Black olive spread from Provence

Tapenade – formerly hard to find in the north of France but now stocked by Parisian supermarkets – is best when homemade. If you can find them, choose oil-cured black olives (à la grecque in French) or the black olives of the Nice region. If not, any black olives will do.

Tapenade is most often served on small rounds of toast as a canapé, but it can also be an elegant dip for raw vegetables, a topping for boiled eggs or an addition to balsamic vinaigrette for extra tanginess in salads.

This recipe was kindly provided by Jean-Louis Lacaze, the chef at Reparate, a small bistro (formerly in my neighborhood) that specializes in the cuisine of Provence.

1/2 pound (250 g.) black olives, pitted
3 anchovy filets
2 tbsp. capers
1 clove garlic
4-6 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of thyme, fresh or dried
freshly ground black pepper

Place the anchovies, capers and garlic in a blender. Add half the olives and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pulse.

Add the rest of the olives and 2 more tablespoons olive oil, and – be careful! – pulse only briefly, in order to retain some texture.

Remove to a small bowl and taste. If the tapenade is too salty or too thick for easy spreading, stir in more olive oil and taste again.

Add the thyme and grind in some black pepper. Makes about 1 cup of tapenade. Serve with toast or rounds of fresh bread. Serves 4-6.

Refrigerated in a clean jar with a thin layer of oil on top, tapenade will keep for several weeks.

To make green tapenade, use green olives instead of black and proceed as described above. Add 3 tbsp. finely ground blanched almonds, and a little extra oil to taste.

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2 Responses to Tapenade

  1. Ellen A. says:

    Hello, Meg,
    I concur that an all-encompassing cookbook divided seasonally with a good index would be best. Great, sharp photos of the food are really important too, of course. Yours are usually very good, but you may want to team up with a professional for the book, as food photography is so tricky. If you trade recipes with David Lebowitz, maybe he can give you some tips.
    One last suggestion: Whenever possible, please give human powered alternatives for mixing, blending, whipping and chopping. Some of us choose to live small, and just don’t have room or inclination for big blenders and Cuisinarts. As these are mostly traditional recipes, it would really be great to have the traditional handmade instructions to follow too.
    Love your recipes!

    • Meg says:

      Hi Ellen and thanks for the feedback. You may be surprised to learn that I own neither a Cuisinart nor a counter-top blender. I find them clunky and hard to care for, and prefer simpler methods. (By the way, I also don’t own a microwave). What I do have is an electric hand-held pulse blender, which is incredibly convenient for pureeing everything from soups to … tapenade. However, as you point out, electric appliances did not always exist, and there are manual ways of doing absolutely everything in French cooking. For example, a traditional food mill may be used to puree soups and veggies, a hand-held nut-grinder to grind walnuts and almonds, a pepper mill to grind spices, etc. And of course a mortar and pestle was often used in French cuisine — and sometimes still is. Regarding photos, you are quite right — I think my efforts have improved over time, but a professional food photographer would be essential if this book project goes forward. Thanks again for the suggestions. I’m very grateful for your interest.

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