Regular readers of this site may wonder about the lack of recipes recently. Truth is, I haven't been doing much real cooking lately, as in taking out the pots and pans and turning on the heat. While summer here in Switzerland is quite tolerable due to cool mornings and evenings, during the day the temperature does reach the 30s celsius which isn't too nice since, as with most Swiss houses, we don't have air conditioning. Besides, even if you do have air conditioning or cool evenings, there are so many other things to do during the summer that cooking becomes a low priority, doesn't it?
Short of eating out every meal, I like to make things that take minimal preparation that we can just nibble on. Tartines with simple spreads are a perfect example. In case you are unfamiliar with tartines, they are basically just baguettes or French bread or any kind of good bread with a crusty crust, sliced quite thinly and then topped with something tasty. If you prefer to take your culinary vocabulary from Italy you would call them bruschetta.
Here's some just spread with store-bought paté and runny cheese.
And here are some spread with a tapenade with chopped walnuts. The tapenade is the only thing I cooked, if you can call it that. The only heat involved was for roasting the walnuts briefly in a dry pan for a bit. Then it was all just whizzed in the food processor. This particular combination of flavors was inspired by a similar tapenade that we got at the market in Nyons in Provence. When I eat this, I'm transported back there in spirit.
The key to tapenade is to have really good ingredients. If you are in the States or anywhere else where you can get those awful canned olives that taste like burned plastic, please do not use them. Get good cured olives from a reputable source. I prefer crinkly oil-cured olives from Provence, but Italian, Spanish or Greek olives will do too - taste and compare. This is also the time to pull out your best cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
I have omitted the usual anchovies from this tapenade since I wanted a clean olive and walnut flavor, but you can add anchovies if you really love them. I also grate the garlic so that you don't get little garlic bits.
Equipment needed: a food processor
To pit the olives, put them in a plastic bag, spread them over a chopping board and smack them with the side of a heavy kitchen knife. The pits should come out relatively easily. Or, use a cherry/olive pitter.
Toss the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat until they start to smell toasty. Take off the heat and let cool.
Peel the garlic cloves and grate them to a pulp with a fine grater. (Yes, your fingers will smell garlicky afterwards. If you do not love this, you may want a garlic press. I don't own one.)
Place the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they are relatively finely chopped. Take out.
Put the olives in the food processor. Process until finely chopped. Then, with the machine running, add the olive oil slowly through the feed tube until it forms a fairly smooth yet thick paste.
Add the grated garlic and lemon juice, and add the chopped walnuts, and pulse until mixed. You don't want the walnuts to become a powder since the contrast in textures makes it interesting.
Taste and adjust with salt/pepper only if needed. Spread on bread slices, or use as a dip.
Covered, this keeps for about a week in the refrigerator (but it probably won't last that long).