My husband and I are beginning to feel like restaurant jinxes. Over the last few years we have discovered a few restaurants in our area only to see them close their doors a couple of years or even just a few months after deeming the eateries current favorites. We don’t have a very good Vietnamese restaurant within short driving distance from home so when we stumbled upon one in Mountain View a few years ago, we eagerly made the drive once, even twice, a week for the consistently well-prepared fusion-type Vietnamese dishes which were always served with a smile. Savory was never busy but we tend to dine early so we thought nothing of it. We were so disappointed to see a “Closed” sign and an empty room beyond the glass walls after just a few months of enjoying good Vietnamese food. The search for a new place resumed.
There was also an Italian restaurant tucked away in a tiny corner of a plaza in downtown Menlo Park. A gracious woman ran the restaurant. She remembered me and my husband after our first visit and thereafter made a point to seat us at one of her best tables. She had an easy manner towards all of her guests and would often linger at each table to catch up on what everyone’s done during the week. In the meantime, an Italian gentleman whipped up simple but tasty Italian dishes from a small corner kitchen. And it quickly became a tradition to be served a digestif after the meal…always on the house.
Besides the main course options I always looked forward to the dip that came with the warm bread. A departure from the usual bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the bread was always accompanied by a tomato-based dip at Brunello. I loved it and it wasn’t unusual for me to request a refill before the first course arrived. I believe the restaurant was open for a year or two before it, too, closed its doors. I was sad that Brunello was never able to compete with the more popular restaurants in the neighborhood but I was even sadder still at the prospect of no longer being able to enjoy the dip.
A few attempts at recreating the dip at home yielded unsuccessful results; I was never certain what was in the original, tomato paste or roasted tomatoes. After another trial or two and becoming acquainted with another restaurant that serves a similar dip (this owner gave me hints of some of the ingredients), this version was born and I was wrong on both counts. Sun-dried tomatoes, a handful of pantry items and a few cloves of roasted garlic make up this flavorful dip that is ideal with warm bread. I like it served a bit warm but it is lovely at room temperature, too. This sun-dried tomato dip comes together in minutes and the deep flavor is one you just might come to love.
* This is an enhanced version of the dip I paired with my Prawns and Polenta Rounds and I thought it deserved to be featured on its own. I encourage you to give it a try.
- ¾ cup packed sun-dried tomatoes with the oil it came in
- 7 cloves roasted garlic (or 2 cloves raw)
- 3 anchovy fillets
- ½ cup olive oil (you can add more for a thinner dip)
- 1-2 pinches kosher salt
- 1 pinch of sugar (optional)
- Fresh basil leaves for serving and for garnish
- Combine the sun-dried tomatoes (without draining the oil as you spoon it out of the jar), roasted garlic and anchovy fillets in the bowl of a food processor and process for several seconds. The mixture won't be completely smooth but the tomato pieces should be very fine and the garlic and anchovies completely blended in.
- I like this dip warmed a little so I transferred the mixture to a small saucepan and heated over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt to suit your taste. I also decided to add a pinch of sugar as I heated the mixture up just to add more depth to the tomatoes but you don't have to do this.
- Turn off the heat, transfer to a bowl and stir in the olive oil. Serve with warm, crusty bread. The fresh basil leaves added on top add a fresh layer of flavor that I also recommend.