Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

‘Tomato Stuff’: Tapenade-Style Tomato Spread for Sauces, Dressings, and More

With a bonanza supply of dehydrated tomatoes put by, I made this delicious spread that we’ve always called just “tomato stuff.”  It’s like a tapenade, although without anchovies.

I use it by itself to spread on thin slices of baguette or water crackers for an elegant appetizer and also use it by the big spoonful for enrich a pasta sauce instead of tomato paste, make a quick pizza, add body to a vegetable soup, add big flavor to a vinaigrette dressing, dress a plain dish of spaghetti, and put a bit of zing into a bland stew.

It’s also quite tasty just on a spoon! One of my favorite one-pan meals is below.

‘Tomato Stuff’ Tapenade Recipe


• 1 cup oil cured black olives, pitted
• 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes
• ½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
• 8 fat cloves roasted garlic
• 2 tbsp homemade pesto if you have it
• 1 tbsp Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning herb mix
• ½ cup very good extra virgin olive oil, possibly more


1. Pit the olives, using your cherry pitter if you have one. If you do not, use a small knife to slit the side of the olive and squeeze out the pit. Reserve the pits for a bonus (see below).

2. Snip the tomatoes with scissors to about ½ inch to make them easier for the processor to grind. If the tomatoes are really hard and tough, sprinkle them with just a little water and let them sit for a few minutes to soften.

3. Into your food processor, put the olives, tomatoes, cheese and garlic. Get it going and process until the tomatoes are chopped fine.

4. Add in the pesto if you have it and the herbs, and pulse. Don’t add salt — between the cheese and the olives, there’s plenty.

5. Add in most of the olive oil and process, adding more as needed. You want a rough but spreadable texture, not a smooth paste. If the tomatoes were quite dry, you may want to add more olive oil.

6. Pack your Tomato Stuff into small freezer storage tubs, coat the top with a film of olive oil. Stored in the freezer, it keeps for months.

Bonus: Olive Pit-Infused Olive Oil

Remember you saved the olive pits. Put these into a small jar and cover with your good olive oil. Be sure the pits are completely covered.

Set the jar on the counter for a week or so and then drain off the oil. You’ll have a delicious “fruity” olive oil that tastes like the most expensive kinds. Use this for your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

One-Pan Chicken and Pepper Dinner Recipe


Yields 4 hearty servings

• 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
• extra virgin olive oil for the pan
• sea salt and pepper to taste
• a pinch or two of herbes de Provence or Italian herb mix
• 1 very large red onion
• 4 large bell peppers, assorted colors
• 4 to 6 fat cloves roasted garlic
• ½ cup white wine
• 8 ounces pasta, tagliatelli, mini penne, or similar, or mixed
• 4 heaping tbsp Tomato Stuff

Equipment: One skillet, one cutting board, one knife, one pot.


1. First, cut the onions into lengthwise slices ¼ inch thick. Then the peppers into slices about the same size.

2. Put a nice spill of the extra virgin olive oil in the skillet and heat. Put the onion in the pan and sauté over medium high heat. Give them a head start then drop in the pepper pieces, sauté a few minutes more.

3. Then, cover the pan and lower the heat to get the veggies to your preferred tenderness — don’t let them get too soft, leave some crunch. Remove the veggies to a plate while you sauté the chicken.

4. Slice the chicken breasts horizontally no more than ½-inch thick. Season each piece nicely with the sea salt pepper and herbs. Add more oil to the skillet and, over moderately high heat, sauté the chicken pieces until just barely golden. Work in batches — don’t crowd the pan. As they’re ready, remove the chicken to the plate.

5. When the chicken is all done, add in the garlic and smoosh it against the bottom of the pan. Add in the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan and get the garlic distributed. Add all the chicken back in and gently simmer to reduce the wine.

6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta to your preferred degree of al dente. Drain the pasta.

7. Add all the veggies back into the skillet on top of the chicken. Stir the pasta into the skillet of chicken and veggies. Cover the pan to reheat it all. Then, dollop in heaping spoons of Tomato Stuff and stir and toss to coat the whole pan-full.

Look the other way and smile when fingers swipe the empty plate clean.

Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Healthy Food Begins with Community


Photo by Jenny Nelson. Courtesy of Maine Farmland Trust

A group of Somali Bantu refugees have started a cooperative farm in Maine, whole continents away from where they were born. They’ve traveled treacherous terrain and faced down threats that could have taken their lives. Thousands of miles from Somalia, on 30 acres in Maine’s second-largest city, they’ve begun to feel like they’ve come home.

New Roots Cooperative Farm, though just recently started by four new Americans, is already a success story. Combine the complexities of farming with the uncertainty of navigating a system that is unfamiliar — and, at times, unfriendly — to newcomers and you’ll understand just a fraction of how far New Roots has already come. They’re inspired to help one another and the community, too.

“Our aim is not only to grow food and run a business ourselves but to help our community and teach them about how to run a business,” says New Roots farmer Batula Ismail.

New Roots is a cooperative — the four co-owners work together to share land, markets, infrastructure, and resources — and they are demonstrating for other immigrant farmers that their co-op model is best for meeting their needs and building community.

The group used to farm before being forced from their homes during Somalia’s tumultuous civil war period.

“There was no control,” one of the co-op organizers, Hussein Muktar, told the Portland Press Herald recently. “People come to your house and kill you or beat you and take whatever you have,” he said. “You have no power.” 

After arriving in Maine, they got back to farming at Cultivating Community’s New American Sustainable Agriculture Project at Packard-Littlefield Farm in Lisbon, Maine. The program empowers New Americans to launch independent farm businesses, to adopt new leadership roles in the community, and to attain increased economic independence for themselves and their families.

Now, with a decade of experience at Packard-Littlefield backing them up, the group is ready to put their education to the test. When Gendron Farm, a dairy farm in Lewiston was divided into several parcels in 2015, New Roots worked with Cooperative Development Institute, Maine Farmland Trust, Land for Good, Cultivating Community, and many others to preserve 30 acres as a working farm.

In August, 2016, the farmers celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony for their farm with food, music, speakers, and prayers for the land. More than 100 people turned out to support the farm and the New American community in Lewiston, a heartwarming affirmation that New Roots is leading the way for immigrant farmers in the Northeast.

Farmer Mohamed Abukar said, “We are a new generation of farmers, as New Americans, and we want to bring our farming to a new level. We want to develop support from other organizations and people to open the farm in 2017 and provide fresh chemical free vegetables to schools, hospitals, restaurants, and people around the state.”

New Roots is hosting an online barnraiser to help them set solid roots on their new land and create greater economic opportunity for New Americans. Learn more about their plans here.

The Cooperative Development Institute was founded in 1994 with the explicit mission to foster an inter-dependent dense network of enterprises and institutions that allow us to meet our needs through principled democratic ownership, and that care for community, combat injustice and inequity, and promote conscious self-governance. Read all of CDI's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page