Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini with Roasted Red Pepper, Cucumber and Arugula

These Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini are super easy to make yet they are packed with flavor!  The chive pesto and arugula add a nice mild spiciness, the cucumber gives it a much needed crunchy fresh quality and the roasted peppers provide a lovely smoky flavor that ties it all together.

Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini I am so excited about my new ceramic plates I recently purchased from my friend Jasper.  I met Jasper and his friend Tom a number of years ago at the Santa Cruz farmers market located downtown Santa Cruz.  Jasper and Tom sell their beautiful creations in a booth shared with two other ceramic artists.  Jasper and Tom made all of the ceramic bowls you see on my blog.  I have been in need of plates for a long time now and my jaw dropped when Jasper told me that he had made some.  I knew I had to see them!  The following Wednesday, I headed to the farmers market and when I saw the plates, I just about died.  They were gorgeous!!  I bought 3 of them and then he gifted me one.  Sooo sweet!  I absolutely love his signature cat painted on the backsides of two of my new plates!

Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini The annual Santa Cruz Artist Open Studios was on the following Saturday so Robby and I paid a visit to Jasper’s studio.  I found a large bowl that matched my plates and of course I had to have it!  We were there for a while chatting with Jasper and some of his friends.  We learned that one of his artist friend Joao was from the Azores where Robby’s mom’s family originated.  Before Joao new what island, I blurted out you guys are probably related and he said probably not, then asked what island.  Robby said San Miguel and Joao said yup, we probably are related.  Such a small world!  We also got to meet Jasper’s cat the star of the cat mugs and drawings!  It was a fun visit!  Next, we went to see Tom and of course I found another beautiful white bowl.  Tom was busy with a customer so we bought the bowl and headed home.

I am really stoked for Jasper and any of you who might be interested in his ceramics because he is working on a website store and I will share with you once it is up and running! Woohoo!!!

Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini I would pair these with a Pinot Gris, Soave, Sauvignon Blanc or a Tempranillo.

Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper – roasted – cut into 24 thin strips – instructions below
  • Chive Asiago Pesto – recipe below
  • 1 Large Cucumber – thinly sliced – quartered (you can leave the skin on if it’s organic, otherwise peel it.)
  • 12 Slices Sourdough Baguette – crostini recipe below
  • Arugula
  • 1/2 Cup Chives
  • 1/3 Cups Walnuts
  • 1/3 Cup Aged Asiago Cheese – finely shredded – packed
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoons Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
  • Approx. 12 Slices of Sourdough Baguette
  • Approx. 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cut chives into 1-inch pieces and finely shred the cheese.

Measure all ingredients and put into a food processor or blender and blend well.

Make sure to scrape down the sides at least once.
Roast peppers on the stovetop on medium-high heat.  A gas stove works the best but it will work fine on an electric stove. Char the peppers on all sides turning with a pair of tongs.  When good and charred, steam them for 10 minutes in a covered dish or a paper bag that is rolled shut to hold in the steam.
Take a paper towel and rub off the char.  It’s ok to leave a little of the char.  Cut the top and the bottom off ,then cut one side lengthwise and lay flat. Cut into thin strips the size of your crostini.

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.

Place slices onto a baking sheet and with a pastry brush or your fingers, coat both sides with olive oil.

Place on the top shelf of the oven and broil for 1 – 2 minutes then flip them over and broil for about 1 more minute.  Make sure and watch close, they can burn fast.

I usually put the timer on for 1 minute and check, then put on for 1 more minute while watching.  They cook faster on the second side because they are already hot.

Spread the pesto, top with one slice of cucumber that has been cut into 4, top with two strips of roasted pepper and a sprig or two of arugula.  I like to serve some extra cucumber and arugula on the side.

Chive Asiago Pesto Crostini

Health Benefits:
Chives contain flavonoid anti-oxidants, plant fiber, minerals, and vitamins.  It is one of the richest sources of vitamin K, rich in vitamin C and is really high in vitamin A. It reduces cholesterol production in the liver and helps decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.  It also helps to maintain bone mineral density.

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad with Toasted Seeded Chèvre

This is one luscious Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad!  The toasted seeded chèvre is crazy good paired with the freshness of the tomatoes.  The olive oil herb dressing gives a nice depth to this perfectly balanced salad.  It is even more incredible when served with crusty sourdough bread and a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad I have had cookbooks on the brain ever since my friend Aysegul from Foolproof Living talked about her abundance of cookbooks in one of her recent posts.  I had made a comment about how I sold over 50 cookbooks right before I left Oregon.  It was probably actually more than 50, but who’s counting?  Even though I sometimes wish I still had them, it’s nice to start a new collection.

