When I chose fearless as my word for 2020, I had no idea what was about to go down around the world. I’d already put some thought into what it means to be fearless, and this pandemic has certainly helped me ponder—and practice—it even more deeply. Defining fearless requires putting some boundaries around what it is and identifying what it’s not. There’s a fine line between fearless and foolish, fearless and reckless and fearless and fickle. Fearless is not careless, senseless, impulsive or flighty. Fearless is a measured approach and response to any situation. It requires common sense using foresight, focus and follow-through.
When it comes to cooking, it’s easy to think about fearless as taking on a very complicated dish or some hard-to-master technique. But another way to be fearless is to take the most basic ingredients and make something magical.
Our grocery store ran out of bread recently (it’s back in stock now, but it was a moment for my husband, who is a big fan of sandwiches for lunch). I looked to the simplest of breads—artisan—with four ingredients and a whole lot of history: flour, water, yeast, salt. I’ve made a few enriched bread varieties, but never an artisan bread. And while it’s made with four simple ingredients, this bread feels anything but as it delectably engages all of your senses.
What better to serve with it than a simple—but equally delectable—dipping oil? The recipe’s four ingredients pack full flavor and accentuate bread beautifully, especially boule and baguettes. You can pare it down to oil, salt and pepper and it packs a different but equally delightful flavor. The key is to use high quality ingredients. High quality does not mean fancy or expensive, necessarily; it simply means that each ingredient tastes fresh and flavorful.
Dear, sweet husband and I got so caught up eating the boule I made with this dip that I forgot to take a picture. But the dip was almost as good with the high-fiber sandwich bread photographed here. (But go with an artisan bread. That’s best.) Pair this vegetarian dip with gluten-free ingredients for a gluten-free meal. Reduce salt for a lower sodium variety.
Serve the oil with bread along with some fruit, vegetables or an antipasto selection, and you’ve got a simple and simply divine meal. In fact, you can use this same recipe over that plate of fresh sliced tomatoes, onions and chunks of mozzarella cheese. I can almost taste it over our favorite fresh tomato.
Join me in this fearless food business. For your next big gathering (which at this moment for me seems desperately far away) or your next “whoever is around during this ‘Safe at Home’ period”, keep it simple: serve a meal where every dish is made with four or fewer ingredients. Spatchcocked Turkey fits the bill. I don’t think “simple” will be easy. I’ll share more ideas in coming months. If you try this challenge, please share results!
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Pour olive oil onto an appetizer or salad plate. Pour or drip vinegar onto oil. Sprinkle in other ingredients, ensuring they spread into all of the oil. Do not stir.
Serve as an appetizer with Italian or French baguette, boule or other artisan bread. Break into pieces and surround oil or serve mini-loaves, slices or pull apart loaves for dipping. Pairs well with a tomato/onion mozzarella plate, fruit and cheese, soups and leafy salads. Nice addition when serving light or heavy hors d’oeuvres.