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Tapenade is a clever creation. It is easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

I used to eat it when I was younger not really knowing what it was called, but since it had olives it was one of my favorite things. It was salty and oily and such a delight to eat. In Spain we don’t eat very many things without proper utensils, but tapenade breaks that rule because it is perfect for a tapa style snack that you can grab with your fingers. All you really need is a small piece of bread or a cracker.

Tapenade keeps well and it even gets better if you let it sit overnight in your refrigerator. It has amazing versatility, and can also be incorporated into salads, eaten alongside fish, potatoes, rice, pasta and even legume dishes. That means that you can make a big batch and keep eating it throughout the week. Sounds like a plan to me!

If you care to deconstruct this dish, you really are looking at a snapshot of delicious Mediterranean cooking. The ingredients in tapenade (olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, herbs) are emblematic of the cuisine of countries all around the Mediterranean Sea. It is, not surprisingly, a sunny, intense and incredibly healthy dish that satisfies without being heavy.

The garlic and herbs, in particular, are quintessential to Spanish cooking and I remember them making daily appearances in almost every dish. Garlic is at the beginning of every recipe and traditional cooks use it abundantly and in combination with rosemary, parsley, thyme and marjoram. To this day, the aroma of garlic in hot olive oil instantly transports me to my grandma’s home. It’s the smell that signals something awesome and scrumptious is in your gastronomic near future.

Nutritionally speaking, tapenade will provide you with an ample amount of heart healthy fats. It is also a good way of consuming raw garlic (which is a proven anti-fungal and anticoagulant) while minimizing the “bite” that is sometimes unpalatable to sensitive super tasters. Whether you decide to make it a vegan option or follow the more traditional preparation, you should enjoy tapenade with the knowledge that it is a great blend of nourishing foods that can help you achieve better health.

 

Black Olive Tapenade

2 cups pitted black olives
2 Tbsp capers
2 cloves of garlic
1Tbsp sweet onion (Vidalia)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice +zest
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Pinch dry oregano
Pinch of salt (if needed)
2-3 anchovies (optional)

Combine all the solid ingredients and spices in a blender or food processor. It is a good idea to press or finely chop the garlic beforehand. Otherwise it might not properly blend with the other ingredients.Furthermore, crushing or mincing the garlic activates its compounds so that you can derive its benefits in full.

Pulse until the olives are chopped into small pieces. Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times until it is incorporated. Do not over blend. The texture should remain slightly thick and chunky.

If available, you can add fresh herbs to the tapenade in order to customize its flavor. Fresh oregano and marjoram are my favorite herbs to use in this recipe. Fresh basil is always a nice addition too.

On occasion, I also like to add anchovies (2-3 whole pieces) to the tapenade. They give it a fantastic umami kick and round up the mix of ingredients with their saltiness and briny flavor. Of course, the tapenade is no longer vegan after the addition of the anchovies, but rest assured that whether you omit the fish or not, the result will be delicious and very healthy.

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