Fresh Fridays 
December 27, 2013
  Vol. V, No. 26       

The holiday frenzy is still not over! We've been celebrating since Thanksgiving, but we still have to find room in our schedules and stomachs for one more celebration next week.


If you find yourself hosting New Year's festivities next week our friends at FoodMatch have a few ideas to help keep your celebration easy, elegant, and fun:


The holidays are about friends, family, and entertaining. Mediterranean staples like olives, roasted tomatoes, artichokes, and tapenades pair perfectly with all cheeses, meats, nuts, herbs, wine, and beer. For an easy way to provide food at your party, put out a "make your own crostini" bar and let your guests create their own one-bite sensations. A single trip to your grocery store with a stop at the olive bar will provide nearly endless crostini toppings for a fun and visually appealing holiday spread. Grab a few whole-wheat baguettes and pick up a selection of olives, antipasti, nuts, and cheese. 


Consider a variety of textures and flavors for your crostini bar. Here are some Mediterranean-inspired ideas for crostini toppings:

  • Fresh cucumber slices: Look for English cucumbers, which are longer and narrower than "regular" garden cucumbers. They have smaller seeds and thinner, unwaxed skin.
  • Marinated artichoke hearts: Save some money by marinating plain canned artichoke hearts in a simple vinaigrette at home.
  • Olive tapenade: Whole olives are a great addition to any party, but olive spread is easier than whole olives as a crostini topping.  
  • Roasted red peppers: Pick up a jar at the supermarket or make your own by charring peppers in a 500° oven, turning them every 15 minutes until the skins are completely black. Remove from the oven, wrap in a dish towel, brown paper bag, or aluminum foil until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skin, cut and remove the seeds and stems, and cover the cut peppers in extra-virgin olive oil. Store in a clean container with a tight fitting lid for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: Buy a jar of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for an easy instant topping. Or blend them with white beans or chickpeas, garlic, fresh herbs of your choice, and a little bit of olive oil (from the jar) in the food processor to make a spread.
  • Sautéed mushrooms: Use a mixture of wild mushrooms, sauté them with some olive oil and garlic, salt, and pepper, then stir in some chopped fresh parsley or thyme.
  • Caramelized onions: Heat olive oil in a pan on medium-low heat and add sliced onions. Stir only occasionally, and be patient. Getting a good deep brown color may take 45 minutes or more. Add a little salt to taste after 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.  
  • Feta cheese: The saltiness of feta pairs wonderfully with the earthiness of spinach. Serve a simple feta spread or crumble it into some warm wilted spinach.
  • Ricotta cheese: Because of its mild flavor and soft consistency, ricotta can easily be blended with garlic, shallots, fresh herbs, spices, or other seasonings for ramped up flavor. It is also delicious plain.  
  • Hummus: Hummus works great as a topping on its own or as a layer below fresh or marinated vegetables. Make or buy a batch of plain hummus, or experiment with different flavors and seasonings like chipotle, Cajun, or peach-ginger.
  • White bean puree: Bean dips and spreads are in the same family as hummus, but different combinations of ingredients will yield different textures and flavors. Experiment with different types of beans, herbs, and spices.
  • Pesto: Pesto can be made with basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula, or a combination of any or all of them. Pine nuts are traditionally used, but can be replaced by walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or any other kind of nut.  
  • Anchovies or sardines: Like sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and sardines pack great flavor on their own or make great additions to spreads and dips. Anchovies especially lend themselves to being used in other dishes because they virtually melt when cooked.
  • Eggs: Keep it simple by setting out sliced hard-boiled eggs or mix up an egg salad with fresh herbs, mustard, and Greek yogurt.

We wish you a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!  

Recipes in this Issue
Feta Cheese Spread
White Bean Purée
Olive Crostini
Peanut Basil Pesto
Medjool Date Pecan Chocolate Truffles

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Feta makes an excellent topping for crostini or crackers. It also adds tang and saltiness to green salads and whole-grain side dishes. 

An Oldways recipe

Bean purées can be made to different consistencies depending on their end use. They can be spread on toast or become the base of creamy soups.

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer
Tray set with seven olive crostini set on a window sill. Olive Crostini          

This recipe maintains the richness and briny flavor of the olives while transforming them into a convenient spread.     

Recipe courtesy of Jeanette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer  

Pesto always looks elegant and tastes complex despite being super simple to make. Use leftover pesto on linguine with a few grilled shrimp.

Recipe courtesy of The Peanut Institute

Serve these simple but luscious date truffles at the end of the party for an elegant and satisfying one-bite (or maybe two) dessert.  

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bard Valley Natural Delights 
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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If you feel inspired to delve into the world of homemade toppings for a crostini party in the future, try Paul Virant and Kate Leahy's The Preservation Kitchen to discover recipes for jams, relishes, sweet and savory conserves, and even cured meats.

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