Summer vacations are the ideal moments for long aperitifs, or pre-dinner drinks, taking our time and chatting with friends, typically in the shade of an olive tree, lulled by the sound of cicadas, sipping a glass of chilled rosé wine or aniseed pastis… and sharing some tapenade on delicious French bread.
You can easily recognize those who buy ready-made tapenade and those who make it themselves, as the former consider tapenade as nothing more than an olive paste (which does exist and is a Nice specialty). Olives, olive oil, yes, but tapenade would be nothing without capers.
The name tapenade actually stems from its use of capers (topeno means caper in the Southern French dialect Provençal). I discovered through my research for this post that capers come from the caper, a pretty shrub growing on the Mediterranean coast whose buds are marinated in brine known as saumure in French, a mixture of salt and vinegar.
Tapenade was invented in the late 19th century by a chef from the biggest city in the South of France – Marseille – as a garnish for hard-boiled eggs. Apart from the olives and capers the original recipe includes anchovies and tuna, perhaps reflecting the fact that Marseille was the biggest port in Europe.
I also prefer to add tuna because it gives a smoother texture without altering the taste.