Tapenade with Olives, Toasted Walnuts, and Herbs

Monday, October 28, 2013

Olive lovers, this one’s for you.

Or, if you think you don’t like olives—I get it, as I never used to, either—perhaps it’s time to give them a shot?

While energy dense, olives are highly rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and add texture and flavor to all kinds of food, pasta sauce to salads and beyond. Not to mention on their own, out of hand. I never ate these divine morsels until I was an adult, when I dated someone who had an olive fetish. Gradually, I fell head over-heels, crazy-in-love.

It should thusly come as no surprise that I adore tapenade, that toothsome olive spread named for the Provençal word for capers most often found spooned onto crusty bread or crostini and topped with a bit of chèvre (goat cheese). Indeed, this was one of the fabulous hors d’oeuvres served at my wedding.

Girl meets guy. Guy loves olives. Girl falls in love with guy, and olives. Girl marries guy and olives feature prominently in the wedding menu.


Except I didn’t marry that guy.

But my love affair with olives is forever.

Olive and Walnut Tapenade

Ingredients and Preparation

  • 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp coarse mustard (prepared)
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp snipped chives
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ~2 tbsp olive oil
  • Cayenne, pinch (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Using short pulses, combine all ingredients except olive oil and salt/pepper(s) in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give another grind. Drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture comes together as a paste. (It should have the consistency of a nice spread, thinner than peanut butter but thicker than jelly. Or something. [See photo.]) Taste and season with black and cayenne pepper and salt as desired, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.

Notes and Variations

Anchovies are commonly added to tapenade. I completely forgot to add those silvery little fishes. While too bad, since I love anchovies—and they bring valuable omega-3 fatty acids to the dish, as well as flavor—I didn’t even notice they were missing. Go ahead and toss in a few fillets if you like, or leave them out. Whatever. This recipe is fantastic as is for a vegan version.

A fun variation is to use half olives and half figs, or 3/4 olives and 1/4 figs. (Dried figs that have been rehydrated, that is.) This makes a sweeter spread and could be a good “starter” recipe if you want to meet tapenade for the first time in a mellower fashion. Including (rehydrated) sun dried tomatoes and additional fresh herbs like basil and oregano is another option.

(Don’t do all these things together, however.)

Finally, you can play around by using a mix of olives rather than just Kalamata (Greek), if you like. All green would be fun, or whatever combination you enjoy. Toasted pecans might also work in lieu of walnuts. Green olive and pecan tapenade, perhaps? Hmm…never tried it, but sounds tasty!

However you make it, there’s room to play when it comes to tapenade—and lots of ways to use it in cooking, too, beyond crostini. You can bet I’ll throw a few tapenade-inspired dishes your way soon for more olive inspiration.

Maybe you, too, will fall in love.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

Copyright © 2011-2020 P.K. Newby. All Rights Reserved.

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