I've always felt a little self-conscious about my fondness for green olives -- if everyone else prefers black olives, I must be missing something, right? It's not that I don't like black olives (especially purply-hued ones like picholines) but if push came to shove, I'd choose green.
Maybe it's because my father used to fish green olives out of his gin cocktails and slip them to me and my sister as a treat; this made us feel incredibly grown-up, and for those of you who haven't experienced it, there's something really special about a very briny olive that's been soaked in gin, absorbing just a hint of its perfume and bitterness.
But black olives have always been the darling of the culinary world, so I've tried to downplay my affinity for green, unless I find myself among clearly kindred souls.
Imagine my delight when leafing through my sneak preview copy of John Besh's new cookbook, Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way, I spotted a recipe for Black or Green Olive Tapenade in a chapter called "The Art of the Table." Finally, someone was giving legitimacy to green olives!
I'd also never had a tapenade with green olives before and was eager to try it. The recipe is simple and classic (yes, it includes what John calls "the defining capers"), and the balance of flavors is spot on. A soft punch of garlic, a whisper of thyme and a hint of anchovy keep you wanting more.
You can whizz this up in under 5 minutes and along with some sliced baguette, you've got an instant hors d'oeuvre.
Here's how you make it:
Add olives, whole garlic cloves and capers to the bowl of a food processor.
Throw in some thyme leaves and two anchovy filets (if you use salt-cured, which John recommends, you'll have to debone them yourself -- it's fun!)
Pulse the ingredients until they're roughly chopped.
With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil to make a chunky paste.
Adapted from Cooking From the Heart
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups pitted olives?, black or green
2 cloves garlic, peeled
?2 filets salt-cured anchovies
?1 tablespoon capers, drained
?Leaves from 1 (or 2) sprigs fresh thyme
?1/2 cup olive oil
Photos by James Ransom
Check out chefjohnbesh.com for more info on the book.