Tapenade–the real stuff


If you don’t like black olives, you can stop reading now.  Tapenade, real Provençal tapenade, is all about black olives.  I often see olive fixings labeled “tapenade”  but they just look like diced olives.  The real stuff, what you’ll find at the outdoor marché in Aix en Provence, is purply-black, spreadable, and packed with exquisite flavors.  

I started making tapenade following Susan Hermann Loomis’ recipe in her French Farmhouse Cookbook.  She promised authenticity.  A trip to Provence proved her true to her word.  The tapenade I had been making with her recipe looked exactly like the tapenade in the market and the list of ingredients posted by the stall was familiar to me–olives, olive oil, capers, anchovies, dijon, garlic, basil– except for one that I did not know in French.  I asked what it was and the vendeur pointed to a display of sun-dried tomatoes.  Aha!  So I now add sun-dried tomatoes to my tapenade, which makes me one up on dear Susan or maybe I’ve discovered her top-secret ingredient.  At any rate, the sun-dried tomatoes add a sweetness that softens the intensity of the capers and anchovies.

I can make tapenade any time of year, but I most often make it in summer when the basil is plentiful and my garden of black-eyed susans reminds me of the sunflowers for sale at the marché in Aix-en-Provence.  It is delicious on baguette.  Last night John spread some milky brie on his baguette and then topped it with some tapenade.  It is also good tossed on pasta, especially with feta or mozarella cheese.   It lasts awhile in the fridge and, in theory, it can be frozen, but we’ve never had it last long enough to try. 

Here’s the recipe, strongly based on Susan Hermann Loomis’: 

Basil Tapenade Provençal

4-6 anchovy filets (soaked in milk and rinsed to minimize fishiness)

2 cups black olives, pitted

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced garlic

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 sun-dried tomato pieces (the kind packed in oil)

1 cup fresh basil leaves

Cut each olive in half to make sure it really has no pit.  (It only takes 1 pit and 5 seconds in the food processor to ruin the whole batch.)  In food processor, blend the olives, anchovies, capers, mustard, and garlic.  With processor running, add the oil 1  tablespoon at a time.  With it still running, add the basil leaves and then the sun-dried tomatoes.

Store in the fridge.  Serve at room temperature with a garnish of basil and accompanied by slices of baguette.

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