Tapenade is typically a briny mix of olives, capers, anchovies, and olive oil, loosely bound and best eaten in small bites, smeared on toast or drizzled atop warm-from-the-vine tomatoes. I've made plenty of the spread in my own kitchen, but I've never strayed from the expected ingredient list. Tenaya Darlington's recipe in Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese takes a completely different approach. She laces her tapenade with nutty and sweet Foja de Noce, an Italian sheep's milk cheese wrapped in walnut leaves. To play off the nuttiness of the cheese, she adds smoked almonds to the food processor (or mortar and pestle—take your pick) along with honey and lemon juice to balance the salt. Her olives of choice are dry-cured Sicilian, a serious choice for a serious spread.
Why I picked this recipe: I was completely unsure how these seemingly disparate elements would taste when pulsed together, but I figured it was worth a shot. (I was right.)
What worked: Each bite of this surprise of a spread offers an intense burst of smoke, salt, and umami.
What didn't: I would have liked more olive oil here. Next time, I'd at least double the amount.
Suggested tweaks: If you can't find Foja de Noce, you can substitute many other hard cheeses. Other Pecorinos would work particularly well. Balance out the variable salt levels by tweaking the amounts of oil, honey, and lemon juice. If all you can find are "smokehouse" almonds, rinse off the excess salt before using.
Reprinted with permission from Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings by Tenaya Darlington. Copyright 2013. Published by Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:makes about 1 cup
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:10 minutes
- 1/4 pound Foja de Noce, grated
- 1/3 cup smoked almonds
- 1/3 cup dry-cured Sicilian olives, pitted
- 1 small garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey (preferably light-colored)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and purée until the mixture is finely chopped, about the consistency of pesto. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if the paste is too thick. If you don’t have a food processor, try dicing the ingredients, then use a mortar and pestle to create a paste.
Covered, this tapenade will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.