Isn’t it funny when you suddenly start liking a food that you previously despised? How does that happen? This is the case with me and olives. Up until just a couple years ago, I thought olives were totally vile, and now I worship them.
With so many varieties and seemingly endless possibilities for culinary use, olives are especially good for vegetarian fare as they enrich and deepen the flavor of almost anything: salads, sauces, soups, stews. They’re amazing in pastas and on pizza, fabulous tucked into a sandwich, or perfect as a little afternoon snack. Oh, the possibilities!
One of my favorite ways to prepare olives is making them into a purée, called tapenade. Originating from the South of France, the word tapenade actually comes from the provençal word for capers, tapenas, which are an integral part of the classic spread. Other ingredients vary from region to region, but common add-ins include garlic, herbs, lemon, anchovies, and even brandy. I’ve done a vegan version here, with roasted hazelnuts and my herb of choice is the off-beat tarragon (but you can change up either if you like; go for walnuts or almonds or flat-leaf parsley if you’re not fan of tarragon’s anise flavor).
Most tapenades are made using black olives, but I wanted to try my hand at something a little different by using the green sort. Save yourself some time and hassle and buy green olives that have already been pitted.
Sweet, slow-cooked beets complement the salty-citrus notes of the tapenade, and the arugula adds a spiciness to round out the flavor. And don’t stop here: this tapenade is also stellar on a tapas plate or as a pesto-type dress for pasta. (I even used it to stuff homemade ravioli—incredible!)
All love for olive
Aside from being totally delicious, olives boast an astounding number of phytonutrients (think very healthy plant compounds). Few high-fat foods offer such a diverse range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, some of which are unique to olives themselves.
Given this phytonutrient potency, it’s not surprising that olives have documented health benefits. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, olives boost heart health and immunity, fight inflammation, and aid digestion.
Roasted Beet and Arugula Sandwich with Green Olive Tarragon Tapenade
1 red beet
2 slices whole-grain sourdough bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing bread
A good slather Green Olive Tarragon Tapenade (see recipe below)
Handful of arugula
1. Heat oven to 400°. Wrap whole beet in foil and roast until soft (time will vary depending on size of beet), about 40 minutes.
2. Remove foil and let sit for 5 minutes until cool enough to handle. Slip skin off under cool running water. Slice.
3. Brush bread with olive oil and toast until golden. Spread one slice with a layer of Green Olive Tarragon Tapenade, then top with beet slices and arugula.
Green Olive Tarragon Tapenade
½ cup hazelnuts (or other nut)
2 cups green olives
¼ cup fresh tarragon (or parsley)
1/8 cup capers
Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or agave or honey)
1. Roast hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and the skins begin to crack. Transfer to a food processor.
2. Add all other ingredients and pulse until chunky and well mixed. Blend a little longer for a smoother texture. Store tapenade in the fridge for up to one week.