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad The strange thing about cookbooks and me is that I can never get myself to actually make any of the recipes.  I generally use them as a source of inspiration.  My recipe process has always been the same.  I pour through as many cookbooks, magazines and online resources as I can for inspiration.  Then I start writing out the ingredients I want to use for a new recipe.  From there I just start making it and fill in the amounts as I go.

Aysegul has inspired me to actually try a recipe from a cookbook.  I just ordered Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin from The Bojon Gourmet and I’m going to try and make one of her recipes.  Although I will most likely adapt it a little, I’m still excited to try one out!

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad As I mentioned in my prior post, it was my birthday on last Labor Day.  My friends Hannah and Dennis had brought me a whole bunch of Heirloom cherry tomatoes that they grew in their garden.  I was instantly inspired to develop an end of summer tomato salad.

 I wanted to incorporate a toasted seed mix into my fresh summer salad.  I got the idea for the toasted seed mix from a cafe in Santa Cruz called The Picnic Basket.  They have a basic green salad that they top with toasted seeds and it’s incredible!  I decided to cover chèvre cheese balls with the toasted seed mix.  I started to search the Internet and I came across Half Baked Harvest’s salad recipes where she did almost the exact thing I had envisioned.  She made them into really small balls, which I thought was even more perfect than what I was originally going to do!  Thus this salad was born!

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad This salad is amazing with a crisp Sauvignon Blanck from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  It’s also nice with a Rosé, Pinot Gris or a Soave.

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe:
  • 3 Baskets Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes – room temperature – some whole – cut some in halves  – some in quarters
  • 1/4 Red Onion – minced
  • 1 Ear of Corn – cut off the cob (or 1/2 cup frozen and thawed)
Dressing – adapted from my  Italian Style Salsa Verde
  • 1/4 Cup Minced Fresh Basil
  • 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Chives
  • 1 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons Capers – roughly chopped
  • 1 Shallot – minced
  • 2 Small Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
  • Dash Black Pepper
Toasted Seed Cheese Balls
  • 8 oz Chevre Cheese
  • 2/3 Cup Raw Pepitas
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons White Sesame Seeds
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds

Add everything to a medium bowl, mix together and set aside.

Toasted Seed Cheese Balls
In a large skillet, toast the pepitas seeds on medium heat, while stirring often, for 2 minutes then add the sunflower and sesame seeds and stir until fragrant and lightly golden.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Approx. 3 – 5 minutes.
Measure a teaspoon of the cheese and roll into a ball.  Next, roll the cheese balls into the seeds as best you can, then add some seeds to the palm of your hands to roll more onto the cheese for full coverage.  Place them into a covered container and refrigerate until the salad is ready.
You will have some seeds leftover to add to individual salads.
Wash and dry the tomatoes.  Cut some into quarters, halves and leave some whole.  There are two ways you can pull it together.
1. In a large bowl, mix everything but the cheese balls together. Serve the cheese on the side.
2. Arrange half the tomatoes on a large platter.  Sprinkle on half the corn and half the onion, drizzle with the dressing and then add more tomatoes, corn and onion.  Arrange some of the cheese balls around.  Serve remaining cheese balls and seeds on the side.
  Heirloom Cherry Tomato Salad Health benefits:

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes break down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zeaxanthin in them helps to filter harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.


Roasted Tomato Pizza with a thin Olive Oil Cracker Crust

Roasted Tomato Pizza I used Robby’s crust recipe for this Roasted Tomato Pizza that is yeast free, super thin, crispy and delicious!  This recipe originally started out as a roasted tomato cheese dip that I ended up morphing into a pizza topping instead.  I used Ancient Olive Trees Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the crust, the sauce, the roasted tomatoes as well as drizzling some on top of the cooked pizza.  The flavors of all the toppings are the perfect combination with this crispy olive oil crust.

