An open letter to my little sister, who’s moving halfway around the world:
I’m listening to The Perishers and Dumas while making tapenade, so of course I wish you were here. The size of the anchovy selection at Whole Foods this afternoon would have astonished you, too –- the two of us could have put together “salt preserved” in Spanish –- but we would have been astonished together.
That’s always a good time, you and me, marveling in some market somewhere, happening upon unfamiliar ingredients we suddenly can’t live without.
The tapenade was supposed to be for the French pique-nique, pour la rentrée. See, Quinn starts back at her little French school next week, and, as is tradition, each family brings something sucré or salé to the start-of-year get-together. Of course I pored over cookbooks this week, mulling over what to bring. It’s a significant decision, right? This opportunity to make something new, something perhaps just a little bit impressive but nothing that would hint that I’d tried too hard to impress. It’s a fine line, and that’s where you would have come in handy. You’re always a good sounding board when food decisions hang in the balance.
Do I make the cumin-gruyère puffs, or is that too obvious? Would the red bean cilantro spread with pita chips be too, well, American? And what if my oven isn’t fixed in time?
I went with the tapenade, because Quinn’s crazy for olives, and because I couldn’t be certain of the oven situation. Turns out the oven got fixed this morning, but Quinn’s come down with something (elle a attrapé un gros rhume), so we won’t be attending the picnic, after all. Quel dommage.
If you were here, you’d eat the tapenade with me. You’d appreciate its salty, lemony goodness, the way it completes an olive oil cracker or our portobella and chèvre burgers. And then for lunch tomorrow we could have tossed it with some warm penne and fresh basil, and you’d sit at the bar leafing through the cookbook that this particular recipe comes from, My French Kitchen, marking pages with Post-Its.
But now you’re off to a world wider than an anchovy selection, to a place saltier in some ways than tapenade. Enjoy. And collect a few recipes for me.
Adapted from My French Kitchen
10 oz pitted black or green Mediterranean olives
8 salted anchovy fillets (Kitchen declares salt-preserved are the best)
3 tablespoons rinsed or drained bottled capers
1 garlic clove
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ to ¾ C extra-virgin olive oil
Put all ingredients except oil into a blender and chop roughly. Add olive oil to your liking and blend again to form a paste. Store in refrigerator for up to four days.