I’ve heard it said about fine olive oils, that they are as varied and nuanced as fine wines. So it’s fitting that the olive oil I used in this simple yet impressive appetizer was given to me by my good friends who are in the wine business. And, it is equally fitting that this oil is produced by the same estate in Italy that produces an exquisite Brunello that is rated 94 points by Robert Parker and 97 points by James Suckling. If you are like me and rely on the expertise of more knowledgable friends for wine advice, and have no idea who Mr. Parker and Mr. Suckling are, suffice it to say that those ratings, from those people, are just as hard to come by as a similar grade was for me in high school physics. My friends are featuring this pure, fruity, complex, richly satisfying, damn-near drinkable extra-virgin oil, Siro Pacente on their website WiredForWine. (See links below.)
Another thing I’ve heard said, this time about cooking, is that your food will ultimately be as good as the ingredients you choose. This could not be truer than when you are combining just a few ingredients and doing very little to them, as is the case with this tapenade. The Siro Pacenti oil takes what is already salty, savory, and lip-smacking to the level of finger-sucking and counter-licking, (should you, like me, spill some and can’t bear to lose a drop.) I remember once meeting an older Italian chef who was slim, trim, and still flirty, who I thought was about 55 years old, but turned out to be 72. He told me his secret to his youthful look and attitude was the shot of extra-virgin olive oil he drank down each morning. The flavor of the Siro Pacenti makes me think of adopting this habit myself now. If you are thinking of doing the same, you can go to WiredForWine.com and get some Siro Pacenti and some of that Brunello and use this code when you check out and get a $10 discount off your order: DCFF
Now, back to the recipe at hand. Here are the ingredients, neatly assembled, many of which you may already have in your fridge and pantry. The heart of palm is one of my favorite delicacies, and if you’ve never had any, you should try some just sliced in a salad. It has a wonderful flavor and texture, not unlike artichoke hearts, but silkier and a little more refined. You’ll find them usually in cans, right near the artichoke hearts in any major grocery store. If you can’t find them, then use all artichoke hearts instead. I employed my newest favorite gadget, a wonderful Cuisinart Mini-Chop in my newest favorite color, FoodFix Kitchen RED (stay tuned to next post for a GIVEAWAY of one of these lovely toys perfectly colored for Christmas.)
Note the texture here…you don’t want a puree…you want to see that it’s bits of two different types of olives (those flecs of red are the pimentos from the green olives I had on hand, but you can use just plain old green olives too.)
The same goes for the other ingredients, just use the pulse control on the food processor so you can control the texture and distinguish bits of basil and artichoke and heart of palm. Now all there is for you to do is combine all, and mound artfully on a plate, then drizzle away with your Siro Pacenti, or other high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil.
Then prepare a crusty crostini, perhaps dotted with a little pesto and toasted with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. This is one of my desert island dishes (if you were stranded on a desert island, what few dishes would you want to be able to have?) It has everything my palate loves: briny saltiness of the two kinds of olives, the acid and brightness from the lemon and zest, and almost buttery quality of the hearts of palm and artichoke…all atop the crispy crunch of a good quality rustic bread. Try not to eat half of it before your guest arrive. And make enough to have leftovers to put on sandwiches, to throw on pasta, to put on top of a white flaky fish and bake, to have as a condiment for grilled or roasted chicken, to dollop on feta cheese and bake for a warm appetizer…I could go on, but will stop here so you can start making this!
Remember, you can click on one or the other link to order your own bottle of Siro Pacenti or some of that fine Brunello, and don’t forget to use this code when you check out and get a $10 discount off your order: DCFF
- prep time: 15 minutes
- cook time: 5 minutes
- yield: Serves 6-8 as an appetizer with crostini
One 13 3/4-ounce can artichoke hearts, well drained (gently squeeze each heart to extract as much liquid as possible)
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
10 large brine-cured green olives, pitted
15 large calamata olives, pitted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 of teaspoon grated lemon peel
5-6 whole fresh basil leaves (medium in size, less if really large)
3-4 whole fresh basil leaves rolled up and slices crosswise into ribbons (chiffonade)
2 cloves of garlic peeled and rough chopped (large dice)
2 tablespoon high quality extra-virgin olive oil for the tapenade, plus more for drizzling
Over medium heat, warm the olive oil, but do not overheat. Add the garlic cloves and allow the garlic to “sweat” and soften and infuse the oil with flavor for 2-3 minutes, without browning. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the first 5 ingredients on the list in the food processor, pulsing to chop. Add whole basil leaves and the garlic and oil you warmed it in and continue to pulse, chopping until textured coarse paste forms. Do not over process. You do not want a monochromatic puree. You want a somewhat fine, but still textured spread in which you can discern the separate ingredients (as pictured). Season with salt and pepper, to taste, but keep in mind the olives will be salty to begin with.
Transfer to the center of a large flat bowl or plate. Garnish with sliced basil. Drizzle with additional oil to create a pool of oil around the "mound" of tapenade. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. (Bring to room temperature before serving.) Serve with cut up pita bread, crackers or crostini (see note below).
Pictured crositini: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Thinly slice a baguette or other crusty, rustic bread. Spread a small amount of prepared pesto or extra virgin olive oil on one side of each slice, place the bread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle a bit of grated parmesan on each slice. Bake until lightly toasted. Serve immediately with tapenade.