Now that school is over and I’m nearly finished getting my daughter packed for sleep-away camp, I can focus on my upcoming summer travels. In less than 2 weeks, I’m headed to France - a country I’ve visited a few times in the past and can’t wait to return to. Prior trips have taken me to beautiful Paris, as well as some of the notable wine regions of the country (Burgandy, Champagne, Loire Valley). This summer, my husband and I are exploring Provence, the south of France.
I love to travel and taste the local foods. I keep a small notebook in my pocket, I take copious notes as I stroll through markets, look over restaurant menus, and browse magazines and newspapers. A few days into every vacation, I’m missing my kitchen at home and the ability to recreate the dishes that I’m eating. I jot-down more notes with my thoughts of how I’m going to put my own unique spin on the foods that I’m tasting.
Many of Provence’s typical foods and recipes are well-known all over the world. Aioli, a sauce made from garlic and olive oil, oftentimes also includes egg and is mistaken for mayonnaise. Ratatouille is a stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice, and is commonly made in the summertime to use the abundance of zucchinis, eggplants, and bell peppers. Farinata, also known as socca, is an unleavened chickpea flatbread which is commonly eaten along the Ligurian seacoast (Italy) and has made its way into the food culture of Provence.
While I usually wait until I’ve returned from a trip to start developing recipes inspired by my travels, Tapenade is a puréed dish which typically contains olives and capers. In fact, the name Tapenade comes from the Provençal name for capers, tapenas. I’ve taken the liberty to expand the definition of Tapenade by making a recipe which replaces the salty capers with sweet prunes. Are you a prune lover or do you despise prunes? I’ve always liked dried plums (aka prunes), they’re so easily used in both sweet and savory recipes. I keep a variety of dried fruits in my pantry to use when I’m creating recipes, but most often I just snack on these sweet bites.
My Provençal-Inspired Sweet & Savory Tapenade comes together very quickly with the aid of a small food processor. The ingredient list is short, there’s nothing unusual. Cured black olives are easily found on the olive bars at Whole Foods; they’re often from Morocco (called Beldi olives) and are intensely salty. I recently served my tapenade to a group of friends as a light appetizer, it was the perfect accompaniment for a glass of Rosé wine (also from Provence)! And since no stovetop or oven is needed, this recipe is a welcome addition to summertime food preparation.
I hope that your travels inspire the food that you cook. Let me know if there’s a particular recipe that you’d like to try from Provence, I’ll put my own spin on it when I return home.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Provençal-Inspired Sweet & Savory Tapenade
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1/2 C pitted prunes (12 or so)
1/4 C pitted cured black olives
1 t lemon zest
1/4 C parsley leaves
1 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cut prunes into quarters. Place prunes and olives into the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse a few times to chop ingredients. Add the lemon zest, parsley leaves, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil. Continue to pulse to blend the ingredients, stopping occasionally to scrape-down the sides of the bowl. The mixture should remain course in texture, not a smooth purée. Season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the mixture to a small bowl, cover and chill for at least one hour to allow the flavors to blend.
To serve, bring the tapenade to room temperature. Use as a spread on your favorite crackers or toast, or on a slice of cucumber for a simple snack or appetizer.
recipe yields approximately 1 cup of tapenade
tapenade can be made 2 days in-advance of serving and keeps well for 4 days
add a pinch of fennel seeds to the mixture for a more deep & complex flavor