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.
• 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.
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.
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