Olive Tapenade

Like a Dirty Martini. Extra Dirty. Without the Martini…

Back when I fancied myself a writer and a thinker (ha!), I wanted to write a book on similarities and trends in people’s palettes.  I found that the folks that hated olives also hated coconut, avocados and other lovely things that I couldn’t imagine not eating.  It was like a package deal or something.  While my theories have yet to be tested on a larger scale, I definitely do believe that your palette can be trained to taste and eventually love foods that you may not like right now.

Olive Tapendae © Spice or Die

For me, one of the foods that I’ve come around to over the years are green olives.  I’ve always adored black olives – I was the little kid who put the canned ones on my fingers like a fool, only to eat them off – but absolutely abhorred green olives.  In a moment of revelatory tastetastiness (sure, that’s a word), I had olive tapenade at a local tapas restaurant as an amuse bouche.  The chef served it with plantain chips – a fun spin on chips and salsa.  Needless to say, I was hooked from that moment on.

Olive tapenade is so incredibly easy to make, and versatile as not only an appetizer, but also as a marinade and sauce.  It keeps well in the fridge, and can be made from such common pantry ingredients – it’s a good appetizer to add to the mix without adding any extra cooking time.  Goodness.  I use a combo of lemon and red wine vinegar to keep things bright, and the saltiness of the olives and capers makes this a lovely treat.  This recipe is so close to vegan – just leave out the solitary anchovy and you are in business.  For the rest of you kids, make it the traditional way, because you should be eating more anchovies.  They are delicious.

Olive Tapenade

1 c. of black olives
1 1/c c. of green olives
1 tbs. of capers
6 stems of fresh thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded
4 stems of fresh parsley, leaves removed and stems discarded (save for stock!)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1 cl. of garlic
1 anchovy fillet
1/3 c. of olive oil
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper

Chop all ingredients finely to form a chunky paste, following one of the two sets of instructions below.  Chill.  Serve with crusty bread, crackers or plantain chips.


I make this recipe (like most that involve a lot of chopping) in the food processor.  If you are going to do this by hand, crack out a huge cutting board and chop away at the olives, capers, herbs, garlic and anchovy.  Then, toss the whole mess into a bowl and mix in the spices, vinegar, lemon and olive oil.

If you are going to do this in the food processor, you should stage your ingredients so that everything is chopped evenly:

  1. Add the garlic, thyme, parsley and anchovy and pulse until chopped.
  2. Add the olives and capers and pulse until chopped.
  3. Add the lemon, vinegar, oil and red pepper and pulse one last time.

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