The Perfect Match: Spring Petite Pea Tapenade with Grilled Haloumi

Nothing says spring like beautiful petite peas.
oetite spring peas
petite spring peas
I snap them up whenever I see them fresh in the stores and always have a bag of them in my freezer. And as luck would have it, I came across some nice looking Haloumi too. If you’re not familiar with this firm cheese (sometimes spelled Hallumi), I’d have to describe it as a cross between a mozzarella (in texture) and a feta (in salty tang). Classically served grilled, haloumi is one of the few cheeses I know of that will hold up over heat. It softens slightly, and gets all bubbly around the edges- yum!  Its origin is in Cyprus, but you can get locally-made haloumi fairly easily nowadays. I’ll be honest though; it’s not always cheap to buy-  usually upwards of $10-12 a wedge (gulp!) in the fancier markets for the imported brands. But I found one at Trader Joe’s for less than half the price. Heck, you can even make it at home (I’m totally going to try Martyna/The Wholesome Cook’s recipe one day soon). So with petite peas and haloumi in my basket, I decided to make one of my favorite dishes. This Spring Petite Pea Tapenade with Grilled Haloumi makes a delicious light lunch or dinner. You could also cut the haloumi into bite-size pieces before grilling and turn this into a stellar party appetizer. The bright, clean flavors of the peas, mint, chives, lemon zest and lemon-infused olive oil against the saltiness of the cheese, is indeed, a Perfect Match. Both the tapenade and cheese only take a few minutes each to prepare, so this can be whipped up in no time!
petite peas, mint, chives, lemon oil, haloumihaloumi
I like the tapenade to have texture to it, but you can absolutely purée it until completely smooth.  The edamame in this spread adds some extra protein too. When you’re grilling the haloumi, be sure to cook over medium-low heat with no oil and watch it closely. It will brown quickly (like mine did– a tad too much perhaps?), so keep an eye on it. I used a cast iron pan (as it was raining so didn’t want to fire up the grill) and it worked just fine.

spring petite pea tapinade
grilled haloumi
spring petite pea tapinade with grilled haloumi

Spring Petite Pea Tapenade with Grilled Haloumi
printable version

Spring Petite Pea Tapenade
(yields 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup spring petite peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup edamame, cooked and shelled
3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
fresh chives, 1/4 of a small bunch
2 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil (I like the Limonato from Olive Press )
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
pinch of Citrus Salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor. Pulse until course texture is achieved, or continue to pulse if a smooth consistency is desired. If mixture is too dry, add plain extra virgin olive oil to loosen it up  If you’re using frozen peas, the mixture will be more dry as compared to using fresh peas.

Grilled Haloumi
(yields 2 servings)

1 Haloumi wedge, cut horizontally into four pieces
pinch of pepper, to taste

Heat a grill (or cast iron pan) to medium-low heat, no oil. Season cheese and grill until crust forms and cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm with Petite Pea Tapenade and seasonal vegetables (pictured with steamed baby bok choy). Here’s another great haloumi recipe to try – Haloumi & Watermelon Balsamic Bites.
petite pea tapinade with grilled haloumi
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The Perfect Match: Rhubarb & Thyme

My, oh my, this is good one! The combination of rhubarb and thyme in this tart is sooo good. It’s a pairing that I know seems a bit odd.  I wasn’t all that sure myself- rhubarb & thyme? But trust me, once you bake this and then dig into it, you’ll understand. It totally works.

The young rhubarb (which was freshly picked from my garden) is tangy & tart. When roasted, like in this recipe, it becomes even more fragrant and more intense with that unique “rhubarb-y” flavor. The lemony and earthy notes of the English Thyme add a nice depth to both the crust and final topping. The zing of the Granny Smith apple I used keeps with the tart theme (ha! see what I did there) but lends just enough sweetness to tie it all together. Viola! Heaven on a plate. Or well, getting pretty darn close. There are a few steps to making this, but none of them are hard. The end result is worth it!

