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The Pastes of Provence: Know Your Tapenade, Pistou, Aïoli, and More
Every night that we went out for dinner in Provence, we were presented with tiny toasts of baguette and black olive tapenade. I always eat a lot of bread in France, but I was struck in Provence by the variety of things to spread on it. Italy may have pesto, but the phenomenal Provençal olive oil lends itself to a myriad of sauces. Here, a primer on the pastes of Provence.
These pastes are not just to be spread on toast. We saw pasta made with a sauce of black olive tapenade and mascarpone. Fish was served crusted in pistou. Anchoïade was spread on roasted red peppers. Caviar de Poivrons was stuffed into raw mushroom caps. And aïoli was smothered onto pan-bagnat. They do all have one thing in common, and by the end of the trip, I was Kerry the Garlic-Breathing Dragon.
Perhaps the most renowned, tapenade is a mixture of olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, and olive oil. It can be made with either black or green olives.
Olivade is tapenade without the anchovies and capers, so it is simply a purer olive paste.
Pistou is very similar to pesto. Only, it can be green or red, is usually made without nuts or cheese. The green is made usually from basil, garlic, and olive oil. The red is made with sun-dried tomatoes.
A compound paste of green olive tapenade and green pistou.
A paste made from anchovy filets, garlic, and olive oil.
Caviar de Tomate or Aubergine or Poivrons
A condensed sauce made from almost a confit of the vegetable in question (tomato, eggplant, or pepper). It is something in appearance like very smooth, thick, and reduced ratatouille.
A very local version of the spreads made from garlic, olive oil, and the wild almonds that grow in Provence.
An iconic mayonnaise made from egg yolks, olive oil, garlic, and a touch of acid.
A spread made from artichoke hearts, olive oil, herbs, and, of course, garlic.
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash and The Secret Ingredient series for Serious Eats.