Monday, October 6, 2008

Fig in mud - two tapenade recipes worth sharing

I promised in my last (and first) blog entry to post Rosemary's fig and olive tapenade recipe when I got it and ... sweet Rosemary sent it almost as fast as I requested it. (I hope you don't mind I am sharing, Rosemary?) I reciprocated with my own fig-walnut tapenade recipe, for which I received the honors of first-place winner of the coveted Hannaford HR/Retail Operations tailgating cook-off last fall around this time. So, I thought I would share them both here, because God knows I am a pig in mud when it comes to figs ... especially when they meet olives! And this is the perfect time of year to enjoy figs!

Rosemary's Lemon, Figs and Olives
I start by having a pound of dried figs, 2 lemons at room temp and a pound of pitted Kalamata Olives.
Soak the Figs in just enough boiling water as to cover.
Let sit for 1/2 hour - pour of the water save you might need it.
Throw them into a "quezy" (aka food processor - no blender usage here).
Zest your lemons and squeeze in the juice of one lemon, now start by putting the olives in 1/3 at a time - are you needing sweeter or saltier right now- salty add more olives and some lemon zest -taste again.
If dry add a bit of the fig water. It's really a matter of taste and what the figs and the olives are doing together - I will say that I have never used more then what I have listed.
It makes a good amount and holds for about a month. Have some fun with it see how it works for you.
I use the left over juice usually in something I'm making at the same time, bread dough,. muffins, salad dressing - drink it, I just hate throwing it out. Oh, and served with a bit of feta ... yummy! (Quoting Rosemary ... don't you just love her?)

Fig and walnut tapenade with goat cheese
From: Bon Appetit magazine, October, 2001
Serves 20 as an appetizer

1 c chopped stemmed dried Calamyrna figs
1/3 c water
1/3 c chopped pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp drained capers, chopped
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 5.5 oz logs soft fresh goat cheese, each cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 c toasted walnut halves
Fresh thyme sprigs
Assorted breads and/or crackers

Combine chopped figs and 1/3 c water in heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates and figs are soft, about 7 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Mix in olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, capers and chopped thyme. Season tapenade to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Arrange overlapping cheese rounds in circle in around edges of medium platter. Stir chopped walnuts inot tapenade; spoon into center of cheese circle. Garnish with walnut halves and thyme sprigs, if desired. Serve with breads and/or crackers.

Other suggestions:
This recipe would also be good with toasted pine nute in place of walnuts. If there's any leftover tapenade, serve it with chicken, pork or lamb.

Stealth reflections in the pond

Panther Pond, to be exact. It only seems appropriate that my very first blog entry (ever!) be born of the inspiration from this year's gift to myself - my selfish self. That gift was a three-day retreat in Raymond, Maine with roughly 40 other women. Lael Jepson created the amazing surroundings and gathering of gifted women - and what an inspirational brainchild she is, to have pulled off such a phenomenal success.

My husband, Casey, and I decided early in the year that we would each take vacations of our own whims this year. His was a baseball marathon in Baltimore in May with my in-laws. Mine was Homecoming, surrounded by strong, beautiful women, motivational workshops, crisp firey autumnal sights and smells, and heart-warming, home-cooked meals. And my intention of this gift was to pause before the long, cold winter months and reflect on my inner core - my motivation, my talents, my gifts and my room(s) to grow.

I'm not a big journal keeper, but I like to bring one with me whenever there is a chance of down time. And there was just the right mix of solitude in the warm sun amid flaming foliage and crisp autumn air to journal.

I titled this blog entry "stealth" reflections, because that's what I want to share here today - my personal, too-often subterranean observations and reflections on the experiences, stimulus and learnings of such important pauses. I am one who values experiential learning above almost all else - but perhaps most poignant to me this weekend was the powerful learning that occurs in the pauses between the experiences.

Now, for my stealth reflections on the retreat on Panther Pond:
  • For me, being a woman surrounded by other women often starts with an initial aloof catwalk around the circle, sniffing to see who is safe. I think that's how a lot of woman are. This weekend, the cat walk lasted about 10 minutes and then I was all in, being who I am at the core without regard for what others would think.
  • The kind of woman leader that I want to be is one who can create the kind of space that Lael did this weekend - one that invites and allows people to be forthright, open and downright brilliant in sharing their gifts and talents for the betterment of all around them.
  • In writing this blog, I was concerned about the "non-strategic" tactic this poses to who I am as a professional - to go subterranean in a public way. What pushed me over the edge was to realize that this is the whole point. What is life if we are not living and being our truest selves, publicly, everyday (with grace and respect for our emotional wake)? That is leadership, honesty and the meaning of life, in my opinion.
  • Pull together a small group of women, and the collective memories of songs from all decades of life can keep a fire circle singing at the top of their lungs for hours - no matter how cold.
  • Chubby bunny ... enough said.
  • Fig-olive tapenade - made even more special by the fact that I had to email Rosemary (the chef) personally to request the recipe, despite all other recipes being available for everyone to scribe for the keeping. (I've emailed her and am crossing my fingers that she's still game for sharing! I'll post it if and when she does!)
  • Journey Dance with Traca and the beautiful freedom of "ugly dancing" without mirrors.
  • When given the choice, I prefer to be clean and manicured, even if I have no reason to be (as could be the case in this kind of camp scenario). I feel my best when I am put together on the outside and its not because I'm trying to impress anyone else. It just makes me feel good. It was liberating to realize this!
  • Learning is my soul's purpose - and that I deeply believe that learning only happens through stimulus and exchanges with other people.
  • Quotes by other women. Lael had laminated a bunch of moving quotes by powerful women and they were hung all over the camp - and then she invited us to take some home. I took a few and then was inspired to search for more.

Here are a few quotes I'm drawn to right now:

"[To simplify] is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without ... and yet preserve the spirit of the whole." - Willa Cather

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone." -Coco Chanel

And on those notes, I'll say goodbye for now.