Is there anyone over the age of 21 who detests olives? I admit, as a child, they were repulsive to even look at. And then somewhere in my 20’s I got brave enough to try one. It wasn’t white-hot-attraction, but I downed one without hurling, so I decided there must be some merit. I still don’t eat great quantities of them and they’re probably not meant for that because of their saltiness. But little by little, my appreciation for the olive began to rise, especially when used as a flavor accent.
Besides their ubiquitous pairing with the Martini, they’re fantastic with eggs, burgers, and chicken dishes. When my friend Jenny (who grew up in Puerto Rico) served me a bowl of rice and beans bejeweled with green olives, I realized they work well with just about anything…a few exceptions being ice cream sundaes and buttercream frosting. Eventually I stumbled upon the phenomenon known as Tapenade, probably while wandering through a gourmet specialty shop back when I lived in New York City. It was good, but EXPENSIVE…which led me to my kitchen food processor to see if I could do it better. Guess what? I did. And I’m happy to share the results.
There are no hard and fast rules with homemade olive tapenade. I tend to use equal parts black and green olives (pimentos are optional, but pitted olives are an imperative). I accent it with either hot or sweet peppers depending on what’s in the pantry and my mood. Also crucial is extra virgin olive oil – it’s the same principal as using decent wine when cooking, plus the extra virgin is healthier and the emerald color makes for a more enticing spread. Other than that, it’s your comfort level where raw garlic is concerned and a few dashes of Oregano and Rosemary if you have it. If you have fresh leaves available, even better.
I tell you, I make huge batches of this stuff at a time and it disappears. Chef Bill loves it by the spoonful, on toasted bagels, stirred into marinara sauce. I love it in omelettes, mixed into pasta or lentil soups, on rice crackers, and stirred into sauteeing vegetables. I also put extra in glass jars (don’t throw ’em all in recycling!) and give it away as gifts. People clamor for it. Another reason to love it: olives are acidic by nature and aid in digestion (so says my nutritionist). She recommends having something acidic with each meal: a few cherry tomatoes, lemon or lime juice, a few olives. So a spoonful of this or two constitutes a few olives. It’s one of the most flavorful and healthy accents you can give food, and a nice option besides butter or cream to jazz up a dish. All you need is a food processor and a little time. Go for it – and let me know how YOUR batch turns out.
(makes one large batch)
1 32 ounce jar green olives with pimentos, drained
2 16-ounce cans black olives, drained
16 ounces of peppers (hot or sweet)
1 tablespoon each dried Rosemary and Oregano (if you have fresh, ratio can be higher….season to taste)
4-9 fresh garlic cloves (season to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil
Place olives, peppers, herbs, and garlic in mixing bowl. You won’t be able to pulse contents in one shot, so add as much to the food processor as can be comfortably pulsed and pulse until mixture turns almost granular, but still has rough edges….you don’t want mush. Remove in batches and place in another mixing bowl. Repeat until all olive mixture is blended. In mixing bowl filled with chopped olive mixture, drizzle enough olive oil to make an emulsified paste. It shouldn’t be like soup, but a little sloshy and wet. Blend thoroughly with wooden spoon or rubber spatula and store in plastic containers or glass jars. Keeps for a few months in the refrigerator – don’t freeze. Bon Appetit!
The basic ingredients of an olive tapenade