Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tapenade – perfect for a forbidden picnic

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Following a few relaxing days in Montpellier visiting my brother and his lovely lass, I was about to take my leave when we passed the bank of signs in front of the fabulous Jardin des Plantes – France’s oldest botanical garden. The stern lettering said something along the lines of “Pique-niques - strictement interdit”. 
What’s that mean?” I asked.
“It means that picnics are mandatory in this area,” My brother said, “We must acquire a picnic immediatement –on pain of death!” I hardly needed encouragement. You know I love picnics, but I looked to his long-suffering beloved for confirmation. She shrugged and raised her eyes to heaven.

Conspiring to become tapenade...

Acquiring an instant pique-nique entailed an impromptu stop at the impressive organic market beneath the roman aqueduct of Les Arceaux: artisan breads, a paper bag of plump cerises, some fragrant fraises, and a quartet of punchy organic tapenades – black olive, green olive, white garlic, and sun-dried tomato. We smuggled our picnic into the 16th century garden and found a dappled glade in which to eat. I’d like to say it was the interesting conversation, the time spent with loved ones in such incredible surroundings, the cool relief of the shady trees in an almost 40°C heat that was the best part, but I’d be lying. That was all well worth living for, but in the end it was the black olive tapenade that made the day truly pop.

Some good reasons to visit gardens in the South of France

To take your taste buds to the South of France you will need...
150g black olives (de-stoned weight)
1½ tablespoons capers, well rinsed and patted dry with kitchen paper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 fat clove of garlic, finely grated or crushed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1                    Place the first 6 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. If you are a sucker for punishment you can pound these ingredients together using a pestle and mortar.
2                    Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse until just combined. This is crucial. The finished product should have texture. Over-process to a smooth paste and you’ll end up with a bitter unpleasant oily yuk.

The tapenade is ready to eat right away, however if you have the patience to cover it and place it in a cool spot overnight you will be rewarded with a little alchemy.  The flavours meld and become even richer and punchier.

If you make tapenade regularly, you’ll develop your own flavour preferences. Ring the changes by trying different varieties of black olives (my preference is for the Greek Kalamata), using finely chopped fresh rosemary instead of thyme and swapping out the lemon juice for cognac. Great spread on good bread, it can also make a fantastic and lively topping for fish.


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25 comments:

  1. So lucky to be the first one to comment! The pictures are wonderful. Just loved this post!

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  2. What a beautiful place for a picnic and I love the spontaneity of just making it happen! That always leads to the best of times! The tapenade looks wonderful and the recipe is one of the best I've seen! It's been bookmarked!

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  3. I adore tapenade and any dips spread on crackers - your recipe sounds perfect :D
    And I refuse to wait for a special rendezvous to make it ;)
    Delicious!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  4. Lovely recipe, I hadn't thought of adding capers to the tapenade. I really love olives and especially as a spread. Very nice.

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  5. What can I say Hester? Next time I'm in the south, I want to picnic with you. My parents-in-law live in Provence but somehow tapenade is never on the picnic menu since it comes back on belle-maman. Let me know the next time you're around and we'll escape for a RDV à la tapenade, Mon Dieu.

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  6. How wonderful to be able to picnic - we've been treated to snow, sun and rain all in one weekend. No picnics here. I have yet to try my hand at a tapenade. Sounds like I need to give it a shot. :)

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  7. What gorgeous photos! And please pass me some of that fabulous tapenade...I'm ready for a picnic :)

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  8. The tepenade sounds divine! I could live with mandatory picnics if this is the fare that's on offer!

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  9. We holiday in the S of France every summer and it's always 'BBQs INTERDIT!' I don't know how I survive! Great tapenade recipe, and you are right kalamata olives are the only black olives as far as I'm concerned!

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  10. Definitely not a sucker for punishment, it's the food processor for me! Love your pics! Definitely puts me in the mood for a picnic if only our weather is more forgiving. Sigh.
    Congrats on Top9 today!

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  11. Now this would be my ideal picnic...gorgeous shots and lovely tapenade :)

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  12. Congrats on the Top 9 today! This tapenade definitely deserves the time to be noticed =)

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  13. Lovely photos and tapenade is a fovorite as are olives. Congrats on the Top 9. Lovely post.

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  14. Great pictures! I like the idea of a tapenade. So simple and so delicious.

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  15. Great recipe! I think picnic's should be mandatory :) I love picnics and I would love to take this tapenade along with us.

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  16. What gorgeous pictures! I love picnics but we rarely find the time... must make time for it! Thanks for this beautiful tapenade recipe! Love it :)

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  17. What a beautiful dish and a wonderful picnic! I'm not an olive fan, sadly, but my husband is, and when I've got a moment, I am going to run out and get these ingredients to make this for him because I know he will LOVE it!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  18. I’m a little scared of having a picnic. Somehow it’s never the right weather here to have one and then you’ll have to think about what to bring…But if I would’ve been invited to a picnic I would happily accept =)

    I love your tapenade recipe. And yes I’m a sucker for punishment. Guess it’s time to by a food processor!

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  19. What a tease! I want to be in France SOOOOOOOOO badly! And loved your photo of the tapenade before you prepped it. I felt like I could smell the thyme through my computer screen!

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  20. What a great story! :) Lovely descriptions, and the tapenade sounds amazing.

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  21. What gorgeous photos--and it sounds like a lovely time! I agree, tapenade is black gold, one of my favorite go-to foods for parties.

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  22. Aaaaah! This looks like a fantastic stop in the park. I can totally get into mandatory picnics. Gorgeous tapenade, darling! Makes my heart go pitter-patter :)

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  23. I am so ready for picnic weather! Tapenade with fresh bread sounds just perfect!

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  24. Gorgeous photos - those flowers just pop and make you think of vacation. Olive tapenade is one of my favorite party appetizers, so flavorful and easy - and easy to customize!

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  25. Oh I love making olive tampenades... I must give yours a try soon!

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