The way light hits eyes and transforms them into starbursts of a thousand colors. When people are moved to smile and this small kiss is placed at the corner of their mouth, hands and their unique identity in the way they move, the parallel between their delicate nature and enduring strength. My grandmother and mother have the most beautiful hands. Small and tender with ethereal fingers that move with effortless grace. I often became mesmerized by details as a child, obsessive over knowing every detail of the people I loved by heart. So well that if I lost my ability to see I could still feel every inch of their being. This part of me has yet to fade, if anything this desire has become more rampant as time continues to strike like lightening. My family is a vintage red blend. Rife with mystery and questions. Our heritage a melting pot that has its roots deeply embedded in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and Italy. When I was young I often felt displaced in my family. The women around me held a stark beauty with their raven hair, deep dark eyes and earthen skin. I was born and no one knew how my alabaster skin, blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair came to be. Recessive genes were the culprit as I got older, Italian and British genes from somewhere in our lineage. As I grew I began to identify with my heritage through cooking. Every year as Autumn falls I smell Pozole simmering on the stove. Adobo and Arbol chilies becoming a fragrant broth. I see dainty hands kneading empanada dough, movements that the whole body knows by heart. Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day is our time to celebrate, to come together. We make tamales by hand all of us gathered around the fire in the kitchen. As morning approaches the aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg from the Atole wafts through the air. Our Italian genes become interwoven during the festivities and the smell of freshly baked ciabatta is always present amongst the chilies. When I was young and still today I was in charge of whipping up pesto, romesco, tapenades and mushroom pates. Our table always a home for vegans, vegetarians and traditional foodies alike. The ciabatta was always at the center of a long wooden table. More than a delicious feast, an adornment for the eyes and all senses to come alive. A dish that inspires the joining together of family, friends and new found acquaintances alike.
Heritage is an incredible thing. We can be raised in a place and it can become us even if we are not originally from there. So many of us if we took a genetic test would be utterly left in awe at the hundreds of pieces that make us…us. I am Mexican. I am British. I am Portuguese. I am Spanish. I am Italian. And my goodness if you could see the results, just as most of us are I am a small percentage of Sub Saharan and Northern African. I am Turkish. I am Israeli. And yet at the end of the day I am simply a human being. Going through life, holding onto moments, memorizing faces I love so I do not ever forget them when their time here draws to a close. Heritage connects us to our pasts but it in no way defines our future. The more we realize how similar we are, that I have some of you running through my veins and you have some of me running through yours, the closer we get to breaking down the walls of injustice. And with Autumn captivating all the senses, and people gathering together to celebrate this transformational season of gratitude and love let us all remember that we belong to one another.
Get Cooking ::
Once in a while time seems to come to a silent stop. Candlelight flicks, laughter echoes through the halls. The smell of freshly baked bread, garlic, basil and tenderly sweet roasting figs dances on the air. This warming dish filled with extraordinary color and is the perfect appetizer to indulge in whilst having flowing conversation or whirling around under fairy lights. This dish was created to be shared. Enjoy!
For Ciabatta & Roasted Toppings:
1 large Ciabatta loaf- You can find or make amazing gluten free ones as well.
5 Bell Peppers of mixed colors
1 pound or ½ kilo Tomatoes- I love grape, cherry and sugarplum
1 pound or ½ kilo Black Mission Figs, trimmed and halved
2 Sweet Onions
2 Heads of Garlic
1 cup or 8 ounces of Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup or 4 ounces of Olive Oil
1-2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup depending on how sweet your figs are
Pink Salt + Pepper
Get Cooking ::
Preheat Oven to 375 F
Prepare all your veggies and fruit for roasting. For the Bell Peppers wash well and then line them on a roasting tray and simply pop them in the oven. For your tomatoes, wash well and then place in a roasting pan along with the quartered onions, and cloves of garlic with skin on. Drizzle with ¼ cup balsamic and ¼ olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In another roasting dish place your halved figs drizzle with ¼ cup of balsamic, the rest of the olive oil, maple syrup and salt + pepper.
Place all in the oven. Peppers will take approximately 25-35 minutes to char and be ready to skin. Tomatoes and onions will need 35-45 minutes to become roasted and sweet. Figs about 20-25 minutes. Once roasted remove from oven. Allow to cool a bit and peel and deseed your peppers. Cut into strips and set aside. Remove roasted garlic from its skins. Set aside with tomatoes and onions.
5 bunches of Basil
2 bunches of Italian Parsley
1 cup or 8 Ounces Walnuts- lightly toasted
Juice of 2 lemons and zest of 1
½ cup of Olive Oil- add more If you want a smoother pesto
Pink salt + Pepper to Taste
Place all of your ingredients into a food processor, process until smooth but still holding a bit of texture. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper slowly and to taste. Feel free to add more or less lemon based on personal preference as well. Pesto as with things is best made intuitively and just the way you like it.
For Romesco Sauce::
2 roasted red bells peppers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup cooked chickpeas or 2 oucnes (or 1 slice ciabatta bread, for thickening)
¼ cup or 2 ounces toasted hazelnuts
¼ cup or 2 ounces blanched and toasted almonds
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup or 2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
Pink salt + pepper
Get Cooking ::
In a food processor, combine the red peppers, tomato paste, water, vinegar, chickpeas, hazelnuts, almonds, garlic, paprika, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until smooth but still holds some texture from the bread and or chickpeas. Season to taste.
For Garlic Spread ::
136 g garlic cloves peeled (roughly 3 heads of garlic)
1 teaspoon salt
448 g Safflower Oil
448 g flaxseed oil
61 g lemon juice (about one lemon)
Place the garlic cloves and salt in a large food processor and puree until smooth. It's a good idea to scrape down the sides two or three times to ensure that all of the garlic is finely processed.
Turn the processor back on and slowly drizzle in the oil through the lid starting with 1/2 cup. After the first 1/2 cup has been added, pour in a teaspoon of the lemon juice.
Continue alternating between 1/2 cup of the oils and a teaspoon of the lemon juice until you've added all of the oil and lemon juice. Alternating between the two is the key to proper emulsification which creates the light and fluffy garlic sauce.
You know it's done when the sauce is white and thick with a similar consistency of mayonnaise. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
To Bring Together ::
Slice your Ciabatta in half. Spread your garlic sauce on both pieces and Broil on high just until slightly golden. Once out of the oven spread half of each piece with pesto and the other with romesco. Arrange your peppers, onions, garlic, figs and tomatoes however you desire. You can then cut into slices for your guests. Enjoy the vibrancy and mesmerizing flavors of this dish!