Tapenade with Sicilian capers

May 23, 2019

Author Notes: This makes a lovely appetizer or 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 dryishly in sea salt. This started as a recipe in Canada's Globe and Mail, September 1994 issue of its food magazine Gusto. I've played with the seasonings and the garnishes, including adding Turkish or Syrian pepper, reflecting Mediterranean trade with Sicily and Provence.Nancy

Serves: 4-8
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min


  • 1 tablespoon capers, Sicilian salted if possible. Otherwise, jarred in vinegar or brine. Use as is, or rinse (for less salt in the finished dish).
  • 4 tablespoons orange zest, fresh chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, fresh minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 2 cups Kalamata or other black brined olives, pits removed
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed, whole or crushed. If n/a, use fennel seed
  • 1/2 cup Italian (flat) parsley, fresh chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil, fresh chopped
  • 1/3 cup almonds, ground (can be raw or roasted)
  • To taste Aleppo, Marash or Urfa pepper, ground
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin (and more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup fennel fronds, lightly chopped
  • Serve with baguette, crudites, pasta or grilled polenta
In This Recipe


  1. 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.
  2. If you are serving baguettes or crudites, cut them into pieces suitable for two-bite hors d'oeuvres.
  3. 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.
  4. Mound in a serving bowl.
  5. Garnish with parsley, basil, anise or fennel seeds, orange zest, optional fennel fronds and serve.
  6. If there are leftovers, store up to 2 weeks, refrigerated, tightly covered in a glass jar.
  7. Recipe serves 4 to 8, depending on what else is served. It can be doubled, to serve up to 16.

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