I’ve been a lover of salty black olives since I was a little girl and my dad gave me my first taste. It was that first earthy-flavored nibble that began a long, progressive palate-developing journey from canned black olives to supermarket deli olive bars and finally to big, delicious in-house marinated Greek olives at Bill’s Imported Foods on West Lake Street in Minneapolis. I’ve been known to stop in at Bill’s on visits to the Twin Cities, buy a few of each kind of olive and take them back to my hotel room to savor, one by one. Any that remain in the bag sit on the air conditioning vent overnight to stay cool. I eat them for breakfast the next morning, picking them up one by one with my puffy little fluid-retaining fingers that remind me of little pork sausages. All those salty olives before bed can really make a girl take on monster-like facial features by morning, too, if you don’t drink enough water. Wonderful olives make it all bearable, though.
If there is such a thing as an olive snob, I would definitely qualify for the title. These days, I stay clear of any olives that come from a can. A jar, yes. But never from a can.
So, it only makes sense that I would also have a great appreciation for tapenade. Olive tapenade is a thick paste, traditionally made by pounding olives and capers together with a bit of olive oil. I love using this French spread on toasted slices of baguette or thin and crunchy pita chips.
At least a few years ago, my friend, Cori, sent me a recipe for tapenade. Until now, I had never prepared that recipe. Her tapenade had a little twist that makes it different from other tapenades. This one has fresh mushrooms in it. Lots of fresh mushrooms. I do not embrace mushrooms as I do olives.
But, last week I pulled the recipe out of storage. I was trying to recreate a platter of three spreads and pita chips that I recently enjoyed at Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis. I’d already made a spicy feta spread and mild, sweet red pepper spread that I tried to copy from Town Talk. Olive tapenade can always be picked up from the grocery store, but I really wanted a platter of all homemade spreads. Tapenade is not difficult to make yourself.
I made the tapenade recipe Cori sent me. I used my food processor, being careful not to overprocess the tapenade. Tapenade should have some texture. The flavor of the tapenade you make will be dependent on the quality of the ingredients you use. This is no time to try substituting canned black olives for the Greek kalamatas. Use your favorite olive oil. Find the freshest mushrooms. You’ll be happy you did.
I adore quality olives. I’m not fond of mushrooms. But, I love this Tapenade with a Twist. Especially with Home-Toasted Pita Chips.
This recipe makes about 3 cups of tapenade. If you don’t need all of it to serve as a spread, try tossing it with pasta, adding it to tuna salad, spreading it on sandwiches rather than mayo, or dabbing it on pizza. I plan to make burgers with ground grass-fed beef and stuff them with a blend of Tapenade with a Twist and Spicy Feta Spread. Since grass-fed beef is very lean, the stuffing should help keep the burger moist.
You won’t have to twist anyone’s arm to try this tapenade. But, still. Just give me a bag of large, salty, marinated olives from Bill’s Imports anytime, and I’ll be sooooo happy.
Tapenade with a Twist
(thanks to Cori)
- 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 1/2 pound fresh shitake mushrooms, quartered
- 2 tablespoons of a combination of fresh minced herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram
- 4 chubby garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 pound brine-cured black Greek kalamata olives, pitted
- 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a large non-reactive skillet over medium-high heat, warm 3 tablspoons of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook, tossing and stirring often until the mushrooms begin to render their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine. Lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid has evaproated and the mushrooms are tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, combine the mushroom mixture, olives, capers and lemon juice. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. The mixture will thicken. Be careful not to overprocess. Some texture should remain.
Transfer the tapenade to a container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. The tapenade can be prepared up to three days ahead. Allow the tapenade to come to room temperature before serving. Makes 3 cups.
* 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained, can be added to the tapenade during processing.