Is there anything better in the world than olives? Yes. Tapenade. This salty, briny, capery mixture is pretty much the best thing ever invented. According to CliffordAWright.com, tapenade is French, from Provence, which helps explain why it’s awesome. Rob and I started making our own when we tried a recipe for grilled tuna steaks with tapenade topper. Yum. We had leftovers, so we started experimenting, putting tapenade on veggies, on crackers, on cheese, on chips, on pretty much everything. And then I started making it to bring to parties, because we always have olives and capers on hand – which is kind of weird, when you think about it, considering we’re two born-and-raised Midwesterners. But it’s a great party dish – it pairs with goat cheese, with brie, with pita chips, with bread, with hummus, with many other equally delicious things.
But I digress. Tapenade is very hard to find in stores (in Des Moines, at least). Our regular grocery store doesn’t carry it, so up until now it’s been a forced DIY. But the other day, we were picking up gourmet $1.50-per-dog hot dogs at a local specialty grocery store (don’t judge – they’re the best hot dogs I’ve ever tasted), and Lo! What did we find but tapenade! Thus, I decided that the time had come for…
There are about a brazillion different recipes out there for tapenade. They all start with the same two basic ingredients: Olives and capers. From there, though, the options are varied. Olives can be green, black, Kalamata, a mix. Some recipes call for tuna in place of, or in addition to, anchovies. Others add brandy,Cognac, vinegar or lemon juice; thyme or rosemary or coriander; garlic; mustard; or fruit such as figs.
The store-bought tapenade we found, by Organic DIVINA, contains: Kalamata olives, capers, red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano. All organic, so they’ve totally got me there.
I used the following recipe, my personal adaptation of The Joy of Cooking’s version:
2 cups olives
2 tsp. anchovy paste
2 Tbsp. capers
A hearty drizzle of olive oil
1 Tbsp. brandy or lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. dried thyme
Black pepper to taste
For the olives, I used 1 cup of green-with-pimento olives, and 1 cup pre-pitted Kalamata olives. Pre-pitted olives, of whatever variety, are key to making this easy.
I threw the olives and everything else into the food processor, and pulsed it all to a rough mixture (you can keep going until it’s a thick paste, like hummus, if you prefer).
I added pepper to taste, and called it done. You can add salt if you want it, but between the olives and the capers and the anchovy paste, I think there’s more than enough in there already. Then, chill. Serve. Enjoy.
VARIATIONS: If you’re vegetarian or vegan (or going to a party where other guests are) feel free to leave out the anchovy paste. I omit it whenever I take this to parties, and it’s still fabulous. I don’t think people even know something’s missing.
Time and Cost Comparison
The store-bought tapenade cost $5.69 for 8.5 ounces. That works out to $0.66 per ounce. It took either months or a few minutes to find, depending on how you look at it.
The homemade tapenade takes about 10 minutes to toss into the food processor and whirr together. The recipe makes about 14 ounces, and the total cost was $7.33 worth of ingredients. That works out to $0.52 per ounce.
The main ingredients are the same: Olives, capers, garlic. The divergent ingredients (oregano vs. thyme, olive oil vs. red wine vinegar) are a matter of taste preference. There are no ingredients to find offensive, health-wise. My ingredients were not organic; the store-bought brand’s were.
The store-bought spread has, per 1 tsp serving: 15 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 130 mg sodium, 0 carbs and 0 protein. (Also, who’s going to eat just one teaspoon of tapenade? That’s a ridiculous serving size.)
The homemade spread has, per 1 tsp serving: 11 calories, 1 gram fat, 100 mg sodium, 0 carbs and 0 protein.
So really, pretty darn close.
Our three-person taste-test (Thanks for helping, Sara!) was conclusive: The homemade tasted better. I think having the variety of olives, and the brandy and anchovies, adds a depth of flavor. Also, the choppier consistency sits way better on a cracker, and has a less oily feel.
2 – Really, pretty low. Throw stuff in a food processor and hit a button. Done.
DIY or Buy
DIY. The deciding factor here is was really the taste/texture, and the ability to customize the recipe. I REALLY like the mix of olives, rather than all-kalamata or all-green. And, I guess, the general un-availability of the pre-made version plays into the decision, too. If you live in an area where tapenade is more common, or you don’t have a food processor or blender, I could see a Buy being an equally good or better option. But then you still miss out on the fun of finding the tapenade flavors that you like best.