Recipe Alert! - Creamy Almond Pesto & Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

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By: Vlady Peychoff

When opening a new recipe book to find an inspiration for a meal, it can be at times quite overwhelming and intimidating without a clear direction of what you want. It can be especially stressful when you invite some friends over for the evening and you are trying to cook up a storm to impress them. From experience, I have learned appetizers or ‘hors d’oeuvres’ are an integral element to the evening. The role of the appetizer can either be that of a mood teaser or a mood downer. Dipping options, whether it is for bread and/or vegetables, proves to be for the most part a success at social gatherings. Here are two dipping recipes from Roberto Martin’s cookbook titled Vegan Cooking for Carnivores that cannot fail and may well set the mood for your guests:

 

Creamy Almost Pesto and Sun-Dired Tomato Tapenade (a slightly modified version)

Ingredients Creamy Almond Pesto

  • 2 ounces fresh basil leaves (about 45)
  • 2 ounces (1/2) cup blanched almonds, whole or silvered
  • 2 tablespoons vegan parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (or you could crush them as the original recipe says)
  • 3/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup water
  • freshly ground black pepper (for seasoning)

Ingredients Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

  • 15 to 20 sundried tomatoes chopped (not packed in oil)
  • 1/4 cup capers, packed in brine, drained
  • 15 fresh basil leaves chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped (or you could crush them as the original recipe says)
  • 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts or almonds
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper (for seasoning)

Directions

Preparation

You can make both dips simultaneously as they have a lot of common ingredients, though different taste. Firstly, put the 15-20 sundried tomatoes in a large bowl and rinse a couple of times with cold water. After, fill the bowl with hot water and let the sundried tomatoes soak for 15-20 minutes. Similarly, in a large bowl put about 60 basil leaves (for both recipes) and rinse a couple of times with cold water. Likewise to the sundried tomatoes, fill the bowl with cold water and let the basil leaves soak for 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, chop or mince 6 garlic cloves (facilitates the blending process). Subsequently, grate approximately two tablespoons of vegan parmesan cheese (it does not matter if you grate more, you can add it to the mixture).

 

Drain the bowls of sundried tomatoes and basil leaves.

Blending 

Prepare for make the creamy almost pesto dip. From my own experience, it is important to put the ingredients in a specific order in order to avoid your blender suffering a ‘mechanical’ breakdown (especially for the Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade). Add ¾ of the basil leaves, then ¾ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of water, ½ cup of almonds, ½ of the chopped or minced garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of grated vegan parmesan cheese and ½ cup of vegan mayonnaise. Blend the ingredients together until an even and creamy mixture is formed. Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate.

 

Once the blender has been washed, you can move on to the Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade. Add the remaining basil leaves, ¼ cup drained capers, 15-20 sundried tomatoes, the other ½ of chopped or minced garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup water. Blend so that it becomes a cohesive chunky mixture. You may have to stop the blending process and use a wooden spoon to get the top ingredients below for blending. The other option is to add more olive oil or water at your discretion to act as a base for the solid ingredients. After, add ¼ cup of raw pine nuts or almonds and ½ of chopped kalamata olives. Blend until a cohesive chunky mixture has been established. Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate.

 

After a couple of hours remove from the fridge. Season each dip with salt and pepper. Ready to eat with bread and/ or vegetables!

 


Other Pertinent Information

Each dip will respectively form two cups. The Sun-Dried Tapenade will last longer in the refrigerator than the Creamy Almond Pesto Dip. Roberto Martin mentions that the Sun-Dried Tapenade can be “stor[ed] in the refrigerator in a glass container with tight fitting lid for up to 2 weeks”.

 

 


My Challenge with the Recipes

 

The greatest challenge that I had not anticipated was blending the ingredients for the Sun-Dried Tapenade. The seemingly simple recipe became a 15 minute wooden spoon hindrance. I added the sundried tomatoes first with the rest of the dry ingredients and added the olive oil and water last. Big mistake. The original recipe suggested 1 cup of chopped kalamata olives, but that only added to the difficulty. A ‘mechanical’ breakdown for my blender was in sight. Although in the end, I successfully made a cohesive chunky mixture.


Closing Remarks

In brief, social gatherings are meant to be entertaining and stress-free. When looking for recipes in a cook book, do not panic, but check to see if there are any sections in the book that are titled Social Events, Party Food etc.  Creamy Almond Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade are two of a vast pool of potentially tasty dips. Do not be afraid to play around with recipes and substitute the ingredients and/ or amount of ingredient needed.

 


“This is my advice to people: Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun” –Julia Child