I really enjoy entertaining. There’s a great feeling that comes with opening the door and welcoming people in to enjoy a relaxed and friendly conversation over food and something to drink. But I’m not a big fan of pot luck when I’m hosting. I feel like a terrible host if I make my guests bring their own food! But it’s a double standard; I am very happy to bring something along when I am invited out. Go figure! Since I am happy to offer a plate of food at any time, I try to have the ingredients for one or two easy to prepare dishes in the appetizer category on hand at all times, just in case.

That’s where this tapenade comes in. It is SO good! Even people who don’t like olives like it. So it has become my standby. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked for the recipe, so here it is. As always, amounts are approximate.

Black Olive Tapenade

1 can   pitted black olives
1 bulb   roasted garlic (see below)
1 tbsp   red wine vinegar
1/4 cup   olive oil
4-5   chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp   chopped lavender (when in season) – optional
1-2 tbsp   grated parmesan cheese

1. Pulse all ingredients except cheese in a food processor. Do not over process, or it turns to a gray mush; I like it if you can still see bits of chopped olive.
2. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
3. Allow flavours to blend, approx 4 hours, before serving.
If refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving, or the olive oil will be solidified. I like to serve it with rosemary crackers.

Variations can include adding pine nuts or rosemary. Or substitute roasted red pepper for the sun dried tomato.

Roasted Garlic

Something magical happens when garlic is roasted. It becomes milder than in its raw state and develops an almost sweet, nutty flavour. Mmmm…

Don’t bother looking for roasted garlic in the stores. I don’t know if it’s sold like that, but it’s so easy to make, why bother looking. It also smells divine while cooking. (Oh, did you not know that my motto is, “Never too much garlic”?)

Directions: Chop the top off the garlic bulb to expose the buds. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven or on the barbecue (taking care not to scorch) for about 30-40 minutes. I sometimes just stick it in the corner of the oven when it’s already on for something else —but not when baking a dessert! Once cooled, you should be able to squeeze the garlic out of its skin like toothpaste from a tube. (if not, it wasn’t cooked enough). Roasted garlic can be frozen for future use, but wrap it well to prevent odor transfer.

My wife’s cousin blogged about roasting garlic after trying this recipe after it had been included in the family cookbook.