It all looks a little slapdash, I know. A smeared knife, a half-empty ramekin. You can't see the grainy crackers in the background that would give this some context and now you're probably wondering what exactly we're looking at here, anyway. We plowed through that thing so quickly that by the time it registered that I should probably be documenting it for your sakes, it was half-eaten. Would you believe me if I told you that it was the best part of an already delicious Easter lunch?
It's hard to get better than rosemary-scented roasted lamb, with all its crusty pockets and yieldingly tender meat. It's even harder to best tiny boiled potatoes in their delicate jackets, glistening ever so slightly with a thin coating of freshly melting butter and the grassy flavor of minced parsley. It's practically impossible to top the first asparagus of the season, blistered in spots from a quick run in the oven. Should I mention that we even ended things with a billowing, marshmallowy cheesecake? (More on that next time.)
And yet it was all we could do to keep from making this fish tapenade our lunch.
Now, excuse me, but I have to have a word with some of my readers who are giving that first line of ingredients the hairy eyeball, their fingers hovering over their mouse pad, just itching to click away in a flash when the thought of those tiny little fillets gets to be a bit too much for them. I know I've said this before, but I really, really promise you that if you can get over your issues with handling the little suckers, this tapenade doesn't taste fishy in that unpleasant way that I know you're thinking it might. It's smooth and airy and has pleasant depth of flavor. It's subtle, if you can believe it, and creamy and has just the right amount of acidity and balance. Ooh, it's so so good. I would hate for you to miss out on it just because you think you hate anchovies.
(Now, that might be the most condescending thing I've ever written. Apologies, all. It's not really meant that way. It's just that I've seen, with my very own eyes, anchovy-haters eat things with anchovies in them and freak out with the deliciousness of what they're eating, and so I'd like to help, that's all.)
I know, if you want, why don't you use this as a gateway to the world of anchovies? Add just one or two to start. Blitz it up and have a quick taste. It needs a little something more, doesn't it? So add a few more. Now you're up to four. Squeeze some more lemon in there, blitz, and taste it again. If you think you've had enough, stop there. If you're surprising yourself by thinking that the tapenade could use a little more oomph, then throw a few more anchovies into the food processor and let down your hair, you wild one.
Would I lead you astray? You know I wouldn't.
Serves 8-10 as an hors d'oeuvre
Note: Gemma, my friend and upstairs neighbor, is the source of this recipe. She's a nutritionist and thinks the tapenade might be worth attempting without the butter, if anyone is into that kind of experimentation.
8 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 can (6 ounces) chunk light tuna
7 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
Juice of 1 lemon
12 pitted black olives, halved
1 tablespoon snipped chives, plus more for garnish
Black pepper to taste
1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Spoon into a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Chill the tapenade in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Serve, garnished with snipped chives.