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.
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.
- 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.
Food processor or mortar and pestle
If you're pressed for time, use the food processor method; it will yield a uniformly blended olive spread with lots of chopped little bits. If you have the time and inclination, use a mortar and pestle: It takes longer and requires some elbow grease, but you'll be rewarded with superior flavor and texture. The basic ingredients of olives and olive oil, capers, anchovies, and tuna are totally delicious by themselves, but if you like, you can also work in aromatic herbs, Dijon mustard, and even Cognac, all of which are traditional add-ins.