Godmothers are wonderful creatures. They are an endless supply of love, wisdom, and wonderful recipes. My godmother, Joyce, has been exceptional on all points. Last year, she guided my attempt at sweet potato gnocchi that was a rousing success. Soft orange pillows bathed in brown butter and sage, they have become part of my permanent repertoire. More recently she sent me a recipe for a tapenade, that wonderfully salty olive mixture that pairs perfectly with a fresh baguette or tossed with pasta. Of course, I couldn’t help but tinker with the recipe, fine-tuning it to my own tastes and pantry.
This take on tapenade features sundried tomatoes and sautéed onion, adding some heft and flavor to the chunky mixture. The end result was fantastic, with the family mounding spoonfuls onto thick slabs of bread, being completely devoured in a matter of seconds. The preparation is simple, and makes enough for a cocktail party or, in our case, two family Sunday dinners. Ingredients are available year-round, so no need to limit it to one season. Take it on a picnic, serve it at the holidays, and pair it with a hearty red wine. You won’t be disappointed.
Sundried Tomato-Olive Tapenade
1 medium red or purple onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 8.5-ounce jar sundried tomatoes (packed in oil)*
1/2 cup large green olives (manzanilla, sevillano, or similar)
1/2 cup cured black olives (kalamata, nicoise, etc.)
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
Approximately 1 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
fresh cracked pepper
Optional: 1 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
Heat one tablespoon each of butter and vegetable oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add minced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until just turning brown. Add balsamic, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Remove from heat.
Drain sundried tomatoes, reserving oil. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Pit olives, if necessary, and roughly chop, adding to the tomatoes. Mince the fresh basil leaves and add to the bowl. Stir in the onion mixture. Add 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, stirring well. (If you like a spicier tapenade, you can add cracked red pepper flakes.)
Pour reserved oil from tomatoes into a measuring cup. Add olive oil to make 2 cups total. Add to tomato-olive mixture and stir well. Pour into large jar or Tupperware and allow to sit overnight.
The following day, using a food processor, stick blender, or traditional blender, process the mixture with a few quick pulses. Do not over-blend, as you want a somewhat chunky texture. Add additional black pepper to taste. Serve with slices of sourdough, rustic country, or french bread for dipping.
*Trader Joes makes a julienned version that works perfectly