Fig + Olive Pâté with Seedy Snack Crackers

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Like most people, I tend to fall into the same routine when it comes to my daily snacks. My usual is to cycle through variations of dried fruit and nut or seed bars, which I make in batches every couple weeks and then grab and go mid-morning as needed. For later in the day or when I need hefty snacks, I often throw a big bunch of ‘functional foods’ in the blender and make a smoothie bowl that is mostly tasty, but more importantly packs a good nutritional punch to make sure I’m getting in what I need during training cycles.

The Recipe Redux challenged us to share healthy bites and bars this month and it ended up being the perfect incentive to put a new spin on my snacking go-tos, as well as finally experiment with a flavor and ingredient combination I’ve had in the back of my mind for months. The result is this absolutely delicious pâté.  It wasn’t exactly what I was after when I began, but that’s the beauty of the creative process. Sometimes getting out of our own way and letting the result happen leads to something even better than we’d imagined.

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Beyond the flavor, I’m really excited about the ingredients I’ve used here, how they work together, and the sprinkles of good nutrition they’ve got going on. Part of this is because I’ve added anchovies, and here’s why:

For almost a decade, my doctor has had me taking daily fish or cod liver oil for its high omega-3 content. Now that I’ve gone to nutrition school and read the research, I find there’s evidence that suggests taking fish oil supplements or eating fatty fish can help just about any illness condition or improve general health. The reason is because in our modern society we simply don’t get enough of the type of essential fatty acids called omega-3s–or more accurately, we eat too many of the other types, including the also essential omega-6s as well as saturated and trans fatty acids.

But on my journey towards nutrition school over the years, I started out with environmental sustainability in mind and our oceans’ health has long been one of my concerns. I’ve experimented a lot and continue to eat all the vegan sources of omega 3’s, but they involve a more complicated metabolic conversion and thus (for me as well as many others) are less hefty in their benefits. This has led me right back to taking my fish oil supplements even as I’ve questioned whether they’re contaminated with heavy metals, been oxidized during processing, or are simply unsustainable given the current state of global fisheries. This is definitely the case of the more you know the more complicated the scenario…

Over the winter months, I finally read The Omega Principle, which was less about the nutritional benefits of consuming fatty fish and more about every other aspect of the sustainability in doing so. If this is a topic you too are interested in, I highly suggest reading it.

Beyond all my chatter about the above, anchovies are one of the most nutritious and sustainable fishes we can eat. There is a subtle but definite umami thread to this pâté due to a small amount of anchovy paste, as well as a good base of hemp seeds which provide a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids from plant sources. Pureed together with sweet figs, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of thyme and rosemary, and you’ll be wanting to snack on this sort of easy but fancy tasting treat all the time. I know I will!

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Fig + Olive Pâté, makes 4 small or 8 more substantial servings
Recipes notes: In my quest to make a savory snack bar, I added some cooked millet to thicken the mixture. The result was this thick pâté and not a bar at all. Beyond millet, you can add another leftover cooked grain like rice or quinoa, or leave it out if you don’t mind a looser more tapenade-like consistency. 

1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted
3/4 cup dried figs, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs. anchovy paste
6 Tbs. hemp seeds
1 1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fresh or dried thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/3 cup cooked millet (optional, see notes)

  • In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients and puree until they come to a thick paste that is almost but not completely homogenous.
  • Serve with crackers or sliced vegetables.

 

Seedy Snack Crackers, makes about 12 crackers
If you’re going to eat crackers, skip the boxed versions and make these instead. They are super simple, highly adaptable, and free from questionable oils. Plus they’ve passed the flavor test–they’re quite popular and quickly gobbled at parties! Double or quadruple the batch if you’re likely to share with others or snack on for several days.

2 Tbs. sesame seeds
2 Tbs. walnuts, chopped
2 Tbs. hemp seeds
4 tsp. ground flax seeds
1/4 cup amaranth flour (or other whole grain flour)
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. honey
1/3 cup water

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and combine until you’ve got a loose batter. Add more water if it’s not loose enough.
  • Line a small baking sheet with parchment, and then spread the seed mixture as thinly as possible.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently cut into 12 pieces without separating them. Return to the oven and bake for 30 additional minutes or longer until they are crunchy and completely dry. They should no longer have a supple doughy feel to them.
  • Remove from the oven, cool completely, and then break into pieces.

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Cheesy Italian Charcuterie Sandwich

There’s this little Italian shop in Corvallis that W and I love so much.  Most people go there for the lovely Italian sandwiches.  We mostly go there for the meats, cheese, and wine.  The gentleman-owner seems to slice his cuts thinner and nicer than any other place in town.  And he knows his stuff too.  And the place just makes me want to step on over to Italy. Right now.

Now that I only get to Corvallis a couple times a month, it seems important somehow to try to stop by when I’m in town.  Though we’ve tried a variety of meats, we tend to always go back for the same ones.  A recent jaunt led us to this amazing creation.  One that though completely unplanned until the instant those ingredients were smacked on the bread, will go down as one of the best.

Though something about the bread may have added to the intrigue.  I was supposed to post about the December Daring Bakers Challenge last month.  But a month of traveling and work and planning for other life changes led me to be a bit behind on the sourdough challenge.  So when I finally did get around to it, I made a Rice, Flax, and Brazil Nut recipe that just didn’t have enough activity for me.  (Wild yeasty sourdough activity, that is).  And while I’d like to say it was the obscure ingredients, this time I think it might be that that particular cookbook just doesn’t work for me.  I own a copy and have tried multiple recipes with and without various sourdough starters.  I’ve never met with success.  And so when I saw the challenge recipe source, I really did groan as I just knew I was doomed for failure.  As such, the bread never did rise, really.  But it sure tasted good.  Not like the brick it looked like.  But real flavor that was a real match for the lovely ingredients that topped it off.  So while I won’t recommend you try this particular bread recipe, do have a go at the ingredients on top, with or without a sourdough bread.

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sourdough bread in, from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

Cheesy Italian Charcuterie Sandwich
good quality bread
3-4 thin slices good quality salami
3-4 thin slices good quality pepperone
1-2 thin slices medium or sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 thin slices good quality mozzarella cheese
4-5 kalamata olives, sliced
1-2 brown muchrooms, sliced
Sliced yellow bell pepper
handful fresh spinach leaves
 
  • Turn oven to broil.
  • Toast bread until slightly dry.
  • Layer on meats, mushrooms, pepper, olives and cheeses.  Pile spinach on top.
  • Place in the oven on broil for 2-3 minutes.  You want the cheese to sizzle and pop and the spinach leaves to start to charcoal.
  • Take out of the oven and enjoy!