If recipes for pestos, tapenades and spreads don't get you excited you may want to think again. I had to. When I first opened "Pestos, Tapenades and Spreads" by Stacey Printz my expectations were low - what could be so interesting about condiments? Fortunately I continued to check out the book and to my surprise I found a great little gem.
While the book is physically small, it's only 8 ½ by 6 ½ inches and has only 40 recipes, it packs a big punch and I predict you will find yourself reaching for it time and time again. Why? What could this tiny little book have in it that is so great? Well, the recipes are good and the variety of pestos alone is impressive (think pea, arugula, cilantro and rosemary just to name a few), but the real gem in this book is what comes with each recipe - a list of uses for the pesto, tapenade or spread. The 'serving suggestions' as they are called, get this, are actually useful! To me that is magic. While it seems like an obvious idea, the reality is that providing details on when to use the recipes provided in a cookbook is actually very rare (and something I could go on and on about but I'll leave that for another day…)
The serving suggestions for the pestos, tapenades and spreads also span a range of uses typically including things like appetizers, salads, sandwiches and ways to spice up main meals. I can see myself grabbing this book to find uses for seasonal vegetables or even just a bit of leftover items from a dish I made. The Beet Tapenade (see below) is a good example of this. Last year, when beets arrived in my CSA box I had a bunch of favorite recipes to choose from but I didn't always use all the beets. The beet tapenade only uses about 8 ounces of beet so it's great for using up that little excess. The same is true of the Balsamic Fig and Caramelized Onion Tapenade (recipe below) that only uses 1 fig.
I can also see myself using this book to jazz up a hunk of meat in my fridge and in the process perhaps learn more of flavor pairings and experimentation since many of the suggestions Stacey offers are not things that I would have thought of - that's exactly what makes this book so great!
Beautiful Beet Tapenade
From Pestos, Tapenades, and Spreads by Stacey Printz. Chronicle Books 2009.The eye-catching color alone makes this recipe worth whipping up! Its sweet yet earthy flavors will surprise you.
- 1 1/2 cups chopped beets (about 8 ounces), roasted, steamed, or boiled (not canned)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground pepper
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend to a coarse but spreadable paste. Season with more salt and pepper as desired.
Makes about 1 1/3 cups
- -Spread over crostini with soft goat cheese.
- -Dollop over spinach salad with goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.
- -Smear on a roasted vegetable or turkey sandwich.
Balsamic Fig and Caramelized Onion Tapenade
With a subtle sweetness and jammy quality, this tapenade is great with grilled pork. If you like more sweetness, add the honey.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1/3 cup
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped Black Mission figs
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 to 2 teaspoons honey (optional)
Heat the 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the figs and the 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and continue to sauté until most of the liquid is gone and the mixture is slightly caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the fig mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and the honey (if using). Pulse until the ingredients start to come together. With the machine running, gradually stream in the remaining 1/3 cup oil and mix until a course paste forms.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
- -Serve over grilled pork tenderloin, chicken, or duck
- -Spread a thick layer on crostini and top each toast with a teaspoon of blue cheese. Add a sprinkle of walnuts, if you like. Or instead of the cheese, add a thin slice of cooked pork.
- -Use as a condiment for a chicken panini.
About Pestos, Tapenades, and Spreads
With little fuss and enormous flavor, transform everyday meals with simple yet creative toppings, dips, and spreads. Forty recipes are paired with multiple serving suggestions for producing yummy (and healthy!) dishes, from appetizers to dinners. With few steps to follow and minimal ingredients to purchase, these recipes—many of which are sensitive to vegans and those with nut and gluten allergies—are built for speed and ease. Fifteen minutes is the total preparation time for Classic Provençal Tapenade, Balsamic Fig and Caramelized Onion Spread, and Rich Crab Spread. Using fresh ingredients and pantry staples, you'll soon be whipping up tasty pesto faster than you can say 'presto!'
Available from Amazon.com
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.