Roasted Tomato Pizza I mentioned in my prior post that some of our friends had stayed at a campsite very close to our house.  Our friends Erin and Leif who had shown up for the day were planning a camping trip to Big Sur.  We were all chatting and Erin suggested that I should go with them.  I thought to myself, yeah why not!  A lot of our friends from Venice and Santa Monica (8 to 9 families) normally meet up twice a year in the summer to camp and surf together.  It’s so cool because we all have known each other since we were kids!  All our friends’ kids have known each other all their lives and they always have a great time together as well.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Monday morning, Erin and her friend Jen picked me up and we headed to Big Sur.  We had to drive around through Cambria due to all the fires that have been going on in the Big Sur area!  It’s so very sad!  After we arrived, we set up our tents and relaxed a bit enjoying the amazing view of the ocean before going to our friend’s potluck dinner.  There were about 15 of us at the potluck, eating, drinking and chatting around a fire.

Roasted Tomato Pizza The next morning, Erin made breakfast and we relaxed as we enjoyed our coffee.  The day consisted of a small hike to the ocean and more relaxing with a little wine.  It was overcast the whole time but it was still warm enough to enjoy ourselves.  Later that evening, we headed a few miles south of our campsite to where some of our other friends were staying.  It was at a huge multi-family campsite, where they hosted a huge potluck dinner.  There was fettuccine alfredo, enchiladas, rice and beans, all the meat you can imagine and a huge spread of appetizers.  We had a great couple of relaxing fun filled days.

Roasted Tomato Pizza I collaborated with Ancient Olive Trees, by using their Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the recipe.  Ancient Olive Trees is a Northern California based olive orchard and oil company.  They craft the olive oil with a tree-to-table approach.  What’s really cool is that they use early harvest Arbequina and Arbosana olives from 30 to 100 year old trees, which are pressed right after the fruit is harvested.  This is a high quality, super fresh and smooth olive oil that has outstanding flavors with a hint of grassy notes.  It truly is one of the best olive oils I have tried.

As you might know, I am all about organic so you might be wondering why this olive oil doesn’t say it’s organic.  They can’t sell it as organic because they don’t bottle it in an organic certified location.  Even though they can’t market it as organic, they do not use pesticides on their trees.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Enjoy a Tempernio or Chianti for a red or a Pinto Gris or Suave for a white wine.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Thanks for stopping by CaliZona! To see what’s going on, you can follow me on  InstagramFacebookPinterest, TwitterBloglovin‘ or subscribe by e-mail to get the latest recipes.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Recipe:

Makes 2 medium or 3 small pizzas

Pizza Dough – divided into 2 or 3 portions – or store bought
  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Filtered Water
Tomato Sauce – divided into 2 – 1/2 cups or 3 – 1/3 cups
  • 1/4 White Onion – diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Jar Strained Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Dry Red or a Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Oregano Leaves
  • 1 Teaspoons Sea Salt or to taste
Roasted Tomatoes – divided into 2 or 3 portions
  • 8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Garlic – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • Dash Pepper
Cheese Mix – divided into 2 or 3 balls
  • 4 oz. Mascarpone
  • 4 oz. Chevre Cheese
  • 8 oz. Mozzarella – shredded
  • 8 oz. Cherry Tomatoes – sliced in half
  • Basil
  • Arugula
  • Red Chili Flakes
Pizza Dough

Bread/dough making is never an exact recipe. The proportions of dry and wet ingredients are dependent on many factors including the temperature and humidity of your kitchen as well as the make up of the flour. You may need to adjust by adding additional flour or water to get the correct consistency during the kneading process.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.  Next, measure the olive oil and apple cider vinegar into a glass measuring cup, then fill the rest with the water up to the 3/4 cup mark.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mix it with a wooden spoon or with your hands and knead until it has a smooth consistency.  If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour while you knead.  Roll it into a ball and put back in the bowl, then cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

Tomato Sauce

Add the onion and olive oil to a straight sided pan and sauté on medium-low heat for 5 minutes then add the fresh oregano and garlic then cook until garlic just starts to brown.  Add wine and cook until reduced and it has a syrupy consistency.

Add wine and cook until reduced and it has a syrupy consistency.

 Pour tomato sauce into the pan and cook on medium to low heat.  Add the salt.  Cook until thickens about 20 minutes or longer.
Roasted Tomatoes
In a medium bowl, add tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spread tomatoes evenly into a baking pan. Roast tomatoes under the broiler for 4 – 5 minutes or until slightly blistered.  Take out of the oven and set aside.
Cheese Mix
Add the mascarpone and chevre in a medium sized bowl and mix together.  Then add the shredded mozzarella and mix well.  Set aside.
Pizza Crust

Separate the dough into two or three balls.  Generously flour the board and rolling pin then start to roll out one of the balls to about a 1/16 inch thick.  So, very thin.

