let them cook until the color begins to fade... They need to retain their crispness, so cook until just barely done. You want that crunch! Sprinkle with remaining Montreal and taste for seasoning.
For fajitas:
Warm leftover black beans and veggies separately in microwave or on stove. Warm up the tortillas. Place a smear of black beans on tortilla. Spoon veggies on and crown with salsa. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with a lime wedge.
Happy mouth. Healthy food. Hardly any cleanup!

perfect tomato sandwich

     I'm impatiently waiting for the official start of summer. The time of year when I can set my watch to Tomato Time... the days when our household's favorite fruit is in its plumpest, ripest, freshest glory!
     When the weather is warm, the old kitchen stove is on vacay. We don't think twice about firing up the grill, but I'll do just about anything to avoid heating up an indoor appliance.
     So what can you do for a fast, healthy meal? I love, love, love a juicy tomato sandwich. I'm letting you in on a little secret...  Forget simply smearing on the mayo. Say Whaaaaat?
     Well, sort of forget it... Modify and enhance your sandwich dressing. Bring on Tomato Nirvana! Take a few dollops of a good quality mayo or make your own. Add 1 tsp of Dijon, a pinch of garlic powder, zest and juice of a lemon, coarse sea salt to taste, lots of freshly ground black pepper and a few thyme leaves... lemon thyme if you have it. Stir all of this up in a bowl and generously slather on bread of choice.
     Slice your ripe tomatoes and layer on one side of bread. Sprinkle with a tiny bit more sea salt and pepper if desired. Scatter a few arugula leaves on the other side. Slap it together and slice into triangles. Serve it with carrot sticks and your favorite dip made with fat free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a tall glass of tea, garnished with a sprig of orange mint!
Perfect. Tomato. Sandwich.