baked feta and romesco and olive tapenade

two crostini

I can eat a whole loaf of crusty bread.  Add olive oil or cheese and I’ve just gained 8 pounds without blinking. I also get into trouble when my husband makes his big pot of ragù sauce.  That pot calls me…taunting me all effin day…while it simmers away.   He has to shoo me away from it, or else I will have ‘tested’ it 45 times before serving, and then all the bread will be gone for dinner.  He can even tell while he’s upstairs, that I have removed the lid of the cast iron pot to dunk some bread in the bubbling sauce.  I can’t help it.  Maybe this bread addiction stems from when I was growing up, my parents would snack on it after my father got home from work, and they would review their day before dinner.   The telltale ‘antipasti’ – the Boursin cheese (and if bought that week, dad’s stinky cheese…aka some sort of blue cheese), pepperoncini and green olives.  It wasn’t anything fancy – just a flimsy single paper plate, damp with dumped out olives and pepper tops.  It wasn’t put out for me or my sister either, but that didn’t stop us from cruising by, and ripping off some bread and smearing it with cheese and exiting the kitchen while our parents continued to talk.  Fast forward 20 years and marry an Italian.  The cycle has reset itself.  My husband has a soft spot for cheese and bread as well, but he brings soppressata and hot peppers to the mix.  After sampling this dip, he made the ‘eh’ face, which says to me he’s sticking with his toppings.  That’s ok, you can’t please everybody.  I liked this mix of cheese, olives and romesco.  I had never made a romesco sauce before and it was delicious!  Plus, it all was served warm with a crusty loaf of bread, which reminded me of dipping in his pot of tomato sauce…

baked feta with romesco and olive tapenade (adapted from Cooking Light October 2011)


red bell pepper
cooking spray
1  28 oz. can San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes, chopped
5  garlic cloves, minced
1/2  cup low sodium chicken broth
2  TB chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1  slice wheat bread, chopped
1/4  tsp. black pepper


1/2  cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2  cup pitted fruity green olives (I used a large green olive in a spicy oil)
1/4  cup fresh flat leave parsley, chopped
1  TB extra virgin olive oil
2  TB sherry vinegar
1/4  tsp. fresh ground black pepper

remaining ingredients:

1 1/4  cups (5 oz) crumbled feta cheese, divided
2  TB fresh flat leave parsley

roasted pepperswhole peeled tomatoes

get started on dip:

Preheat broiler to high.  To prepare romesco sauce, cut red bell pepper in half lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes.  Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet and flatten them slightly with hand.  Broil for 8 minutes or until blackened.  Place peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Peel and chop peppers.
Reduce oven to 425.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add chopped tomatoes and garlic.  Cook 4 minutes or until garlic starts to brown slightly, stirring frequently.  Add red bell peppers and broth.  Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in nuts and bread and cook for 1 minute more.  Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add pepper.
To prepare the tapenade, place olives, 1/4 cup parsley and the next 3 ingredients (through pepper), in a food processor.  Process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.  Coat a smaller size broiler safe casserole dish (1 1/2 quart) with cooking spray.  Spoon half of romesco sauce into prepared dish, and top with 3/4 cheese.  Dollop tapenade over cheese.  Spoon the remaining romesco sauce over tapenade, and top with remaining 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with parsley.

chopped olivesdip dish

note:  this dip serves 12 (which is hilarious).  Ok portion control….deep breath.  Oh, and I had Serrano peppers laying around…stuck them on there for ‘garnish’.


roasted pepper and goat cheese involtini

plate of rolls

This is one app that didn’t make the Thanksgiving menu due to lack of hours in a day, so it got relegated to the Saturday after, when we had friends over.  I had roasted the peppers the day before Thanksgiving, but didn’t have the time on the big day to assemble them.  Plus, I forgot that my in-laws were bringing an antipasto platter, so I didn’t want to duplicate pepper efforts.  Once made, they came out just like I had seen on the Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, but I admit, they were a bit teensy labor intensive for such a little appetizer.  Could I have bought store-bought peppers?  Yes, but whatever.  I was committed once I started the process of  roasting, seeding and slicing the peppers.  After that, the rolling is easy.  Plus, you don’t know the sizes you are going to get from the store-bought jars and you don’t get the yellow color either (none that I have seen in jars anyway).  I also wanted to try this type of paprika.  I have Hungarian hot, as well as standard paprika, and found this one is smoky good.  I liked this appetizer, but my husband not so much…then again he’s not a big fan of paprika…I thought I could convert him.  Apparently not.

roasted red and yellow pepper goat cheese involtini (from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef)

2  red peppers
2  yellow peppers
1  8 oz. log of goat cheese, room temperature
1  TB crushed red pepper
1  TB pimentón (smoked spanish paprika)
kosher salt
2  TB fresh chives, chopped

roasted peppers

get started on the peppers:

Preheat broiler, grill or gas cooktop.  I chose the broiler, so place peppers on a sheet tray and into the oven and cook them until they are black on all sides.  Continually turn the peppers with tongs to make sure all sides are charred.  Place roasted peppers in a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let them sit until cool.  Using your fingers, peel away all the pepper skins and gently remove the stem and the seeds.  Try not to tear the pepper.  Lay the pepper flat and slice into one inch sections.  This can be done one day ahead.  (ok, in my case – three days ahead).

cleaned peppers

Once you are ready to assemble the peppers, set out the goat cheese, kosher salt, crushed red pepper and pimentón.

sliced peppersseasoning

Place about one teaspoon of goat cheese at the end of a pepper strip.  Season the goat cheese with a pinch of salt, crushed red pepper and the pimentón.  Your hands will get messy.  Roll up the pepper around the goat cheese, and garnish with chopped chives.

goat cheese on strip20121124_152605

note:  this serves about 6-8 people.  I also took the roll, and dipped it into the chives to make sure they adhered better than if I had just sprinkled the chives on.