Roll from the center out and continually adding flour as you lift and turn the dough.  This is to ensure it doesn’t stick.  Carefully slide the rolled out dough from the board onto the hot pizza stone.  Parbake for less than a minute, just until you see tiny bubbles.  Be careful, this happens really fast.  Carefully take out of the oven.

Parbake for less than a minute, just until you see tiny bubbles.  Be careful, this happens really fast.  Carefully take out of the oven.

 If doing 3 pizzas, spread 1/3 cup of the sauce evenly over the crust or 1/2 cup for 2 pizzas.  Spread on your tomato sauce, randomly plop spoonfuls of the cheese mix around, then sprinkle the roasted tomatoes around. Lightly sprinkle on a little salt and pepper then, place it back in the oven for 6 – 9 minutes or until it looks good to you.

Take it out of the oven and top with the fresh tomato halves and basil then drizzle with a little more olive oil.  Cut and serve immediately.

Roasted Tomato Pizza Disclosure: Thanks to Ancient Olive Trees, for sponsoring this post!  Thank you for supporting the brands that make CaliZona possible.  Just so you know, I would never support a brand or product that I don’t believe in!

Health Benefits:

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that helps the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes break down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps to filter harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

Hibiscus Hummus with Baked Pita Chips

This Hibiscus Hummus has a classic hummus taste with subtle tangy hibiscus flavor and a pink hue.  The additional flowers on top add a nice pop of color as well.

Hibiscus Hummus About a month ago, our friend Beto reserved a campsite for 2 nights at the campground that is right next to where we live.  I was so excited because no one has stayed there ever since we have lived here.   They showed up this past Wednesday afternoon along with Jill’s long time friend Maili.  After they had set up the tents and pulled out all the cooking supplies, our friends Erin, Leif and Taj showed up for a potluck BBQ.  We sat around the picnic table chatting while sipping on wine and watching Jill the master griller at work.  She cooked up a huge BBQ feast.

Maili had brought a whole lot of homemade sushi and a clam dip.  Erin brought a salad, chips and guacamole and I brought this hummus with baked pita chips.  Everyone also brought wine, of course.  It’s pretty cool when all your friends are really good cooks because the spread is always abundant and delicious. As always, there was a lot of great conversations and laughter.

The next day, our friend Jean showed up around lunchtime and Leif and Taj returned for round two.  The kids had the best time playing together.  It was another fun day of beach, food, wine and great conversation.

Hibiscus Hummus I enjoyed this hummus with my hibiscus tea and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s also great with a nice Rose.

Hibiscus Hummus Thanks for stopping by CaliZona! To see what’s going on, you can follow me on  InstagramFacebookPinterest, TwitterBloglovin‘ or subscribe by e-mail to get the latest recipes.

Hibiscus Hummus Recipe:
Approx. 2 1/2 Cups
  • 1 Cup Dried (2 Cups Cooked) Garbanzo Beans – soaked – cooked
  • 1 Cup Filtered Water
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers
  • 1 Large Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Tahini
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Pita Chips
  • 8 Pita – cut into 6 to 12 wedges for each pita
  • Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
Preparing garbanzo beans
You can cook the garbanzo beans two different ways: one is a quick way, the other is by soaking the beans overnight which is better for your digestion.  This is how I prepare them, plus if you are going to make falafels, this is the way to go.

Place them in a large bowl and cover with filtered water, they will expand to over double their size, make sure you cover by several inches of water to allow for expansion.  Soak overnight for at least 12 hours then drain and rinse.

Quick method
Place the beans in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water above the beans and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the beans soak in the warm water for 1 hour then drain the water and rinse.  Follow cooking the beans instructions below.

Cooking the beans

If you want extra smooth hummus you can do as Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi do from their cookbook “Jerusalem”  and remove the skins from the garbanzo beans.

Just add soaked chickpeas and 1 teaspoons of baking soda to a large saucepan over high heat.  Stirring constantly for about 2 – 3 minutes.  Covers the chickpeas by about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil and reduce to simmer on medium heat for about 30 – 60 minutes or until soft, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.  Skim off the foam and skins that float to the surface.  They should be very fairly tender pressing between your fingers but not too mushy.
(I have also removed the skins one by one by squeezing them between my fingers. Without the baking soda.)

