A traditional French Provencal Tapenade is a thick, piquant paste made with black olives, capers and anchovies, pounded together with some really good olive oil. It makes a fabulous hors d’oeurve and is normally served as a spread for crisp little toasts – or perhaps as a topping for hard boiled eggs; it’s also wonderful served with chicken or fish.
There are so many variations and I posted one of my favorite (and more substantial) Tapenade recipes back in November 2010, along with an insanely easy smoked salmon pate recipe.
This version is a new favorite that only takes minutes to prepare – it takes Tapenade to a rich, salty-sweet level…a perfect accompaniment for pan-roasted or grilled fish.
You could go the pestle and mortar route if you have time and want that authentic Mediterranean experience – but if you don’t want sore arms and have a food processor, Tapenade only takes about 15 seconds at most.
Make it a couple of hours ahead to allow the robust flavors to develop ; just cover and chill but bring it back to room temp before serving. It keeps well for about a week covered in the fridge.
I used halibut here – the deliciously fat, juicy flakes fall apart when it’s perfectly cooked. You could also use cod, haddock or Chilean sea bass but be sure to adjust the cooking time if the fish is less than an inch thick – it needs to be opaque and only just cooked through.
The whole thing can be prepared and served within 10 minutes making this an impressive and delicious change from the usual.
1 cup measure (240ml) of pitted black Kalamata olives, drained (NOT from a can)
8 dried black mission figs (the small black ones), stalks cut off
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves – plus extra for the garnish
1/4 cup (60ml) of extra-v olive oil, plus two tablespoons for cooking the fish
Freshly ground black pepper
Four 6-8oz (170-230g) fillets of fresh halibut, cod or Chilean sea bass, about one inch (25mm) thick, preferably skin-on
Put the figs, olives, capers and basil in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Blend in the 1/4 cup (60ml) of olive oil and season with black pepper – cover and set aside for a couple of hours.
Season the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the oven to 300F / 150C (unless you’re just making this for two, in which case it will go from stove top directly to warmed serving plates). Working with 2 pieces of fish at a time, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet/frying pan. Add the fish, skin side down and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until crispy on the bottom.
Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the fish is opaque in the middle and is starting to flake. Never overcook fish. Remove the fillets from the pan and keep them warm in the oven while you repeat with the other two pieces.
Serve immediately, topped with the tapenade (at room temp) and a basil leaf or two – drizzle with a little extra -v olive oil.
Nothing else needed here other than perhaps some plain boiled baby potatoes served on the side – absolutely wonderful!