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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Big Bean, Little Bean

One of my most favorite legumes is fava beans (a.k.a broad beans), and I just can’t get enough of these guys. Sautéed with garlic & olive oil or whizzed up into a hummus, they’re super tasty anyway you cook them. I happened to find some first-crops this past weekend, so this meant I could try my hand at a dish I had recently enjoyed at a new restaurant. The favas I picked up were not necessarily stunners on the outside, but on the inside– pristine, firm beans and good size for their pods. I’m growing favas in my garden this year (so excited!) which have sprouted to about 8 inches tall already. It will be a long while yet before they mature, but these local favas will tide me over just fine.
edamame & fava beans

Another favorite is edamame or soybeans. These little beans are packed with protein and are such a great snack to munch on. Throw on a little Citrus Salt, and there you go. Quick food that’s good for you. So when the menu featured a dish with both of these beans together, along with crispy pancetta tossed with a hint of lemon zest….well, no-brainer there. And it was amazing. The simplest of ingredients cooked to perfection…in pancetta drippings no less–TDF! This combination of flavors is satisfying and very moreish. Not going to lie, there may have been some finger-dipping into the bottom of the bowl going on before the bread arrived…..sshh, don’t tell anyone ;>). Here’s my attempt to recreate the recipe so you all can enjoy these bosom bean buddies any time the mood strikes.

fava beans and edamame
You can buy frozen fava beans, but when you can get fresh–there’s nothing like it. For those who have not cooked fresh favas before, there’s a little work involved to reach the prized creamy bean inside. None of the steps are hard, and the effort is well worth it. First, you’ll need to remove the large bean from the outer pod. Simply run your thumb down the length of the pod to spread it open. The beans can be pushed out with your fingers. Then put the beans into a large pot of boiling & salted water for about 30-45 seconds, or until all the beans have floated to the top. Drain the beans under cold water and allow to cool slightly before handling them. To remove the bean’s outer skin, simply pinch open the top of the outer layer and then squeeze the soft bean out with your thumb & fingers. It should just pop right out.

Edamame, Fava Bean & Crispy Pancetta Side
yields 2 servings | printable version

1/2 pound pancetta, thick cut piece
1/2 cup cooked & shelled edamame beans
1/2 cup cooked & shelled fava beans
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1-2 tablespoons lemon-infused olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Start by dicing the pancetta into small pieces. Cook in a medium-size pan on low-medium heat to slowly render as much fat as possible, and so as not to burn the pancetta. Once they are golden and crispy, remove the pancetta pieces and set aside on a paper towel. Keep all the drippings in the pan and move to low heat. Shell the fava beans from the pod, boil in salted water, and shell again to get the inner bean. Add them to a bowl and mash with a fork until fairly smooth in texture. A potato masher works great here. Add in a few drops of lemon olive oil to keep the mash moist. Salt & pepper to taste. Add the fava bean mash back to the heated pan and warm through in the pancetta drippings. Next, add in the edamame beans, crispy pancetta, lemon zest and remaining lemon olive oil. The final mixture should be well-coated and not dry. Add more plain extra-virgin olive oil if you need to. Adjust salt & pepper to taste. Serve warm with a piece of crunchy bread to soak up all the deliciousness at the bottom of the bowl.
edamame & fava beans

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Wild Mushroom Pâté

If you’re looking for a fool-proof appetizer–and you love mushrooms, then this is your lucky day. Caution: this dish may result in your friends hovering over the plate in a mad feeding frenzy–glasses of Pinot recklessly colliding without regret–as they devour every last morsel! It has been known to happen- I’m just saying. Seriously though, this earthy, rich and decadent Wild Mushroom Pâté is loaded with fresh button mushrooms, an assortment of dried fungi including chanterelle, shiitake, porcini, trumpet to name a few, fragrant herbs, maybe a little drop of booze– plus a heathenly dose of creamy mascarpone cheese.  I created this recipe eons ago, and it never fails me. In fact, I made it for an event recently when I was at the winery. The caterer working with us loved it so much, he asked if he could add it to his own arsenal of go-to spreads. And so, it is with great pleasure, that I share this party-favorite recipe with you all as well!
My inspiration to make this dish came from a happenstance-find of the Pistol River brand of dried mushrooms in my local market. A foodie friend of mine who keeps up on such things as *the best* dried mushrooms recommended them to me. Pistol River Mushroom Farm is based in the quaint town of Gold Beach, Oregon (very near to where my family lives actually- hi everyone!), so I just had to try them. Plus I love supporting the small artisan farmers who focus on just one thing, and do it oh-so well. They’re a family-operated business along Oregon’s southern coast, and what started out as a small venture back in 1999, has now blossomed (was going to say “mushroomed” but um, well, that would’ve been beyond groan) into a thriving world-wide distribution of over seven varieties, gourmet cooking blends and more. They specialize in farming fresh Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms for part of the year, and then once the fresh season is over, source other dried varieties from parts of the world where each one grows best. The aromas of their dried mushrooms are pungent and deep, which is exactly what you want. Now, onto to this tasty, mushroom-y spread!

Wild Mushroom Pâté
yields two molds- 5-inch x 1 1/2 deep. Serves 4-6 as appetizer | printable version

1/2 ounce dried wild mushroom mix (about half a packet)
1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (ditto above)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 ounces or one punnet of fresh brown button mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry or tawny port
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
sea salt & pepper to taste
fresh chives and thyme for garnish
individual tart pans, long terrine pan or other serving vessel

Combine dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside for 8-10 minutes to allow dried mushrooms to soften and rehydrate.

In a large pan (preferably cast iron), melt butter and olive oil. Add fresh brown buttons and shallots. Sauté until mushrooms and shallots just become translucent and release their liquid. Add in the dried mushrooms and half of their soaking water. Reserve the other half of the soaking water for later. Then add in thyme sprigs, soy sauce, hot sauce, sherry/port and continue cooking on medium-low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 10 minutes.

Allow mushrooms to cool slightly, and then transfer to bowl of food processor. Pulse until mixture is roughly chopped. Add in mascarpone cheese and pulse again until desired texture is achieved. Salt & pepper to taste. I like this pâté to be more of a “country-style” with small bits of mushroom for some texture, but you can process until completely smooth if you prefer. If the mixture is too stiff, add in a tablespoon of the reserved soaking liquid.

Choose desired serving vessel and spray with a non-stick spray or line with plastic wrap. Transfer mixture evenly to vessels; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, overnight is best. To unmold from a tart pan: remove vessel from fridge and put into a hot water bath so that the water reaches 3/4 of the way up the sides of the vessel. Let sit for 3-4 minutes. Place serving tray/plate over pan and flip to release the pâté. Garnish with remaining thyme & finely chopped chives along with crackers or bread of your choice.


Note: this was a bit tricky for me to shoot –haven’t learned yet how to make this type of food shine. But picture-in-training of finished pâté aside, this is really quite tasty. Do hope you try it. With a stellar glass of Pinot of course! ;>)

As always, I like to showcase the lesser-known purveyors when I can, and especially those who produce such great food/ingredients. No sponsorship was provided for this post. 

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