Put the beans back in the pot and cover with several inches of filtered water.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer on medium heat for about 30 – 60 minutes or until soft, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.   They should be very fairly tender pressing between your fingers but not too mushy.  Pinch each bean to remove skins if desired.
Put the hibiscus flowers and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil then remove from heat.  Let sit until it has cooled.
Strain the flowers and set the water aside.  Add the flowers and garlic to a food processor and mince as best you can.
Add all the remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Scrape the sides at least once.
Optional – If you want to garnish with extra flowers you can repeat the hibiscus/water recipe.  It looks pretty but it does change the texture.
Baked Pita Chips
Turn down the oven to 350 degrees

Cut each pita into 8 triangles and place on one side of a parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and gently toss.  Bake for 11 – 12 minutes or until crispy.

Hibiscus Hummus Health benefits:

Garbanzo beans are super high in protein and extremely high in fiber, just one cup provides 50% of the Daily Value.  Because of the fiber, they are great for your heart, lowering blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack, as well as help, prevent constipation and digestive disorders.  Just one cup provides 84.5% of the daily value of manganese, which is an antioxidant that acts as a monitor of the free radicals in the body.  If you are low in energy the high iron content will help and will transport oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body.  They also help to balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Garbanzo beans are helpful for weight loss as they keep you full longer.

Hibiscus Flowers is a simple way to increase your antioxidant intake due to the high vitamin C content.  The antioxidant properties can help reverse the inflammatory process in your body and has the ability to lower high blood pressure.  It protects against chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.  It helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body, therefore it helps protect against heart disease and blood vessels from damage.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart with a Almond Oat Crust

This Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart is rich, decadent and oh so good!

This tart was born out of ingredients that were in my fridge just waiting to be made into something delicious.  I made this just after Beto and clan had stayed with us a few weeks back.  I had planned on making them my roasted fennel buckwheat tart but we decided to go out for dinner instead.  I had also planned on roasting red peppers for our beach picnic but I forgot to.  So, with the unused fennel, red peppers along with a tomato Jill happen to leave behind, I came up with this tart.  I guess you can say it’s a Mediterranean style tart.  It’s best served with a green salad and a crisp glass of wine.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart There is so much craziness going on in the world as of late and I normally pride myself on being able to block it out.  But sometimes it can be difficult when something happens in a place where I spent time in or where a friend is from.  I was fortunate enough to visit Turkey with my friend Maggie a number of years ago.  Maggie and I were traveling in Europe at the time and she had asked me if I wanted to go to Turkey with her.  At the time I really knew nothing about Turkey, but I eagerly said yes!  Our plan was to meet up with her relatives that were living on an American/Turkish air force base in Adana.

We flew from London to Dalaman and then caught a bus to Fethiye where we stayed the night.  Fethiye was right on the ocean and it was so incredibly beautiful!  We found a cheap hotel to stay in and the manager told us about a wonderful local place to eat.  It was an outside restaurant run by a local family.  We had some great food and a night of classic Turkish music and dancing.

The next day, we took a bus along the coast to our final destination.  It was a twenty hour long bus ride, which normally would take 11 hours by car.  The bus ride wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for a 17 year old bus steward that apparently had it in for us.  There were maybe two other women on the bus and the rest were men.  Almost everyone was smoking, so Maggie asked the steward if he could open the vents on the roof of the bus.  They were barely open and we hoped that he would open them more since the windows on the sides of the bus could not be opened.  Instead, he closed the vents completely and gave us a look like too bad for you!  I had also put my feet on a metal box that was in front of our seats and he came over and shoved my feet off.  Maggie and I both looked at each other and then started to talk back to him.  Thank goodness there was a really nice man sitting behind us who had told the steward to leave us alone and he did.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart We finally arrived at Maggie’s aunt’s house and were enthusiastically greeted by Maggie’s cute little cousins.  The next day, Maggie’s aunt took us to a local restaurant that had some of the best food I have ever had. The meal consisted of small bowls filled with different salads, soups, rice, vegetables and sauces with a giant piece of flat bread.  I had no idea what Turkish food was like before my visit but I will tell you that I was in heaven with all the great vegetarian options!  After lunch, Maggie’s aunt took us to the cute town near Karatepe.   We saw women weaving rugs in a shop’s showroom and decided to take a look.  Unfortunately, we didn’t buy any rugs.  We also found another shop with a large assortment of beautiful scarves.  Maggie and I both bought a bunch.   We bought scarves made of crepe with lace stitched on the edges but my favorite ones were gauze scarves that had seed bead flowers dangling off the edges.  Of course, I bought one in every color.  Aside from the 17-year-old, everyone one we met was extremely nice and helpful, the food was out of this world and the countryside was insanely gorgeous!  I would love to spend more time there and I will be praying for peace, love and understanding!

