November 7, 2012

Fig and Olive Tapenade

Sometimes the unlikeliest dishes are the biggest hits. Take this fig and olive tapenade, for example. It's a simple dip. Not too many ingredients. Easy to put together.

I made it as an appetizer on my husband's birthday. It was intended to keep the hunger at bay without spoiling our appetites for the main course, seafood gumbo. I expected it to be good. Not bad. Not great. Just good.

Shows you what I know. Everybody loved it. There was the hit of briny olives and capers. The heat of the mustard. The brightness of the lemon. But more than anything I think it was the unexpected sweetness of the figs.

I served the tapenade straight, with pita chips. I think it might have been better layered on crackers along with some Boursin or goat cheese to mellow out the flavors a bit. Then again, who am I to argue with success?

Chop up the figs.

Simmer the figs in water until they're plump and tender.

In the meantime, assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Drain the figs. Then put them in a food processor with the olives, capers, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and thyme.

Pulse everything together until the mixture is chunky-smooth. 

Add the olive oil and pulse a few more times until everything is well combined. (I made mine too smooth.) Season with salt and pepper. (Taste first before adding salt -- you may not need much because of the capers and olives.)

Serve with crackers, pita chips, sliced toasted baguette or anything else you like to dip.

Fig and Olive Tapenade

slightly adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

1/2 cup stemmed and quartered dried black Mission)
3/4 cup water
1 cup black olives; Ni├žoise or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 Tbsp capers, rinsed, drained and squeezed dry
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
1/2 cup (150 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

1.    In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

2.    If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary or thyme to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you’ve achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. (The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.)

3.    If using a mortar and pestle, mash the olives with the mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary or thyme. Pound in the drained figs. Once they are broken up, add in the lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and fig juice, if necessary.

4.    Serve tapenade with slices of baguette or pita chips.

Note: Make this tapenade at least one day before you intend to serve it, to allow the flavors to meld and develop.

Makes 1 cup

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