This makes a lovely appetizer on its own or as part of a mezze spread. Although we tend to think of tapenade as an olive spread (and most do have olives), the name comes from "tapenas" the Provencal word for capers. The jarred ones in vinegar or a brine solution are perfectly fine. But even better are the ones from Sicily, packed in sea salt. This started as a recipe in Gusto food magazine (Globe & Mail newspaper Sept 1994). I've played with the seasonings and the garnishes since then, reflecting Mediterranean trade between Turkey, Sicily and Provence. —Nancy
capers, Sicilian salted if possible. Otherwise, jarred in vinegar or brine. Use as is, or rinse (for less salt in the finished dish).
If you are serving pasta or polenta, start by making one of those. (No cooking time needed if you are not making these). Set aside.
If you are serving baguettes or crudites, cut them into pieces suitable for two-bite hors d'oeuvres.
Have ingredients at room temperature. Mix olives, capers, almonds, garlic and oil to make a paste. Taste, add more oil if needed. Add pepper to taste. No need to add salt because the capers and olives have plenty.
Mound in a serving bowl.
Garnish with parsley, basil, anise or fennel seeds, orange zest, optional fennel fronds and serve.
If there are leftovers, store up to 2 weeks, refrigerated, tightly covered in a glass jar.
Recipe serves 4 to 8, depending on what else is served.