Also, my friend Aysegul from the amazing blog Foolproof Living is from Turkey.  While I have never met Aysegul in person, we have been getting to know each other through social media.  She has been a great inspiration and very helpful to me.  Luckily, Aysegul’s family and friends are ok but it’s scary nonetheless.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart This Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart pairs great with a Cava or a Txakoli.

Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Recipe:
6 to 8 servings
  • 1 Recipe Toasted Almond Oat Crust – recipe below
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers – roasted
  • 1 Fennel Bulb – cut in half – cored – cut halves in half – thinly slice
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dash of Salt
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove – minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 3/4 Cups manchego – shredded – divided
  • 1 Cup Pecorino – shredded
  • 8 oz. Creme Fraiche
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Large Tomato – thinly sliced
Garnish options:
  • Fresh Basil
  • Edible Flowers
Tart Dough
  • 1 Cup Raw Almonds – ground
  • 1 Cup Oat Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon Chia Seeds – ground
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 5 Tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Ice Water or until it sticks together (don’t over do it)
Grind the almonds in the food processor then add flour, ground chia and salt.  Pulse several times to combine.
Add the butter in 1/4 inch piece.
 Pulse a few times to break up the butter evenly, then add ice water slowly as you pulse, until it resembles a coarse meal with tiny pieces of butter.  It will be crumbly but holds together when squeezed with your fingers, do not over process.
Roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thick and transfer to a tart pan.  Press into the edges and up the sides of the tart pan.  Poke holes in the bottom with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Roasted peppers
Roast peppers on the stovetop on medium-high heat.  A gas stove works the best but it will work fine on an electric stove. Char the peppers on all sides turning with a pair of tongs.  When good and charred, steam them for 10 minutes in a covered dish or a paper bag rolled shut to hold in the steam.  Take a paper towel and rub off the char.  It’s ok to leave a little of the char.
 Slice in half and remove the seeds and stems.  Cut the tops and bottoms off of the peppers.  Thinly slice a pepper to create a lattice. (this part is optional, you can dice them all up if you want) Create the lattice on an extra plate so you know how much you will need then dice up any remaining piece and the remaining pepper.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut the fennel in half and cut out the core.  Cut each half horizontally into 1/4 -inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper.  Toss to evenly coat.  Roast for 15 – 20 minutes or until soft and golden.  Set aside.
Onions and cream sauce
Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and salt.  Saute until the garlic just starts to become golden.  Add the onions to a medium sized bowl and mix together with the roasted fennel.  Set aside.
Add the creme fraiche with the one cup Manchego, pecorino and salt to a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until cheese is melted, stirring frequently.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Bake the tart crust on the middle rack for 10 minutes with pie weights or beans and then 15 min without the weights.
 Slice the tomatoes and push out any seeds with your finger to remove as much water content.  Set aside.
Sprinkle half of the reserved manchego evenly over the warm tart crust.  Spread out the fennel mix, sprinkle on the diced red peppers and arrange tomatoes in a single layer.  Spread the creme fraiche mix over the tomatoes and then carefully create the lattice with the strips of bell peppers.  Sprinkle on the remaining Manchego.
Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until golden.
Roasted Red Pepper Fennel Tart Health benefits:

Bell Peppers are extremely high in vitamin A, which helps to support healthy eyesight especially night vision.  It is also very high in vitamin C, which is really important for the skin.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.  Red peppers are one of the veggies highest in lycopene and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes, that are great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas.

Fennel is a very good source of fiber that helps limit cholesterol build-up and helps to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood.  The fiber also helps remove carcinogens from the colon and it can eliminate constipation.  It contains the phytonutrient anethole, the main part of its volatile oil that has been shown to reduce inflammation and also helping prevent the occurrence of cancer. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is helpful for eye inflammation, and reduces premature aging and macular degeneration.  There are high levels of potassium in the fennel bulbs and seeds and can help increase brain function and cognitive abilities and it also increases the reach of oxygen to the brain.  The fronds above the fennel bulbs contain important vitamins, like pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.