Blog Archive

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Easy Mediterranean Appetizer Spreads

 Artichoke Tapenade and Avocado, Cannellini and Preserved Lemon Dip

Easy Mediterranean Appetizer Spreads
by Victoria Challancin

We all toss around the term "Mediterranean Cuisine" as if it were one thing.  Did you realize that the Mediterranean encompasses 21 countries?  Can you believe that?  Twenty one!  Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Malta, Cyprus, Monaco, and Egypt.    Wow!  All my favorites plus some I would like to explore.

And if I had to choose one group of world flavor principles to dominate my food, it would definitely have to be Mediterranean, whether Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, French, Greek, Turkish--or probably many of the others I don't know much about.  Although I will forever be enchanted with Asian food (especially Thai and the wonderful melange of Straits' Cooking), Indian Cuisine, and others, the clean, sun-drenched flavors of lemons, olives, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs will always be my first choice.  They truly speak to my heart, if not my soul.

These easy appetizer spreads sing with those very flavors and are deceptively easy to make.  You probably won't even need a trip to the store!  Easily whipped together, they are perfect if you have unexpected guests.  The first is an artichoke tapenade recipe from Mario Batali that I first found on The Smitten Kitchen.  Deb suggest serving it on crostini, as I did, but she also suggests it would be great tossed with hot or cold pasta.

Cook's Notes:  A handfull of fresh dill, parsley, or cilantro wouldn't go amiss in this lovely tapenade.  Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil is another possible addition.

Recipe:  Artichoke-Olive Tapenade
(Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali)
Makes 8 to 10 appetizer servings

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoons capers
8-10 canned artichokes, drained well and quartered
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon chile powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Before cutting the artichoke hearts, squeeze them to remove excess liquid.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and olive oil until smooth, but still somewhat chunky.

Taste and add salt, pepper, chile powder, and additional lemon juice, if desired.  Serve with toasted slices of baguette or crackers.

Storage:  The tapenade will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.

 A plate with the two Mediterranean Spreads and Roasted Grapes

Roasted Grapes
If you have never tried roasting grapes, you should.  I made some in class a couple of years ago and since then they have become a favorite appetizer.  They are terrific in salads (as are frozen grapes) or served with a strong cheese (gorgonzola works well).  My recipe for Roasted Grapes with Garlic and Rosemary can be found here.

Cook's Note:  If you don't have Moroccan preserved lemons, substitute 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest.
Serve with crostini or a good crusty bread--or crackers or toasted pita chips.  I added a wee bit more spices than were listed.  Of course.

Recipe:  Avocado, Cannellini and Preserved Lemon Dip
(Recipe slightly adapted from
Makes about 2 cups

1 Haas avocado, halved, pitted, and skin removed
2 cans cannellini beans (14 oz each), drained and rinsed
1 preserved lemon, roughly chopped (skin only, discard pulp and pith) or 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 sprigs of mint, thinly sliced in chiffonade
Good pinch of cumin
Good pinch of paprika
Good pinch ground coriander (my addition)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend together the beans, avocado, and preserved lemon in a food processor.  Add the olive oil slowly to keep the mixture moving.  Add the herbs and spices and process again.  Check and adjust seasoning to taste.  If the mixture is too thick, thin with a bit of water or more olive oil.  If you like the  flavor of preserved lemon, you can add a bit more of the brine, remembering that it is very salty.

Parting Shot:
 From a bouquet I admired...

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.
Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.


janet @ the taste space said...

I love easy dips such as these. I have been meaning to roast grapes.. I hear they are good with pomegranate molasses, too, but haven't tried yet.

Joan Nova said...

I so agree with you about Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. Those dips look wonderful. I especially am attracted to the avocado, bean, preserved lemon one as it is not something I've done before.

Joan Nova said...

I so agree with you about Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. Those dips look wonderful. I especially am attracted to the avocado, bean, preserved lemon one as it is not something I've done before.

Victoria at Flavors of the Sun said...

Janet--I love the idea of the pomegranate molasses with the roasted grapes. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks for the tip.

v said...

Joan, I can tell from your posts that you and I are often drawn to the same flavors. Do try the dip--it's a little different.

Hotly Spiced said...

21 Countries? I've never given it any thought except I wouldn't have thought it was that many. I love the look of these dips especially the one with preserved lemons. These would all be great served at the end of a long hot day with a nice glass of chilled white wine xx

Eha said...

Uhuh! Straits' Cooking, and Asian and the traversing all the countries of Med: 'we talk the talk, and walk the walk' in the same manner there! For me, rather naturally, Singapore, Nonya, Malay and so forth are most 'home', but your wonderful dips [which I do not always use as such] provide such great recipes: love the avo/cannelini one!! Thanks!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Isn't it interesting how Med food speaks to so many people, me included I must admit :) Although I think for me, Asian food and the spice will always have a place in my heart :)

Sawsan@chef in disguise said...

I have never roasted grapes. I love them frozen but now I am really tempted to try them roasted.
I love both dips, they are perfect for summer intertaining said...

Me gustaron. I would like to try the preserved lemon.... said...

Lovely Victoria. Avocado and preserved lemon speaks my language!

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

Easy dips like these are absolutely the best!