This lower-fat tapenade is a rich spread for crackers and bread that uses artichokes to replace some of the kalamata olives, pine nuts, and oil usually used in tapenade. It’s low in fat, vegan, and gluten-free.
When D and I got married, 13 years ago next month, we did the catering for our wedding ourselves. Now before you go and get all impressed, I have to point out that it was a small wedding, around 45 close friends and family members, and the menu consisted of finger foods and pasta salad. Neither of us enjoys being the center of attention or puts much stock in ceremonies, so we opted to keep it simple and do it, mostly, ourselves.
We spent the weeks before the wedding testing recipes and the final few days preparing dips, spreads, crudites, fresh fruit, and pasta salad, with some chopping assistance from the family members who had arrived in town early. The only thing we didn’t make was the wedding cake: My sister flew halfway across the country with a vegan carrot cake, purchased at a bakery in Austin, Texas, balanced precariously on her lap. She had a toddler in tow, and it’s a wonder the cake made it in one piece, but it did, and we had it decorated by a local Columbia, South Carolina, baker who agreed to use soymilk and margarine in the icing.
So that’s the story of my self-catered wedding. It wasn’t huge or fancy, but it’s at the outer limit of what I would recommend that any bride and groom take on, unless they’re professional caterers or just plain crazy. While I enjoyed feeding my family and friends and felt comfortable knowing that everything was truly vegan, I’m sure I would have had a more stress-free time if I hadn’t been fussing over the food.
The reason I mention any of this is that one dish emerged from our wedding as the guests’ favorite, a calamata olive, caper, and pinenut spread called tapenade. For months after the wedding, I got requests to bring “my” tapenade (which was actually a Moosewood recipe) to every party we attended. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly expensive recipe to make, especially back then when kalamata olives and pinenuts weren’t as easy to find as they are now, and after a while we had to find a less rich—in both senses of the word—dish to contribute. Tapenade is still one of my favorite party foods, and if each teaspoon didn’t have 40 trillion grams of fat in it, I would indulge in it more often. (Okay, I exaggerate, but not by much.)
So I was intrigued when I started seeing recipes for tapenades that looked to be lighter and healthier than my old favorite. Last year a couple of magazines (I think Gourmet and Vegetarian Times, but I’m not certain) published recipes using artichokes with green olives to make tapenade, and I thought they sounded interesting. But I’m sort of stuck in my ways, and to me tapenade will always mean a kalamata olive-based spread, so I decided to try a little experiment and substitute canned artichoke bottoms for the pinenuts and most of the olives in my (Moosewood’s) recipe.
The result was different, definitely not as rich or heavy but still tasty. The texture is coarser, curiously resembling tabouli or kasha, but it has a complex flavor that isn’t overwhelmingly olivey. I’m sure that fresh artichokes would make it taste much better (canned ones have citric acid added, which makes them tarter), but then the recipe wouldn’t be Ridiculously Easy anymore. Also, if you’re not concerned about fat content, a quarter cup of pinenuts would probably push this recipe closer to the mouthwatering ecstasy of the original…with something less than 40 trillion fat grams per teaspoon.
- 1 14-ounce can artichoke bottoms drained and rinsed well (or 8 ounces fresh artichoke hearts)
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 1/2 ounces kalamata olives about 3 tbsp. pitted, halved olives
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice optional; use more for fresh artichokes
- Put all ingredients except lemon juice into food processor. Process, stopping to scrape down sides a couple of times, until everything is finely chopped. Taste and add lemon or lime juice, if needed. Refrigerate and allow flavors to blend for at least an hour before serving. (It’s even better if you let it rest overnight and bring to room temperature before eating.) Spread on good bread or crackers.
Nutritional info is approximate.