Latin Twist: Grilled Flour Tortillas with Peruvian Tapenade–and more!


Yes, another big grilling and get-together weekend is before us, and the weather is luscious, and so, my friends, it’s time to celebrate the season with some new spice in our lives! How about some grilled flour tortillas with Peruvian tapenade…and more? This recipe is simple enough to serve as an appetizer or side for your meat or non-meat-eating guests. (If you’re family is anything like mine, you always have both!) What I like about the tapenade is that you can make it, use some of it for this recipe, and then keep the rest to dress up your Italian bread and more! The tortillas are always a big hit; grilling them adds that special toasted flavor that balances beautifully with the smooth cheese (which ever type you choose to use!), sweet tomatoes, and peppery arugula. The tapenade complements it all… And what to drink with it? I say  Mango Sangría (from my June 8th, Latin Twist Post!).  Well, whatever you choose to drink, this will be delicioso, I promise you!

Adapted from  Latin Grill, By Rafael Palomino with Arlen Gargagliano, (Photos by Dan Goldberg) ©2010, Chronicle Books


Peruvian Olive, Cilantro, and Thyme Tapenade

So what is a tapenade? Basically, it’s French-born spread that contains a combination of olives, and more. This one has a bit of a Latin twist (yes! Pun intended!) because of the Peruvian olives. Do you have to use Peruvian olives? No…but purple Peruvian olives are ideal. Kalamata are fine, too. This recipe comes from my dear friend, chef and restaurateur Rafael Palomino, whose book Latin Grill is the latest of our four collaborative efforts.  He recommends spreading this atop a a grilled flour tortilla (recipe here!), but I’ve also enjoyed it atop toasted Italian bread, with a few bits of red tomato and fresh cilantro sprinkled on top (gorgeous!). I’m sure you’ll find your own way to enjoy it!Makes about 2 1/2 cups


1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon mashed roasted garlic cloves

1 roasted red onion

1 cup kalamata, Peruvian purple, or niçoise olives, pitted and finely diced

1 medium grilled tomato (optional), finely diced

1 tablespoon minced thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional for garnish

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, and garlic together. Add the onion, olives, tomato and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well, using your hand or a wooden spoon. Let sit for 20 minutes. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Return to room temperature and add cilantro just before serving.


Grilled Flour Tortillas with Queso Blanco (available in large Latin markets), Peruvian Olives, and Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers

Serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main

4 burrito-size (10-or12-inch) flour tortillas, trimmed into squares

4 tablespoons crumbled queso blanco, Mexican white cheese (you can instead use goat cheese or even cubed mozzarella)

4 tablespoons roasted red and/or yellow peppers

1 small bunch of baby arugula leaves

2 tablespoons Peruvian Olive, Cilantro, and Thyme Tapenade


Light a fire in a charcoal or gas grill. Set up your square tortillas on a clean work surface. Spread one tablespoon of the crumbled or cubed cheese on each of  the tortillas. Spread a layer of the roasted peppers on top. Place , open faced, on the grill until the grill lines appear on the bottom, just about 1 minute. Add enough baby arugula to make a layer on top, and top that with a dollop (1 1/2 teaspoons) of tapenade on each tortilla. Fold into  triangle, cut into two smaller triangles, plate, and serve immediately



About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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