In a time of Epicurious.com and hundreds of other good recipe websites, “Scoop It Chop It Cook It” by Tara Brennan is a great reason to add a new cookbook to your collection.
Brennan – a life-long area vacationer with a 20 year career in the specialty food industry – literally wrote the book on olive bars or “Med Bars” as she likes to call them. “Scoop It,” is one of the overall top five selling books in Wegman’s in 2012, reveals tips to choosing from the Med Bar as well as 36 excellent, creative and fast recipes all made with real and wholesome ingredients.
I spoke with the Brennan last week.
TBP: What do you consider the essential items from the “Med Bar,” as you call it?
Brennan: I always have roasted red tomatoes in my refrigerator. They are great for tossing with eggs in an omelet early in the day, topping on a sandwich for a more flavorful sandwich or warmed over a salad. They are delicious on a burger, a sweet addition to a delicate piece of fish and on and on.
Peppadew are equally sweet and spicy and will pleasantly surprise guests every single time. I stuff them with goat cheese or Brie as an elegant appetizer for cocktail hour. I warm them with sausages on the grill during the summer. I adore their versatility.
TBP: After reading your book I learned that draining what I scoop from the “Med Bar” is a big mistake.
Brennan: It is a little-known fact that Med Bar products contain the perfect marinade. Black olives are preserved in a combination of salt water and red wine vinegar and antipasti is preserved in a blending of canola and olive oils. These are very important ingredients in any type of cooking. The fact that they are already melded for you in expertly determined quantities makes them very valuable in the kitchen.
TBP: What is the best bargain at the Med Bar?
Brennan: Artichokes, without a doubt. Making artichokes from scratch is challenging and very time consuming. Marinated artichokes are expertly prepared for you by families that have been making them for centuries. And they are reasonably priced when you evaluate how much raw material you use to get to that scoop.
TBP: How do you shop differently at the Med Bar in the summer versus winter?
Brennan: In the summer, my kids and I pop gigande beans like candy and use crusty bread to soak up the vinaigrette. In the winter I tend to shop the for one pot meal recipes – hearty combinations that steep and stew. After a few hours on the stove in a closed pot with a pork shoulder, the gigandes beans in vinaigrette dissolve into a thick pork flavored “cream” sauce that is much healthier than a traditional cream sauce.
TBP: What are the Med Bar trends soon to come at Wegman’s?
Brennan: Staples continue to lead at the Med Bar but something very special will achieve staple status every few years. As far as what is next, I see delicious special asparagus recipes coming to market soon.
TBP: Finally, what the heck is a Peppadew?
Brennan: It is an absolutely divine product. Peppadew is a rare combination of both a variety of pepper and a brand. It is a “pepper” that technically is a member of the fruit family which is then preserved in a sweet, syrupy marinade that has a hint of spice.