Wednesday, April 13, 2011

0 Recipe #261: Black Olive Tapenade

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Tapenade is a Provençal olive condiment that's typically spread onto rustic bread slices and served with a variety of warmed soft goat cheeses. In its most authentic and traditional form, tapenade contains olives, capers, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, anchovies, and various fresh (or dried) herbs, and may also contain cornichons, (i.e., miniature dill pickles). It's soooo incredibly easy to make: Basically, you just toss all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse. Et le voilà. :)

Black Olive Tapenade

1 c. whole black, brine-cured (i.e., Kalamata or Greek) olives, pitted (about 22-24 medium-sized olives)
2 Tbsp. cornichons (i.e., mini pickles), roughly chopped
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
4 small anchovy fillets (about 2 tsp.), soaked in 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for 10 minutes (to remove "fishiness") and then drained (or use 2 tsp. anchovy paste)
1/2 Tbsp. capers, soaked in 2 Tbsp. water for 10 minutes, then drained, and squeezed dry
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 2 large cloves)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped and densely packed
1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves, densely packed
4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed
2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves, densely packed
1/8 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Directions: In a food processor, pulse all of the ingredients together (in several quick, short bursts) until mixture transforms into a thick, slightly chunky paste. Transfer the mixture to a container and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: About 1 1 /3 c.

Chef's Notes: With the olives, capers, anchovies, cornichons, and Dijon mustard, tapenade clearly doesn't require any additional salt. In fact, since it's so salty, this is why it's usually served with bread and soft goat cheeses. ;) It's rather intense by itself, and so, it needs something else to buffer/offset its concentrated flavor.

If you're looking for a post-recovery run/workout snack that'll replenish your sodium levels, tapenade will definitely serve this purpose. ;) You'll probably end up downing a few bottles of water afterwards as well, which'll not only sate your thirst from the salt, but also rehydrate you after your workouts. ;)

Serving Suggestions: Serve with slices of rustic bread and assorted warmed soft goat cheeses, about 1 oz. per plate. If desired, garnish with a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, &/or a few lightly toasted pignoli (i.e., pine) nuts.

You can either serve the tapenade on a single slice of bread (open-faced), or make a sandwich with two slices, spreading some tapenade on one slice and some goat cheese on the other before closing the sandwich halves together. If you'd rather skip the bread products, you can also serve the tapenade on slices of tomatoes or grilled zucchini.

Serve as party hors d'œuvres: Serve on toasted mini baguette rounds, spreading each portion first with soft goat cheese (chèvre), followed by a dollop of tapenade, and top each portion with a small sliver of roasted red pepper.

Other uses: Also, tapenade makes a great ingredient for other dishes: Use it as part of a marinade for grilled fish or chicken, or try it in an omelette.

Variations: Traditionally, a tablespoonful of brandy or cognac is sometimes also added, but I didn't have any on hand at the time to try, and so, left it out. Feel free to try this variation if you like.

If you'd like to break with tradition, you're also welcome to try incorporating some of the following popular additions into your tapenade: Sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, marinated artichokes, peperoncini (i.e., marinated, sweet banana peppers), &/or roasted red peppers. Or, instead of using all cured black olives, try making tapenade with cured green olives, or a combination of various cured green and black cured olives, if you like.

You can also substitute the herbs and spices in this recipe (as shown above) with the classic French spice blend, herbes de Provence. Either whip up a batch of it yourself, or buy it commercially. Most people here in the States are familiar with this mélange of herbs in its dried form, although in France, it can also be made with fresh herbs and spices as well. If you'll be doing this substitution, please be aware that in most cases, 1 tsp. dried spices/herbs = 1 Tbsp. fresh spices/herbs. :)

To make this dish vegan/vegetarian, simply leave out the anchovies. Vegans can use a non-dairy cheese substitute like soy cheese to replace the soft goat cheese.

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