Unlike the modern version of tapenade, which features the olive more prominently than the other ingredients, this recipe is based on the original, created by a chef named Meynier at the Marseilles restaurant La Maison Dorée in 1880. It's made with equal parts olive, caper, and briny fish, like anchovies and oil-packed tuna—hence the fact that tapenade takes its name from capers (tapeno in Provençal) and not olives.
Why It Works
- The higher ratio of capers and fish to olives produces a spread with a deeply savory, balanced, and briny flavor.
- Tuna not only adds flavor, but also creates a protein-rich paste that helps form a more stable emulsion.
- Yield:Makes about 1 cup
- Total time:10 minutes with food processor, 25 minutes with mortar and pestle
- 2 ounces pitted black olives (about 3/4 cup), such as Niçoise or oil-cured olives
- 2 ounces drained capers (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 ounce drained oil-packed anchovy fillets (about 8 fillets)
- 1 ounce drained oil-packed tuna (about 3 tablespoons)
- 2 loosely packed teaspoons fresh oregano, marjoram, or thyme leaves (optional; see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional; see note)
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 1 teaspoon Cognac (optional; see note)
If using a food processor: In the processor work bowl, combine olives, capers, anchovies, and tuna; add herbs and mustard, if using. Process, scraping down the sides, until a finely chopped paste forms. With the processor running, drizzle in just enough olive oil to loosen to a spreadable paste, about 2 tablespoons. Process in Cognac, if using. Serve.
If using a mortar and pestle: Roughly chop olives, capers, and anchovies, then add to mortar with tuna. Add herbs and mustard, if using. Tap, crush, and smash with pestle until ingredients have been reduced to a thick paste (a little chunkiness is okay). Using pestle to blend, drizzle in just enough olive oil to form a spreadable paste, about 2 tablespoons. Work in Cognac, if using. Serve.