For the past few weeks, I've been trying to bake some kind of bread each weekend. Bread making is one of those pursuits where it's pretty easy to get down the basics, but a lifelong challenge to get to anything approaching perfection. I'm certainly still in low-novice mode, but even half-decent bread is rewarding, and can be made for a fraction of the price of commercial bread, especially the good stuff. This weekend I made simple baguettes, loosely in the French or Italian "peasant bread" style you see at good bakeries.
With a couple loaves of good bread on hand, I decided to make a few Mediterranean style bread spreads - pesto, a bean puree, and a tapenade with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. The unifying element in all three is a bulb of roasted garlic that I had in the oven along with the bread. Roasted garlic is one of my very favorite ingredients, and no matter how much I make I find all kinds of places to use it. It's great everywhere.
Going from left to right in the photo, first is a simple parsley pesto. This is a standard basil pesto recipe, with parsley because it's so much cheaper than fresh basil, at least until farmer's market season comes along and my little garden starts producing. I used half a bunch of parsley, a quarter cup of pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and a few cloves of roasted garlic.
Center is another simple and delicious combination - great northern beans whipped to a puree with more olive oil, roasted garlic, and a little salt.
At right is a rich and tangy tapenade, with a half dozen sun-dried tomatoes, a few pieces of roasted red pepper, green olives, a tbsp. of capers, and more olive oil and roasted garlic. All of this would be great party food, with bowls of spreads served with lots of sliced and toasted bread. It's all easy to prepare, and though the pesto tends to lose it's bright green color fairly quickly, all keep in the fridge for days of great snacking.
If you want to eat more purple food - and who doesn't? - this is a good place to start. I bought some shiso leaves (also known as perilla) at Fargo's Asian & American Market last week, just because I've never tried them. They have beautiful green and purple color, but I didn't really know where to use them. As with lots of fresh herbs, they're pretty versatile, and I sprinkled a few on top of this stir-fry. Pomegranate juice is the heart of a sweet and sour glaze for stir-fried tofu, edamame, and carrots. The glaze is very simple, with pomegranate, brown sugar, and a little corn starch and tamari, added at the end of stir-frying the veggies and tofu. The shiso leaves tasted lovely on top. Wikipedia compares them to fennel, mint, or basil, which is about right...sort of a cocktail of those flavors. Sounds good to me :)