Modern entertaining is all about having fun with your guests while enjoying the food. It's not about being chained to the stove, never being allowed to mingle for a moment. For cocktail parties, especially around holiday time, I'm always looking for recipes that can be prepared in advance or put together in just minutes on the same day of the get-together. Plus I plan around using some store-bought items, like cheese, prosciutto, or olives.
The unique thing about French cuisine, is that it has both extremely complicated and yet surprisingly simple recipes too. Specifically, I love Provençal cuisine for its simple recipes using vibrant flavors. Besides all the wonderful fish dishes, salads, and homey stews, there are a number of simple things that work wonderfully as appetizers. In this case I'm focusing on olive tapenade, a pungent paste of olives used as a spread on bread.
Tapenade is the perfect party appetizer, because it's so easy to put together (less than 5 minutes) and it's very flavorful. It truly whets the appetite! All you need are some pitted olives and a few other typical Mediterranean ingredients to make this spread. Then just use a food processor to purée everything together (though the French would prefer mortar and pestle) and you're all set. Your guests will appreciate the simple and rustic yet elegant nature of tapenade.
2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
1 anchovy fillet (optional)
1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
bread or toasted, sliced bageutte, for serving
Combine olives, capers, anchovy, garlic, lemon juice and zest, mustard and parsley in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Drizzle in olive oil and process until nearly puréed but still slightly chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with bread or toast. Yield: 8 to 10 servings.