A trio of tempting tapenades
Spreads made from olives serve as dips, toppings
Looking at some photos recently of a memorable family trip to the south of France, I noted many were of market scenes — not an unusual interest for a food writer.
One picture showed a woman selling tapenade, a flavourful mixture whose key ingredient is olives.
Tapenade comes from the word tapeno, which means “capers” in Provence, a southwestern region of France from where tapenade originates, according to the book Jacques Pepin’s Table.
If you are wondering why it’s named after capers and not olives — the key ingredient — awardwinning author and Mediterranean food expert Clifford A. Wright writes on his website Cliffordawright.com that capers were brought to Provence from Crete by the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor who settled near Marseilles in the sixth century B.C.
Wrights says the flower buds, the part of the caper used for culinary purposes, were preserved with olive oil in vessels called amphoras. He notes the capers became mushed together in those amphoras and formed a kind of paste of crushed tapeno (capers). Wright calls this the ancestor of the modern tapenade.
These days, although capers and olive oil are still used, olives are by volume the main ingredient in tapenade.
It’s also often flavoured with anchovies.
Other blends of tapenade include those accented with such things as truffles, herbs, dried fruit and sun-dried tomatoes.
Below you’ll find three recipes that showcase some of the different ways it can be flavoured.
Nicoise olive tapenade
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: None Makes: About 1 cup (250 mL) 1 cup (250 mL) pitted Nicoise olives (or pitted kalamata olives)
4 anchovy fillets 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until wellcombined but still slightly coarse in texture. Do not turn into a very smooth paste.
Transfer the tapenade to a tight sealing container and refrigerate until needed. It will keep for two weeks. Warm the tapenade to room temperature before serving.
Olive, almond and apricot tapenade
Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: None Makes: 2 cups (500 mL) 1 cup (250 mL) dried apricots (about 26 to 28) 1 cup (250 mL) pitted Kalamata olives 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil 2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar 2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1/4 cup (60 mL) slivered almonds 1/4 cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped basil Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the apricots in a pot, cover with cold water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat and let the apricots plump up in the water for 15 minutes.
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh basil or oregano 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) finely grated lemon zest 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice Freshly ground black pepper to taste Tapenade originates from the word tapeno, which translates to “capers” in the French region of...