I come from a large family of Greek and Italian lineage, so when I get the opportunity to visit the farmer's market for local produce and such I end up being more inspired to make the food I grew up eating, which was largely based on fresh vegetables, salads, and good artisan breads and cheeses with olives and olive oil. It's nothing for me to base an entire meal around olives or one simple item such as lemon - and that was part of what happened earlier. The starring ingredients were olive oil and basil. I opened a bottle of merlot as soon as I got home from the market and started to unpack my wares. While having my wine and going over the inventory of what I'd brought home, I decided to make use of the fresh basil and Ligurian extra virgin olive oil I'd picked up. I made a type of bruschetta topping that I call Red & Blue and some Greek peppers to go along with the Genoese pesto I made for the main pasta course. It never feels fully like spring to me until I've made my first seasonal batch of pesto. A loaf of day old Italian bread (I prefer it a day or so old so it develops a better crust and more dense texture) and more wine, and dinner was only a matter of assembly!
One of the best things about Red & Blue is that it is also a nice salad dressing when tossed up in a mix of your favorite greens with a good dose of your favorite vinegar. Lately I'm favoring a 10 year old balsamic condiment and a very nice sherry vinegar I got at the market. Champagne and/or red wine vinegars are the best to use for this. To use as a salad dressing, pour a bit of the oil from the Red & Blue into the salad bowl and whisk together with the vinegar. I go 3 to 1 here - say 3 tablespoons oil to one of vinegar. Throw in a few spoonfuls of the Red & Blue, and compose the salad greens and vegetables on top of it, then put the whole thing back into your refrigerator. It keeps crisp and cool, and when you're ready to plate everything up, simply toss it from the bottom of the bowl to dress your salad and you're done.Red & Blue
Use this like a bread dipper, or use it as a salad dressing with a little balsamic or red wine vinegar. It can be used as a bruschetta topping if you like. We just slather spoonfuls of it on crusty Italian or French bread and eat it like that, but we're white trash that way. I warn you now, this stuff is HIGHLY addictive - and intensely delicious.
In a medium sized bowl, combine: 1 cup of chopped sundried tomatoes*
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic - peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of oregano leaves, thyme leaves, & crushed rosemary - more or less, to taste
a few grindings of black pepper and some sea salt to taste.
Allow this mixture to marinate at room temperature for an hour. Add some crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese and stir gently to combine. You may wish to add more olive oil, it is entirely a matter of preference. We add a generous bit, but that's because it's great to dip chunks of rustic bread in.
Sometimes I tear up a few fresh basil leaves and throw in the mix instead of oregano, so try that and see how it works. Oh yeah - I add crushed red pepper flakes (preferrably Turkish Marash pepper flakes), but then in my home we add them to everything anyway so that is also entirely up to you. * Sundried tomatoes are sold either dried or oil packed. The ones I use are the julienne cut ones that are dried in my food dehydrator. To rehydrate them, put them in a heat proof bowl and cover with an equal amount of boiling water, allow to rest for 5 minutes. Drain and press against the sides of a colander to extract as much water as you can, or press between several layers of paper towels.Greek Peppers
Cut 2 red bell peppers lengthwise into thirds, carefuly removing seeds and membranes. Place on a baking sheet skin-side up and flatten out with the palm of your hand. Brush or drizzle with a bit of olive oil and roast at 500°F until their skins become charred and slightly wrinkled. Upon removing from the oven immediately place them into a sealed bowl or plastic bag. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off with your fingers and discard the skins - don't rinse the peppers or you'll rinse away that lovely, delicate smoky flavor from the roasting. Arrange them on a plate and place in the refrigerator to chill. Once the peppers are chilled, dress them with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, crumbled feta cheese, and fresh basil.
Another (more formal) method for serving these is to blend the feta with some softened neufchatel or cream cheese, a bit of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Divide this mixture into as many portions as you have roasted pepper sections and shape it into a log. Mold the pepper over the cheese log and form it into a jalapeno pepper shape, lay it in the center of a salad plate and at the thicker end tuck in a stem of fresh basil - drizzle with olive oil and serve with crostini toasts.