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).
Kalamata or other black brined olives, pits removed
anise seed, whole or crushed. If n/a, use fennel seed
Flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped
basil, freshly chopped
almonds, ground (can be raw or roasted)
Aleppo pepper flakes (mild chile heat, fruity) or red pepper cayenne flakes (hotter, so use less)
extra virgin olive oil (and more if needed)
fennel fronds, lightly chopped (if n/a, use some tarragon)
baguette, crudites, pasta or grilled polenta
In This Recipe
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 seeds, fresh herbs, orange zest, optional fennel fronds or tarragon 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.