I remember the first time I tried tapenade. It was New York, pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-adventurous eating. I was in my friend Jennie’s cramped Manhattan apartment, in New York on a whirlwind visit. I had already ridden to the top of the Empire State Building where I caught snow from a surprise snow flurry on my tongue and walked the slanted twist of the Guggenheim by myself. So when Jennie held out the jar of tapenade and some small crackers, I decided that yes, I WOULD try something I’d never heard of, made with two things I did not (yet) like: olives and eggplant.
The taste surprised me. The rustic warmth of the eggplant and the bright briny-ness of the olives combined into something wholly new to me and wholly delicious. This tapenade eaten straight from a jar may have been the beginning of my love affair with olives and eggplants, together and alone.
The word tapenade actually comes from tapeno, which was the name for the capers preserved in olive oil, traditionally used in this Mediterranean dish, whose main ingredient is olives. Traditionally, it features anchovies as well. There are many variations with ingredients like artichokes or mushrooms or eggplant. You know from my recipes (like this simple jambalaya) that I love variations.
The inspiration for me to make this dish came from an unexpected place: The 2nd Annual Seven Seas Food Festival at Sea World San Antonio. This post is sponsored by Sea World. (As always, all opinions and content are my own!) The Festival runs on weekends through May 15th in the Sea World San Antonio Park, where you can sample 65 chef-created dishes and unique wines, craft cocktails & beer from 12 countries around the world. Sound tasty? Here’s a peek at some of the recipes!
For my Seven Seas inspired dish, I sauteed eggplant and garlic, then processed it in our Ninja blender with olive oil, a little lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. So simple. So good. Perfect with pita bread or pita chips or even on a slice of crusty french bread. If you want to be a purist, just use a spoon.
Eggplant and Olive Tapenade
- 1 eggplant
- 1 cup green olives with pimentos
- 1/2 Parmesan
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4-5 T olive oil
- 1/8 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Peel and chop the eggplant. Saute in about 1 T of olive oil until soft. Remove and saute chopped garlic cloves until soft. Using a food processor, blend the eggplant, olives, garlic, salt, and Parmesan together with 3 T of olive oil. Add more olive oil or a little water until you achieve a chunky consistency that is still spreadable. Chill or eat immediately, served with pita.