Roasted Rhubarb, Apple & Thyme Tart

For the crust (Pâte Brisée):
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced into small pieces
1 large egg
4-6 tablespoons of ice water
9.5 inch tart pan with removable bottom

Add flour, sugar, thyme, and salt to medium size bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Work quickly to keep the butter chilled. Add the egg and enough water to bring it to a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured board only long enough to bring it together to form a round. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, even better, overnight. After chilling, allow 5-7 minutes to come back to room temperature before working with it.

Roll out on a floured board to approximately 11-inch round. Fit into a 9.5 inch removable bottom tart pan. Carefully push the dough into all edges of the pan. To trim top, slide the rolling pin over the entire top of pan. This will quickly and neatly remove the excess dough, leaving you with a nice clean edge. Chill in fridge until ready to assemble tart. Or you can pre-bake the tart blind for about 8-10 minutes at 350F to reduce the overall cooking time.

For the roasted rhubarb / fruit prep:
10-15 stalks rhubarb, cut into small dice. Enough to yield 1-1/2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 granny smith apple, cut into small dice

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a standard baking sheet with foil. Trim leaves from rhubarb and discard. Wash stalks well, then cut into small dice. Place on baking sheet and add sugar. Gently mix sugar throughout the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until just tender (al dente). Allow to cool before adding to tart. Cut apple into small dice. Keep chilled until ready to assemble tart.

1/2 diced pieces to roast

1/2 inch diced pieces of rhubarb

For the custard filling:
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk

Whisk all the ingredients in a medium size bowl until custard has become light and frothy.

To Assemble & bake tart:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard baking sheet with foil. Add the roasted rhubarb and apples to the chilled dough in tart pan. Slowly pour the custard filling over all of the fruit, approximately 1 cup. You may not need all of it, so keep an eye on the fill-level of the tart as you go- don’t overfill. Place on baking sheet and carefully move to middle rack of preheated oven. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean from middle of tart. Depending on oven calibrations, you may need to bake a little longer. If so, cover tart with foil when it starts to brown and keep a close eye on it. Allow to cool before removing from tart pan. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and confectioner’s sugar (optional).

DSC_0072-3Makes a wonderful individual tart too!

The Perfect Match: Ginger Beer & Tawny Port

DSC_0560-EditWell, it’s been far too long of a hiatus for this gal. Both September and October were complete blurs from two very busy months at the winery (harvest),  moving houses, and just stumbling through a crazy life in general. But I’m back now and with bells on! And since it’s that time of year, what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a cocktail. Time for a Tawny Ginger Fizz! These two drink ingredients are not what most people would consider staples in a liquor cabinet, however, once you get your hands on them….and then make this drink…’ll be hooked.
DSC_0647-1Ginger Beer is not always a “beer” or alcoholic. In fact, most of the ginger beers sold on the US market are carbonated, sweetened beverages without alcohol. However, there are some smaller artisan brewers making a traditional alcoholic version —but those are not recommended for this drink. I’m using Bundaberg Ginger Beer (my favorite) from Queensland, Australia which is a brewed, non-alcoholic carbonated beverage primarily made with ginger and sweetened with sugar. The wonderfully pungent ginger flavor is the perfect mate to the nutty, raisin, and caramel notes in the Tawny. I used a California Tawny Port, but if you’d like to splurge on a Portuguese brand, all the better. But please do not substitute a Ruby or Vintage port for this drink, take the time to find a Tawny and you’ll be glad you did.

Tawny Ginger Fizz
Ideal during the winter months to warm up with, but this cocktail is also very refreshing in the summer months if you add a few sprigs of mint. Recipe makes 1 drink.

2 ounces Tawny Port (I like the one from Geyser Peak Winery)
1/2 jigger of fresh lime juice
1/2 bottle (6 ounces) Bundaberg Ginger Beer
lime for garnish

Pour Tawny Port and lime juice in a rocks glass with 2-3 ice cubes. Stir gently. Top off with Ginger Beer and serve with a lime garnish.