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Olive Spreads & Tapenades

Olive Spreads are a delicious and versatile way to use the many types of olives available at DeLallo. Although there is no single term in Italian for an olive paste, they are used often in Italian cuisine -- on crostini, in panini or in sauces and salads. Get some terrific recipe ideas here, including the classic French recipe for tapenade and learn how to pit an olive.

olive spreadThough there is an enormous variation of olive spreads—using black and/or green olives as a base—strangely, there is no term in Italian specifically for describing a “spread.” Sometimes the terms “crema” or “pasta” (paste) are used, but Italians very commonly borrow the French word “pâté” to describe a paste that can be spread (“spalmare” is the verb in Italian) over bread—that is, crostini or bruschette (small toasted slices of bread). These creme di olive can also be used inside panini (Italian sandwiches), often with rocket salad, cheese, and cured meat. In addition, they are sometimes used to add a distinctive flavor to sauces or salads. A few are butter based; some have capers, anchovies, or almonds. Many of them are prepared with extra virgin olive oil, with or without lemon or orange, and herbs and spices. They can be mixed with creamy goat or cow cheeses, or with chopped fresh ciliegini (cherry tomatoes) or pachini tomatoes, from which the water and seeds have been removed.

In the US, the term “tapenade” is often used for various spreads, but actually it refers to a very specific olive paste that originated in Provence, the southern region of France close to the Italian region of Liguria. It consists of black olives (often Picholines), extra virgin olive oil, capers and anchovies. The only variation is in the use of herbes de Provençe—a classic French mix of dry herbs such as sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, basil, savory, lavender flowers and fennel seeds— and/or the addition of garlic.

The most laborious part of making an olive spread is pitting the olives (click here to learn HOW TO PIT AN OLIVE). In Italy, pitted olives are rarely used for these preparations because their taste is less defined. If you have that special little tool for the task, it will be very helpful; otherwise just use the flat side of a large knife and flatten the olives as you would crush cloves of garlic, then patiently remove the “meat” from around the pit. Just be very careful not to let any pit ruin your food-processor blades.

Most of these spreads can be preserved for a fair amount of time if refrigerated in glass jars. Remember to add a bit of oil on top which will create a kind of seal. All of them are extremely easy to prepare and are greatly appreciated when presented with antipasti, cheese or as a snack with a glass of wine with friends.

 

Plan your next olive party with our Wine, Cheese & Olive Pairings article, or learn more about olives: Olive Varieties video.

 

RECIPES & INSPIRATION: