This velvety fig and olive tapenade makes an easy and elegant appetizer for a party or a date night in! You can pre-assemble it with cream cheese and walnuts on crostini or serve it spooned over cheese for guests to spread themselves.
A couple weeks ago my mom and stepdad were in town to see Foreigner in concert. They made a day trip out of it so they could see us, along with my sister and her family, before their show. After our pretty substantial family lunch, they only needed a light snack before the show, so I decided to throw together some crostini to serve them.
Silly me, I got ingredients for my two favorite kinds, but only had time to make the double tomato bruschetta before they scarfed them down and headed out the door.
Well, that left me with all the ingredients for this fig and olive tapenade and an extra loaf of bread.
So Mike and I made a date out of it last weekend. I made the fig and olive tapenade a couple days before, got all the accouterments for a cheese and charcuterie board (more on that next week), so all I had to do was toast the bread, assemble the crostini, and pour the wine before our date night in.
This crostini is one of my absolute favorite appetizers and I’ve been making it for probably a decade or more. I got the recipe from Allrecipes.com and I loved it so much I put it in my own little recipe book of personal favorites.
It’s sweet, tart, and a little spicy in the most harmonious way possible. And since it uses dried figs, you can make it year-round. I like to use fresh kalamata olives when possible, but if you use jarred ones, you can actually have most of these ingredients on hand in your pantry, you know, for gourmet-appetizer-emergencies!
You basically rehydrate the figs by simmering them in a little water until they are soft and the liquid is thick and syrupy. The syrup also helps to bind the tapenade together.
I used fresh rosemary and thyme from my front-porch herb garden, but if you don’t have an herb garden I’d still recommend buying some fresh, especially the rosemary. I find that dried rosemary stays woody even when cooked, while the fresh leaves are tender enough to add flavor without disrupting the texture of whatever you’re making.
I finely dice the figs and olives, but you can also pulse it in a food processor a couple times for a smoother texture once the tapenade is put together.
This is an ideal party appetizer because you can (and should) make it in advance, and the flavor combo is sure to blow people away! You can either pre-assemble some crostini, or for an even easier preparation you can spoon the tapenade over a block of cream cheese and serve with a knife and crostini on the side.
Any loaf of white French or Italian bread will do, but I thought this honey-wheat loaf would be a great pairing for the sweet fig and olive tapenade.
And if you’d like to kick it up another notch on the fanciness scale, you can use goat cheese instead of cream cheese.
It comes out a nice rich velvety brown, and a sprig of fresh rosemary is the perfect garnish to give a little contrast of color.
Next time you need to make an appetizer for a party, dinner party, or date night in, give this fig and olive tapenade a shot! It might just become your favorite too!
Fig and Olive Tapenade with Walnuts
- 1 cup chopped dried figs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil for brushing
- 2 loaves French bread
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
- 8 oz cream cheese or goat cheese
- Combine figs and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until figs are soft and liquid is reduced, thick, and syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine fig mixture, olive oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper, olives, and garlic. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set cheese out to soften. Slice bread diagonally into half-inch slices. Arrange on a rimmed baking pan, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake bread for 8-12 minutes or until toasty.
- To assemble crostini: Spread bread with cheese, top with tapenade, and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
- To serve cheese-ball style: Shape cheese into a round. Top with tapenade and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve bread on the side so people can assemble their own.