Though tapenade is best know as a dish from Provence, France, there exists very similar olive pastes throughout the Mediterranean. The word ‘tapenade’ hides a history in one of its ingredients, capers. In Provence, the caper plant is called ‘tapenei’, and capers used to be stored in vessels filled with olive oil. The capers were crushed into a type of pate and used in the same way as tapenade is today. So though tapenade is primarily a crushed olive paste, it’s name is derived from the capers which make up a lot smaller amount of the finished product. You can find tapenade in many delis and supermarkets, but there is a satisfaction and a cost saving by making your own.
Tapenade is best simply topped onto thick slices of crusty bread, or it could be used as a crostini topping. It can also be used as a condiment for fish or chicken, or adding as an ingredient such rubbing over pork or chicken before cooking. You can use it as a salad dressing, use it instead of pesto in pasta, stuff mushrooms with it or use it as a sandwich paste on bread like foccacia or ciabatta.
You can also try adding some other ingredients to the basic tapenade such as some sun-dried tomatoes, dried figs, grated Parmesan cheese, roasted red peppers, cooked chopped mushrooms, crushed walnuts, different herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, oregan, or make it with a mixture of green and/or black olives. Experimentation is the key to finding your favourite tapenade.
How to make a basic Tapenade
- One tin of pitted black olives
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- the juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp of capers, chopped
- 5 or 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
- A small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 4 tbsp of virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Either roughly chop all the ingredients together to form a rough paste, or add them to a food processor and blitz them until smooth.