In this edition of things-that-taste-better-homemade, I humbly submit tapenade. For such a simple thing (a whirred mix of olives, garlic and other aromatics) it’s hard to understand how store-bought versions can be so bad. And yet, they are. Over-the-counter tapenade is often either too dull or too acidic, lacking any fresh herb brightness or too covered in an oil slick to really taste. The real thing tastes better and is easy to make, my two fundamental requirements for recipes to make at home.
Making tapenade yourself will also allow you to mix and match ingredients to create your own favorite version of this diverse condiment. You can keep it French and simple by combining tiny black Nicoise olives with a bit of garlic and leave it at that. Or you can use butter green luques with a bit of shallot and fresh parsley leaves for a grassy version.
This is my favorite tapenade recipe and it borrows ingredients from Greece. It starts with a sharp and acidic base of kalmata olives and is punctuated by piney rosemary and bright lemon zest. A little bunch of heat from chili flakes finishes it off. Piled high on endive leaves or water crackers and I’m in heaven.
- 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled
- 1 teaspoon rosemary needles, roughly chopped
- zest of half a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- crackers, endive, pita chips or flatbread for serving
- Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor.
- NOTE: I recommend cutting the olives in half first to find any hidden pits. I often find rogue pits in so-called "pitted" olives.
- Pulse until very finely chopped.
- I like my tapenade a bit chunky. If you prefer it smooth, keep the machine running until you have a smooth puree.
- Taste and add a bit of salt if you'd like. Typically additional salt is not needed.
- Serve as a dip with vegetables, warm flatbread, crackers or pita chips. Or dollop on grilled chicken and fish. Or toss with orzo for a quick pasta salad to serve warm or room temperature. The possibilities are endless!