If you follow me on Twitter (@andieobrien), you'll know that I've recently been on a cookbook shopping binge. When added to the other ones I have, I've created quite a collection (it takes up two shelves in my apartment.) My new favorite cookbook, however, is this one...The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.
It is, I kid you not, my absolute go-to. I even brought it down to my aunt's house last weekend and left it on the kitchen counter--in a house full of Italian cooks, every single person who stopped to look at it said how amazing and classic the recipes are. My mum got sucked in and sat at the table reading it for at least an hour...on a beach day! If that doesn't tell you how perfect it is, I don't know what does.
It is a massive tome, but I've slowly been working my way through it. One of the first things I saw in the appetizer section was olive tapenade. Now I'm a...medium...on olives. I'm HUGE on olive oil, I like chopped olives in dishes, but I don't really love eating a straight olive. So I decided to mix it up a bit.
This weekend I even had a captive audience to test my new recipe out on! One of my good friends (the daughter of one of my aunt's neighbor) is getting married this weekend (the one I mentioned in Sunday meal planning) so they needed to keep their house clean on Labor Day weekend. My aunt invited the three of them over so of course we needed hor d'oeuvres for our happy hour. And of course I was cooking so I could test out some new things.
My mother was absolutely obsessed with this tapenade. I was even a big fan--I did, however, eat it over fresh mozzarella, not just straight on a piece of toasted bread. Nothing wrong with adding a little mozzarella to anything!
The best part of this? How fast it was to make. I used my cousin's bullet blender (so much easier to clean than a food processor) and the whole shebang took about 15 minutes. And, it is meant to be served cold, so it's a perfect make-ahead appetizer when you have a group over.
Olive and Eggplant Tapenade
One jar of pitted black olives
One tsp fresh capers
1/3 small eggplant
4 cloves garlic, minced
1. Salt your eggplant and place on a paper towel to sweat and drain off the excess moisture.
2. While the eggplant is sweating, combine entire jar of olives, 1 tsp capers and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Process until fairly smooth.
3. Chop the eggplant into small pieces. On the stovetop over medium, heat olive oil. Saute garlic until golden brown. Add the eggplant and basil and saute until soft.
4. In a bowl, combine the eggplant with the processed olive mixture. Toss so that the eggplant chunks are coated with olive.
Serve the tapenade with smooth, unsalty cheese (the olive is salty enough!), stone ground wheat crackers or toasted bread--whatever starch it is, make sure it is sturdy and can hold up to the strong flavors!