Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kalamata Tapenade with Crostini

Pay special attention to the name of this recipe. Please note that it is Kalamata Tapenade. It is not Black Olive Tapenade. While Kalamata olives are indeed black (more of a dark purple, actually), they must not be confused with black olives sold in cans. While a Ferrari 458 Italia and a Ford Fiesta are both cars, there is a world of difference if you were to drive both.

The Kalamata olive is an epicurean masterpiece. Grown in Greece, they cannot be harvested when they are green. Instead, they must be harvested only when ripe, which requires hand picking. Then they are submerged in salted water for three months, which removes the bitterness from the olives. Your first bite into a Kalamata olive will send you over the moon. They are that good.

The black olives that are sold in cans are the Ford Fiestas of the olive world. Back in the early 1900's, there was a botulism outbreak associated with green olives sold in jars. The public was staying away from green olives because of that, so the industry found a packaging method that destroyed the botulism. Green olives were placed in large tanks with a lye solution. After 48 hours the lye was washed away and the olives turned black from the addition of oxygen. The olive was then edible, having been artificially ripened by the lye. The olives were then canned and cooked at high heat to eliminate any chance of botulism.

So in the case of the Kalamata, you have an olive grown naturally and ripened on the tree. In the case of canned black olives, you have an olive ripened with chemicals and heated to a high temperature in a metal can. Those olives are bland, with a pronounced chemical taste. The Kalamata olives taste like the earth.


1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 large cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse into a rough paste. Adjust seasonings to taste, pulse again and transfer to a bowl. (A small table spoon works better than a knife for spreading the tapenade on the crostini.)


1 loaf of crusty bread like ciabatta, sliced thinly as possible
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning before toasting crostini

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brush bread with EVOO on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange on large baking sheet and bake until crusty and brown, 10-12 minutes total. Turn halfway through baking.

Wine pairing: A nice, fruity Merlot

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