Amanda & Merrill

John Besh's Green Olive Tapenade

October 28, 2013

In Cooking from Every Angle, we hear from our fearless leaders: Food52 co-founders Amanda & Merrill.

Today: Merrill makes green olive tapenade from John Besh's new book, Cooking From the Heart.

Green Olive Tapenade Ingredients

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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.

More: Fried green olives stuffed with goat cheese

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!

Cooking From the Heart

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.


Green Olive Tapenade

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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Check out for more info on the book.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


LSC February 16, 2014
There used to be a restaurant on Wisconsin Ave, DC, that served fabulous green olive tapenade with rustic homemade breadsticks as the 1st offering........sure do miss that, but will enjoy this recipe!
Pimms1967 November 4, 2013
Yummy sounding tapenade, will have to make it. And thanks for the walk down memory lane as same thing with us kids, we used to fight over Mom's vodka soaked olives at cocktail hour...even as adults! When she ordered her drink, she would ask for extra olives depending on how many of us kids were with her. Mom passed away in 2012 and in her casket we put a bottle of Grey Goose and jar of olives (among other goodies).
riv November 3, 2013
I'm with you on the green olives. Black olives in my memory, always came out of a can and ended up on fingertips... Green ones had more flavor and texture back in the day (and usually a slice of pimiento inside for good measure). Today, olives have come a long way but the green ones in the jar still do it for me. This recipe looks like a keeper too. Thanks!
Kcher October 30, 2013
I can't wait to try this recipe! I'm not a huge fan of anchovies though. Do you think I can substitute a tbsp or so of fish sauce instead of the anchovies? Or simply forgo the anchovies altogether?
ChefJune October 28, 2013
I forgot to say I almost always have some kind of tapenade in the fridge. Olive, especially. Keeps so well, and then you're always ready for cocktails! It also is good to pep up a turkey sandwich.
Marian B. October 28, 2013
I love this tapenade! I took some home from the test kitchen and have been happily smearing it on bread ever since. It is the perfect antidote to an empty fridge.
ChefJune October 28, 2013
I also love green olives. And in Provence you see them in Tapenade as often as the ripe. Of course there must be capers in Tapenade! Did you know the Provencal name for capers is Tapena? I didn't know green olives were considered "stepsisters." Suzanne Goin named her first restaurant "Lucques," after all.
Midge October 28, 2013
This is among the many recipes I can't wait to try in this book!
Greenstuff October 28, 2013
I have some green olive tapenade in the refrigerator right now. My favorite green olives for everything, including tapenade, are Picholines (I think they're better green than ripe, Merrill)and Lucques. They are both nice and crisp.
fiveandspice October 28, 2013
I love pretty much all olives, but oh the variety of green olives! I think they're the winners too. Definitely making this soon. Also, if you're looking for another way for green olives to star (or, well, at least co-star), there's a pizza from Canal House with no sauce, just thinly sliced lemons, fresh mozzarella, lots of green olives, and rosemary, then you add some slices of prosciutto when it comes out of the oven. Soooo good. I almost never want any other kind of pizza anymore.
AntoniaJames October 28, 2013
I'm squarely in the green olive camp, too, Merrill! I always keep jars of them from the Spanish table in my pantry for "emergencies" (e.g., very last minute dinner parties); the rest of the ingredients are all pantry items as well (other than the thyme, which grows in a pot outside my kitchen door year round). Excellent idea, wonderful recipe. Saved!! ;o)
Brette W. October 28, 2013
Very impressed with how you got that salt-packed anchovy to look that sexy. I loved this -- can't wait to make it for my next dinner party!