My recent bout of olive obsession started with a bowl of warm, spiced olives over cocktails at the Triniti bar. (As an aside, you must go in over the next few weeks for the series of gin cocktails that bartenders Leslie Ross and Laurie Sheddan are mixing up. My so-far fave is the No. 3, with Hendrick’s gin, cucumber and rose petals. We’ll see how the summer plays out…)
Anyway, these olive jags happen to me occasionally — I can go for months without giving olives a thought, but then something flips the switch in me, and it’s just olives on everything, every way. Does anyone else do this?
So, still thinking about those bar olives, the next day I made a big batch of green olive tapenade. Using Castelvetrano olives — one of my favorites — all it takes is a few ingredients and a food processor to end up with a bowl of deeply flavorful, earthy olive mash. Almost endlessly useful, tapenade is typically made with black olives, but the green version gives a brighter, brinier character. I love it (and traditional black olive tapenade) slathered on toast, scooped on tomato slices, mixed into seafood salads of any kind, dolloped onto eggs, mixed into pasta… You get the idea.
The first evening, I did a composed salad — which in my kitchen is typically just a “clean out the fridge” moment, using bits and bobs of whatever is in there and trying to arrange it prettily on a plate. I mixed a spoonful of the tapenade into some oil-packed tuna, dotted a little onto hard-boiled egg halves, and added a scoop to the plate to serve as a dressing of sorts for the whole salad, which also included dabs of smoked salmon, tomatoes, diced avocado, toasted slivered almonds, and baby arugula.
And I had intended to use some of the tapenade to dress a bowl of spaghetti one evening. Thinned with a little pasta water and showered with freshly-grated Parmesan, it’s one of my favorite spaghetti treatments. But that plan went out the window when, on the second night, I put together this tartine of sorts.
Toasted sourdough, rubbed with a little garlic and topped with a thick layer of tapenade. Then slices of avocado and hard boiled egg, a scattering of yellow grape tomatoes, lightly seasoned with kosher salt and a few drops of olive oil… Amazing. The delicate creaminess of the avocado and egg balances the intensity of the tapenade, while the tang of the sourdough ties it all together.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I made this exact same dinner — tartines, bed of greens — every single night until the tapenade was gone. And I’m thinking of making another batch so I can just keep going with it…
Pairing: Rosé Champagne
I have to say, I’ve been drinking some really nice Champagne lately. It’s been a confluence of happy celebrations (50th birthday parties for friends, a new job celebration here, an anniversary there) and a few “oh why not” evenings at home. After also experimenting with some non-Rosé Champagnes, I ended up preferring rosé Champagne with this tapenade because they had more fruitiness that stood up to the intense flavors of the olives, capers, garlic and anchovies. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever met a rosé Champagne that I didn’t love… so here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.
Word of warning: there are not a lot of inexpensive rosé Champagnes out there. If these are just beyond your price point, look for a a rosé Cremant. Cremant is the word used for sparkling wine in all the non-Champagne areas of France. These are also absolutely delicious and completely more affordable. I drink ’em all the time. And after this little Champagne splurge, they’re probably all I’ll be able to afford for a while!
Krug NV Brut Rosé Champagne ($425). Just a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a bottle of wine, if you ask me. But it was a 50th birthday, and it seemed like the thing to do at the time… In any case, this is absolutely gorgeous wine. Shows the masculine side of Rosé Champagne, with a certain sturdiness supporting the array of pretty red fruit, marmalade, ginger, fig, anise and touch of cocoa. Will age beautifully for at least another decade. Find it!
Laurent-Perrier NV Brut Rosé Champagne Cuvée ($96). This was the Rosé Champagne of choice at my own birthday “pink bubbles lunch” a few weeks ago at Ibiza, aka my home-away-from-home. Vibrant wild strawberry, intense, complex, with accents of candied citrus peel, baking spice, mineral and a creamy, lingering finish. Love it. Find it!
Taittinger NV Brut Rosé Champagne Prestige ($70). Really loved this for its bright pomegranate and red berry/cherry flavors supported by toast, pastry crust, citrus peel and mineral notes. Picks up a touch of cream on the lovely finish. Dreamy. Find it!
Recipe: Green Olive Tapenade
1/2 pound Castelvetrano, picholine or other firm, briny, mild green olives, pitted
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons capers
1 garlic clove, pressed
Small pinch of cayenne
Pinch of Herbes de Provence
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Add all the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture is a coarse purée. Add the olive oil, then pulse the mixture two or three times until the oil is incorporated.
Serve at room temp. Can store in the fridge for up to a week — best if you let it come back to room temperature before using. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.