I always thought that tapenade was about olives. But then I learned that tapenade comes from the French word for capers, tapenas, and my whole notion of the condiment changed. And then it changed back. I like capers, but I like olives more—and while I hate those new-fangled olive bars so prominent in grocery store deli sections, I do get giddy standing in front of the range of different olives, slick with olive oil or brine at my favorite specialty store (Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker, for anyone remotely curious). So, after fiddling around with many recipes, increasing the amount of capers and mashing up all colors and flavors of olives, I still believe the dominant flavor in a good tapenade should be the soft, buttery, slightly briny tang of good olives. But one thing has changed: my mashing technique. For a long time I held firm that tapenade should be made as our culinary foremothers and fathers had made it, by smashing it to bits with a mortar and pestle. But why? I had been making homemade mayonnaise with a food processor for ages, blitzing up pesto and salsa the easy way for eons, so why was I so insistent on the old-school approach when it came to tapenade? The world shifted; I wised up, whispered a few words of apology to my beautiful olive wood mortar and pestle, and whipped up a delicious tapenade in mere minutes. Draped with a slice of earthy bresaola and smeared on lightly charred toast, this is a boldly flavored and (almost) traditionally prepared pre-pizza snack.
Preheat a grill or the broiler.
In a food processor, combine the olives, capers, garlic, anchovy, thyme, oregano, and lemon zest and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is well combined and nearly smooth. Taste and add lemon juice and pepper as needed. Transfer the tapenade to a lidded jar and use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.
Brush the bread with a bit of olive oil. Either grill the bread lightly or toast it in the broiler until just golden on the edges.
Smear the toast generously with the tapenade and drape the toasts with a slice of bresaola to serve.
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