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If you follow my blog, you could know I cooked a 50th birthday dinner for my next-door neighbor Mike a couple of weeks ago.

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 Maybe you made the Blueberry-Strawberry Pie I made him in lieu of cake; Mike is a pie-boy!

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The menu shows the, in this case, second-course salad was Salade Tapenade or Tapenade Salad with Hot Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Crostini, which is one of the favorite salads from my book, SOUPS & SIDES FOR EVERY SEASON.  It’s an odd thing, but often true in my kitchen:  I dream things up and later find I wasn’t the first to do it! (Duh.) Nothing new under the sun. This is fine; I still feel creative.  When working on the book, I never googled “Salade Tapenade,” but having just done it now, I find there are a few–mostly in French since tapenade is a very French food.  Here’s one you might like to look at from ELLE Á TABLE.  Even without much French, you can perhaps decipher the recipe, which in this case uses potatoes (Pommes de terre) and tomatoes with the tapenade.  Sounds good, but it’s nothing like my platter of simple, quick summer love. If you’ve a plethora of cherry tomatoes–and they’re so easy to grow in pots on the patio–this is your day.  Truthfully, this salad is lovely year-round as our Fed-Ex cherry tomatoes seem to arrive on schedule at the grocery January – December.  If you’d like more info and an enjoyable post on French Tapenade, read veteran food writer David Lebovitz’ take on the subject.  (Below:  Mike and wife Sara)

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Do try this:

Tapenade Salad with Hot Tomatoes and Goat-Cheese Crostini

Salade Tapenade                                                      8 servings

A visually stunning salad with big, bright flavors; this could be served on its own, but will definitely round out the meal when you’re serving a light or blended vegetable soup. If you have a platter big enough, you can pile the tapenade at the center, surround it with the crostini, then arrange the greens around them and top with hot, spicy tomatoes. Or add the crostini around the perimeter as in my photo above.  Naturally, loading up the tapenade on top of the cheese toast is the best part, though it’s not necessary.  Read through the recipe; this is simpler than it looks.  Make the tapenade and crostini first as the salad itself doesn’t take long to make and arrange.

For a vegan version, simply leave off the goat cheese and broil or grill oil-drizzled, salted and peppered baguette on its own. Alternately, make garlic bread.

Salad:

12 cups chopped greens of choice (I like Romaine)

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper

Juice of 2 lemons

6 tablespoons your best quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup tapenade (recipe below or purchase)

Crushed red pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes

  1. Place salad greens in a large bowl or on a large platter. Drizzle with a little lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate while you cook the tomatoes and make the dressing. (You may refrigerate first and then drizzle with lemon if you prefer or you can also leave everything at room temperature if you are not terribly addicted to the crisp greens idea, which I am not–at least not always.)

2. In a small bowl, whisk together until well-combined 4 tablespoons olive oil, 4 tablespoons lemon juice and a pinch each kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with a pinch of crushed red pepper in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add tomatoes. Salt and pepper lightly. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are hot and beginning to burst.

4. Remove greens from refrigerator. Place tapenade at center of salad. Spoon the hot tomatoes over the surrounding circle of greens. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately with goat-cheese crostini.

Tapenade:

2 cups pitted Kalamata olives or a mixture of green and Kalamata olives

1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1  teaspoon fresh rosemary, thyme or basil, minced, optional

2  anchovies

1 tablespoon capers, drained, chopped

1 large garlic clove, sliced

Crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or substitute lemon juice and white wine vinegar)

6 tablespoons your best quality extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper, optional

Mince olives, parsley, rosemary, anchovies, capers and garlic. Stir together with crushed red pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix well, taste, and season with salt and pepper, if needed. (You might need no salt at all as the olives are quite salty.) Or place all ingredients except salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse carefully until a finely chopped paste forms–you don’t want this puréed. (Still quite edible if the food processor has its way and you have puréed tapenade!)   Makes 2 cups.

Goat Cheese Crostini:

Place slices of baguette–perhaps two for each serving– on a large, rimmed baking sheet, top with 1/4-inch-thick round of goat cheese. (8-10 ounces goat cheese in all.) Broil 4 inches from heat until golden brown and crispy, 2-4 minutes. (You could grill this if you prefer.)

WINE:  It’s summer, friends; break out the rosé. Most any one will do as long as it’s not sweet. A French one-available in most wine shops- would be apropos and inexpensive.

Sing a new song, as Dave and I did after visiting the (outdoor) Santa Fe Opera last weekend:

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Alyce