Picture a table by a window overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on a balmy, breezy evening in Belmar, NJ.
That was the setting for a birthday celebration dinner with my life-long friend and “sister” Maura. For my birthday gift this year, Maura insisted on taking me out to dinner during a visit to her summer home. There was a restaurant she always wanted to try on the beach—Matisse.
We didn’t have lunch that day, so we decided to have an early dinner. Fortunately, we arrived early and had the option of choosing our seats. The atmosphere and scenery provided us with a perfect setting, and we got the vibe that the food and service would prove to be top notch as well.
To kick off dinner, the waitress brought over bread with a dipping sauce. I was intrigued because the sauce was thick and red, not the typical olive oil and garlic combo. At first, I assumed it had to be Italian sauce. Well, the taste told me otherwise!
Maura and I kept trying to figure out the ingredients and determined that tomatoes and olive oil were central to this tasty dip, but we needed to figure out what else might be in there. I love trying to figure out, via taste and sight, how to recreate foods that blow me away. I tasted something I could not put my finger on.
Defeated, I ended up asking the waitress, “What is in this dipping sauce?”
“Tomatoes, olives, fennel and olive oil, are what the chef puts into a big container, and that is all I know,” she answered.
The chef—Anthony Wall—apparently is internationally renowned and cooks dishes from around the world. I have to admit, I was really into this sauce, this restaurant and this chef.
I loved the inspiration I got from the entire dining experience. I also paid attention to the chef himself. I noticed he came out from the kitchen and greeted his regular customers. I was hoping he would stop at our table so I could compliment him on the meal and the dipping sauce. But it was not to be, and he was gone before I could reach out and speak to him.
I have no idea about the measurements or even the actual ingredients that Chef Wall puts into his dipping sauce. However, from trial and error, I came up with my own version. I would love to have some of his special dipping sauce alongside my dipping sauce to compare.
Maybe in the near future, I will get to meet him personally and actually give him a sample of my own sun-dried tomato dipping sauce.
It’s like buying a “Gucci” bag off a street vendor—even if it’s not an original, you’re still gonna enjoy it!
Sun-dried Tomato Dipping Sauce
2 cups sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup black olives
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/3 cup water
2-1/4 cups olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Add first 5 ingredients together in a food processor or blender.
2. Blend well. Add the garlic powder with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Store in air-tight containers in refrigerator until ready to serve.
4. Serve with toasted or warm Italian bread wedge slices.
5. ENJOY—Dip into something new and exciting today!
Mariann Raftery, creator of Somebody's Mom blog, cooks up comfort food recipes for families here at home, as well as sending homemade cookie care packages to our American soldiers overseas. Somebody's Mom Cooking videos at http://www.youtube.com, search "Thesomebodysmom."