Tapenade, that scrumptious Provençal-style olive spread, is fast and easy to make at home, especially if you have a food processor and use pre-pitted olives.
It is especially tempting layered in a torta with a mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese, plus store-bought roasted red peppers and basil pesto.
Made with these traditional olives the tapenade is delicious, but I’ve noticed over the years that many find the tapenade made exclusively with these assertive varieties too strong. So I’ve come up with a culinary compromise that retains the heart of classic dish, but takes it from gutsy to perky but subtle.
I call it “Green Black Tapenade” because it utilizes both kalamata olives and mild green olives, along with capers, garlic, anchovies, fresh thyme and extra-virgin olive oil. The green olives are the canned pitted style, packed simply in water and salt. Not the acidic Spanish pimento-stuffed green variety that so beautifully garnish martinis; those contain ingredients such as calcium chloride that keep them crisp, but makes their flavor much more acidic and less buttery than the water-packed counterparts.
The food processor does the work in just a minute or two. I drop in the peeled garlic through the feedtube with the machine running; the spinning blade minces the garlic lickety-split. Then, with the motor off, I add the drained capers, fresh thyme leaves and anchovy fillets. (A note here to anchovy haters; the anchovies add a luscious depth of flavor, not a fishy taste.) With the motor back on, it takes about 20 seconds for the whole shebang to be pureed. In go the pitted green olives, pitted black olives and olive oil. Pulse on-off three or four times, just enough to finely chop them (but not puree) and voila, the oh-so-versatile Green Black Tapenade is at your fingertips.
Green Black Tapenade
Tapenade can be prepared a week in advance and stored, airtight, in the refrigerator. It is best served at room temperature. Place tapenade in a small bowl in center of serving platter. Include a little knife for spreading. Accompany with thin slices of rustic bread or French baguette or Italian bread slices. Or toast bread slices that have been brushed with olive oil and garlic to make crostini. If desired, place goat cheese and chopped sun-dried tomatoes on serving platter. Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and Italian (flat-leafed) parsley. Yield: makes 1 1/2 cups
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons drained capers
4 anchovy fillets
Leaves from sprig of fresh thyme
1 cup pitted black olives, kalamata preferred
1 1/4 cups pitted mild green olives, see cook’s notes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cook’s notes: Use green olives such as Early California Fresh Cured Green Olives or Santa Barabara Olive Company Green Olives. Graber green olives are very delicious; they are only sold with the pits intact.
1. With the food processor running, drop garlic into feedtube to mince it. Add capers, anchovies and fresh thyme leaves; process until minced, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
2. Add olives and olive oil; pulse until olives are finely chopped but not pureed.
Nutrition information (per teaspoon): 30 calories, 95 percent of calories from fat, 2.9 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g carbohydrates, 1.2 g protein, 125mg sodium, 0.1g fiber
Yield: 12 servings
1/4 cup store-bought basil pesto, room temperature
Vegetable oil for brushing pan
1/4 cup rinsed and finely chopped, well-drained store-bought roasted red peppers
11 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
9 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Green Black Tapenade, drained well in sieve, recipe included
For serving: crostini, crackers or thinly sliced baguette
Special equipment: a 2 1/4-cup loaf pan (5 3/4 by 3 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches)
1. Drain pesto well. Place in a small fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl 15 minutes; discard oil drained from pesto. If necessary, pat with paper towel to remove excess oil.
2. Lightly oil a 2 1/4-cup loaf pan (5 3/4 by 3 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches); line with a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to allow a generous overhang on all 4 sides. Blot peppers well between paper towels to remove excess liquid.
3. In a food processor, combine goat cheese and cream cheese; process to smooth and well combined. Spread about 1/3 of cheese mixture evenly over bottom of loaf pan and top with all of bell peppers, spreading evenly. Drop about 1/2 to 3/4 cup cheese by tablespoons over pesto and spread gently to cover peppers with a dinner knife or offset spatula. Top with pesto, spreading evenly. Add tapenade, spreading evenly. Drop remaining cheese mixture by tablespoons and spread gently to cover. Cover pan with another sheet of plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours.
4. Remove plastic wrap from top of pan and invert torta onto a serving plate, then peel off remaining plastic wrap. Provide a knife and crostini, crackers or thinly slices baguette for serving.
Nutrition information (per serving): 325 calories, 72 percent of calories from fat, 26 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 25mg cholesterol, 15g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 739 mg sodium, 2.4 g fiber