There’s a rather sizable Basque population in and around my town, so there are several businesses and restaurants here where the rest of us can vicariously share their vibrant, colorful culture.
My friend G and I participated last week in a Paella class at one of the Basque restaurants downtown. We learned a bit about the history and variations of this storied traditional dish, tasted a couple of lovely red wines, helped the cooks add ingredients to the enormous pan (called a Paellera, and measuring about 3 feet across), and of course ate our share of it when it was done. We both had so much fun, and are now on the scout for other local cooking classes we can take.
G says she might try making Paella at home one of these first days (it’s a bit involved for me), and when she does, I plan to bring appetizers to the party. The class included a recipe for olive tapenade that the restaurant owner made on the spot for us, and I tracked down a recipe for a butternut squash spread they also served that I thought was To Die For. And I hate squash!
2 cans anchovy-stuffed green olives, liquid drained
4 Tbs roughly chopped parsley
6-8 cloves garlic
1 tsp (or more, to taste) red pepper flakes
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
In a food processor or blender, pulse olives, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes and vinegar until completely chopped but not mush, adding olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor is running. The mixture should come together and become a spread.
Serve on baguette slices, crostini, crackers, or on sandwiches.
NOTE: I made this a couple of days ago and neglected to drain the olives first because the original recipe did not say to do so and because I was busy sampling the wine during the demo at the restaurant and missed that direction, so I ruined it. But I’m going to get myself some more olives tomorrow and try again.
The next recipe comes from the elves at Keebler, of all places, and you can find the nutritional info and other details there if you’re interested. The restaurant owner said her new cook had whipped up this spread that very day and she didn’t have the recipe yet. I think Keebler’s version is pretty darn close to it.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Spread
3 fresh sage leaves
3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces (20 oz.; about 5 cups)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 oz cream cheese, softened (1/4 cup)
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
- Pat sage leaves dry with paper towels. In small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 3 sage leaves. Cook for 30 to 40 seconds or until crisp. Remove leaves with a slotted spoon, reserving oil in skillet. Drain leaves on paper towels.
- In medium bowl, toss together squash, 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil, salt and pepper. Spread in single layer on 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Cool slightly.
- In food processor bowl, combine squash, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and 2 teaspoons chopped sage. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to 2- to 3-cup shallow serving bowl. Drizzle with remaining reserved oil. Top with sage leaves.
NOTE: I used the precut butternut chunks because that vegetable is not easily peeled or separated into small pieces. Also, I added about a teaspoon of golden balsamic vinegar to the food processor to make this a little more spreadable. When it is freshly made, the taste of butternut is pronounced. After a few hours chilling in the fridge, the flavors blend into a sublimely sweet/savory delight that doesn’t taste anything like squash. It is also great served on baguette slices, crostini, crackers, or on sandwiches.
And there you have it, two lovely Basque-approved snacks that you can take to the next Paella party to which you’re invited. 🙂