Roaming about market places in the South of France is a blaze of joyful colors and astounding perfumes. The heady smell of goat cheeses mixes with lavender sachets and Marseille soaps; spice and delicatessen stalls are squeezed between linens and Provençal nappes (the traditional bright-colored tablecloths with flower miniature motifs: olives, lavender, sunflower, and cigales, or cicadas, the symbol of Provence). Herb-flavored olives show off their beautiful colors and shapes in olivewood bowls. And there, among them, various kinds of tapenades are handed by jovial marketers to passing-by shoppers to be tasted with slices of freshly baked baguettes.

Spice marketstall in Port Grimaud, France

There’s nothing I can do: whenever I happen to visit France, I need to taste some tapenade which, incidentally, is perfect to accompany fresh goat cheese and baguette.

Tapenade is basically an olive pâté flavored with anchovies and capers. Typically black olives are used, but green olive tapenades can also be found on market stalls. Olives can be found all year round, though September is the appointed time for harvesting: so why not benefit by the period and have some delicious tapenade?

Making tapenade is actually pretty easy: olives, anchovies and capers are ground together; then olive oil and lemon juice are added to blend the pâté, which is finally made aromatic with herbs such thyme and laurel. Originally, mortar and pound were used to grind ingredients, but a food processor makes the whole preparation much easier and faster.

To get a richer and warmer touch, you can add to the tapenade three tablespoons of Cognac, or some other liquor, as common in some parts of France.


200 g (7 oz) black olives, stones removed
100 g (3.5 oz) anchovy fillets
1 garlic cloves
50 g (1.7 oz) capers
5 cl (1.7 fl oz) olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch of thyme
1 pinch of ground laurel
freshly ground pepper

Soak the anchovy fillets in cold water for 10 minutes. Grind olives, anchovies, garlic and capers with a mincing knife. Then put these ingredients into a mortar and pound them until they become a soft paste (alternatively you can use a food processor). Then mix in oil and lemon juice. Ultimately add the thyme and laurel, and the freshly ground pepper according to taste.


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