The very words conjure up visions of rustic farmhouses surrounded by lavender fields, of seemingly endless, sun drenched days spent exploring quaint towns and villages… of lazy afternoons relaxing in one of the many cafes that dot the village square.
Time moves slower here – the pace is more relaxed .. you see it in the faces of the people on the streets, in the markets and of course, in the food.
One of my favorite provencal dishes is tapenade - and there was no shortage of it or olives in Provence! Unfortunately, my jars of tapenade did not make it back from France (long story) and so I decided to whip up my own batch using some of the olives that did make it back! Although you can find tapenade just about everywhere these days, I’ve yet to find one that I like as much as my own version - and with full blown summer right around the corner, it makes a perfect condiment to have in your refrigerator, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice as an appetizer, a sandwich spread or to be spread under the skin of chicken before it’s roasted to perfection.
In my last post I talked about “quality ingredients simply prepared” – and that is absolutely true with tapenade. Olives, capers, garlic, anchovies and, in my version, just a bit of dijon mustard and a splash of olive oil. With such a short ingredient list and no cooking, the quality of the ingredients makes or breaks the dish. In this case, it means searching out good olives. Although I dearly love the regular black olives you find in your local grocery story, don’t use them for this dish! Fortunately, finding good olives is much easier than it was even 5 years ago – stores like Whole Foods have whole cases (or bars!) devoted to them and, in my last foray to Trader Joe’s I found Lucques olives!!! So, for those of you without a Trader Joe’s (and even for those who do have one in their neighborhood) Middle Eastern markets are also a great place to find olives as well.
Which brings us to the not as fun part – pitting them!! Many of the olives I bought (and find her in the US) do not come pitted. But not to worry – I have found the perfect
toy tool for the job!
The cherry/olive pitter from OXO tools. I truly love this little gadget – there is something very satisfying about hearing that little pit “plonk” out of an olive! (Great for relieving stress… let me tell you!!)
And BTW, OXO did not supply me with this little gem, but it is such a useful tool and works so well, I simply had to share with you all!!)
So, even though you may not make it to Provence this year, you can whip up a batch of this tapenade, slice up a crusty baguette, grab a beverage (wine suggested, but not required) and head out to your backyard, or park, or field, or wherever. Sit back and … relax!!!
I've made a lot of versions of tapenade over the years and this is by far my favorite "version". I don't think there is truly a "correct" or "traditional" version - it really does come down to personal preference, I think. !
- 1 cup pitted brine or dry cured black olives, pitted (I used a mixture of Tanche and Nicoise)
- 2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and squeezed dry
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. anchovy paste
- 1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence
- 1 - 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is a thick paste but is not pureed. Slowly drizzle in 1 - 2 Tbsp. olive oil until the mixture reaches an spreading consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Alternatively, you can make this in a mortal and pestle - definitely more traditional, but not quite as quick to make!
As for attribution, that will be a hard one since I've looked at perhaps 4 or 5 dozen recipes for tapenade and have done lots of experimentation. But I would be remiss if I didn't thank David Lebovitz for his tip about rinsing and squeezing the capers - a step that does make a world of difference!