Monday, August 26, 2013

A Celebration of Black Olive Tapenade

One of my favorite condiments is olive tapenade.  I love olives, period.  Chopping them up and combining them with anchovies, capers, garlic and herbs only serves to make them even more lovable.  Tapenade is delicious with an innumerable list of foods, but I would be happy simply eating it all by itself....spread on a slice of toasted baguette (crostini)....or even on a cracker.  You can purchase tapenade, already made.  But like just about everything, it is so much tastier when made fresh, by you.  And since it is one of the easiest things you will ever make, you have no excuse not to (at least once) make it yourself.

I have already listed the ingredients for the most basic tapenade.  The only thing I left off the list is olive oil, which serves to hold all the minced ingredients together in a rough paste. 

This simple recipe is the way I usually make it...after the recipe in Lulu's Provençal Table.  But the list of interesting and complimentary ingredients that can be added is long.  You will find recipes that include Dijon mustard, lemon juice, red wine vinegar or brandy.  Green olive tapenades often include almonds.  Toasted fennel spice can be well as cayenne, and orange and/or lemon zest.  Frank Stitt includes a chopped hard cooked egg in his version (and it is wonderful).  

As far as the olives themselves are concerned, you can use anything you like...all black, all green or a mix...oil packed or in brine.  One cautionary note:  Even if you buy your olives already pitted, double check them for pits.  You will almost always find a stray pit or two.  It is much easier to quickly go through them before you throw them in the food processor than to try to fish the bits out of the food processor after you hear a pit come into contact with the blade.

As I mentioned, tapenade has many uses.  I made a batch for a class this past week and used it to stuff under the skin of some bone in chicken breasts prior to searing and roasting.   

Tapenade-stuffed Chicken Breast with
Arugula dressed with lemon and olive oil
and a Provençal Gratin of Fresh Tomatoes and Eggplant
It is also good with lamb—smeared over the interior of a boned out leg before roasting...or thinned with a bit of oil and drizzled over a grilled or pan-seared chop.  And its salty, pungent tang is perfect with fish...perhaps smeared on before baking in parchment or used as a sauce or finishing touch. 
I made more tapenade than I needed for my class (one recipe of chicken only uses about a third of a cup).  I could have made a smaller amount, but it's no more work to make a full recipe...and I knew I would use it up.  I have been happily consuming tapenade every day since.

For lunch the day after my class I made a goat cheese and tapenade tartine.  

To make it, simply toast a large slice of a nice artisanal loaf, drizzle with olive oil and slather on a thick layer of goat cheese (plain or seasoned as you like...garlic, herbs, lemon zest, cracked black pepper, etc.).  The tapenade is also delicious, spread between two slices of bread as in a sandwich...with tuna...or egg...or thinly sliced cold beef or lamb...or roasted vegetables (roasted red peppers are  particularly good with the tapenade...add a smear of goat cheese...and maybe some arugula.....)....or...  Well, I think you get the idea.     

As I was considering what to cook for dinner on Saturday, I was having the difficulties of abundance.  The farmers' market is at its summer peak and I came home with a mountain of beautiful produce.

The temptation to make a big pile of raw, blanched and roasted vegetables and serve them with bread, baked goat cheese and tapenade was great.  But then I remembered that I had some salad greens left from my class too.  With this, I realized I had the makings of a Niçoise-inspired salad.  

The classic Niçoise salad includes greens, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, hard cooked eggs, olives and canned tuna.  Each of the vegetables is dressed individually with the vinaigrette and then arranged on a bed of dressed greens.  The greens and vegetables are then garnished with the tuna (dressed in some of the vinaigrette if you don't have oil-packed), wedges of hard cooked eggs and olives.  For my salad, instead of garnishing with plain olives, I thinned some of the tapenade with some of the vinaigrette and daubed this concoction over everything.  I didn't include any tuna (wasn't hungry for it), but you could of course include it.  Need I say it? was delicious.

I still have a few tablespoons of tapenade left.  I wonder how I will enjoy it next? 

Black Olive Tapenade

8 oz. (1 2/3 cup) pitted Kalamata olives
4 anchovy filets (from two whole salt packed anchovies...or you may use four oil-packed filets)
3 T. capers, rinsed
1 clove of garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
1/2 t. each minced thyme and rosemary, or 1 t. minced winter savory
1/4 c. olive oil

Place the olives, anchovies, capers, garlic and savory in the food processor and pulse to produce a coarse purée.  Add the olive oil and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.  

Makes about 1 cup tapenade.  Will keep for at least 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator (keep covered).

(Tapenade recipe from Lulu’s Provençal Table by Richard Olney)

Printable Recipe 

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Tapenade

3 lbs. Chicken breast halves, bone-in, skin-on
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
6 to 8 T. black olive tapenade
white wine or water
Loosen the skin on each breast being careful not to tear or detach the skin from the breast.  Rub each breast with olive oil and season sparingly with salt and pepper.  Using your fingers, spread some of the tapenade under the skin of each breast.  Massage the skin to spread the tapenade evenly.  (Chicken breasts may be stuffed several hours ahead.  Refrigerate until 1/2 hour before ready to use.)

In a sauté pan, carefully brown the chicken breasts in a little olive oil over medium-high heat.  If the pan is not large enough to hold all of the chicken at once, brown in batches.  Transfer the chicken to a 375° to 400° oven and roast until cooked through (depending on the size of the breast, this will take 15 to 30 minutes).  Place the breasts on a clean plate and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  Tip the excess fat out of the roasting pan and deglaze with a splash of white wine or water.  Set aside.

Remove the meat from the bone and slice the breast meat, cutting across the grain.  Serve with the drippings poured over the chicken.  Serves 4 to 6.

(Recipe inspired by The Food & Flavors of Haute Provence by Georgeanne Brennan)

Printable Recipe
Niçoise-style Salad with Tapenade
8 to 10 oz.. Small New Potatoes, scrubbed
6 oz. Green Beans, topped and tailed and cut into 2” lengths
1/2 lb. Vine-Ripe Tomatoes (about 8 to 12 oz. total weight), cored and sliced 1/3-inch thick
3 Hard-Cooked Eggs, sliced cross-wise
3 or 4 T. black olive tapenade (or more, if you like)
Red Wine Vinaigrette (see below)
2 or 3 small handfuls arugula
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced and tossed with a splash of red wine vinegar

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender; drain and set aside to cool slightly.  When cool enough to handle, peel and slice 1/4-inch thick.  Toss in some of the vinaigrette while still warm.

Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain and spread on kitchen towels to cool.

To assemble the salad:
Place the tapenade in a small bowl and stir in enough vinaigrette to thin to a thick drizzling consistency.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, red onions and green beans with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat.   Divide half of the egg, tomato and potatoes between two plates...arranging attractively.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with some of the tapenade mixture.  Dived half of the lettuce/green bean mixture between the two plates.  Arrange the remaining eggs, tomatoes and potatoes over the greens and season with salt and pepper.  Top with remaining lettuce/green bean mixture.  Drizzle more of the tapenade mixture over all.  Serve right away, passing more of the tapenade mixture separately if you like.  Serves 2.

Red-Wine Vinaigrette:
2 T. Red Wine Vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
1 t. Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper, to taste
6 to 8 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small bowl, whisk together until smooth, the vinegar, garlic, mustard, a generous pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste.  Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.

Printable Recipe

Olive oil and balsamic dressed vine ripes with Tapenade
(served with a cheese quesadilla for lunch).

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