Raw olives are incredibly bitter, so once harvested they are cured and then usually preserved in salt or brine. The small, oval olive fruit has a flavour ranging from salty to mild and sweet. It can be harvested at any stage – the immature fruit is green; it turns red-brown and then black when fully ripened – which accounts in part for the variation in flavour.
The Original Tapenade
The original tapenade is a purée that stems from Provence, France and is used as a spread. The word tapenade comes from the Provençal word tapèno, meaning “capers,” which are a common ingredient, but some people think of tapenade as basically “olive paste.” It is considered a gourmet condiment.
There are several sets of ingredients that tapenade may contain, with more variations introduced as time goes on. The original spread contained capers, black olives, and anchovies, all of which were pureed along with olive oil. Other ingredients mentioned include lemon juice, seasonings such as fresh herbs, and garlic. Some recipes specify the type of black olive to be used, such as kalamata, nicoise, or gaeta olives, and some call for mustard, liquor such as cognac or brandy, and red wine vinegar. They differ in whether they use anchovy paste or fillets.
Other ingredients that can be used as a base for tapenades are :
sun dried tomatoes
Tapenade can be served with vegetables, fish, or meat, and is sometimes used as a stuffing. It is often simply spread on artisan bread, pita, crostini, or crackers for use as an hors d’oeuvre. Some use it as a sandwich spread, while others use it to top baked potatoes or toss it with pasta.
Homemade tapenade can be prepared using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Tightly covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Tapenade butter is created by combining classic tapenade ingredients with butter to make a paste. It is used as a meat garnish or inserted under a chicken’s skin before roasting, and it is sometimes used to create a sauce. Tapenade butter can also be formed into a log, wrapped in plastic wrap, chilled, and served in slices.
My green olive Tapenade
2 cups Spanish green olives (olives stuffed with jalepeno peppers will give this a kick)
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons capers
7 fresh Spanish marinated anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 tbs olive oil
Place the olives, capers, anchovies, parsley and garlic into a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle for a more authentic paste) . Cover and process until the mixture is finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons oil and the lemon juice and process just until combined. Do not over process to puree the mixture.
Green Olive Crusted Chicken
Homemade green olive tapenade (enough to spread over 4 chicken breasts)
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
4 chicken breasts (about 500g)
Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Mix together the tapenade, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and cheese. Press firmly onto each chicken breast to coat. Place on an oiled baking tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat.
Serve wth seasonal roasted vegetables