Bored With It? Purée It

Rachel Tepper Paley
May 20, 2014

Photo credit: The Wayfarer

Consider tapenade, the chunky spread of mashed black olives last seen lounging on a crusty slice of baguette in the South of France. It’s rich, salty, and juicy—all good things until you’ve dunked one too many rolls in the stuff. Then, as any dish might, it loses some of its ooh la la

But there’s a simple way to return razzmatazz to your tapenade: Purée it.

"Texturally, puréeing something brings out all its freshness and flavor," explained Braden Reardon, executive chef at The Wayfarer in New York City. “If you’re puréeing ingredients together, you’re eliminating all the air [between them]. You’re making sure [you] get each individual flavor in a single bite.”

At Wayfarer, Reardon serves a velvety tapenade of Kalamata olives alongside the bread, gratis. First he rinses and soaks them in fresh water, then he roasts them with shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme. The mixture (minus the herbs) is then puréed “until it’s really, really silky.” (If the final result isn’t smooth enough for your tastes, Reardon suggests giving the mixture a final pass through a chinois or another fine-mesh sieve.)

Finally, just for good measure, Reardon folds in a bit of mayonnaise and lemon juice before serving, which “lightens it up a bit.”

Moral of the story: Haul out your blender more often. You can also give the purée treatment to mangos (great in parfaits), sweet potatoes (excellent drizzled with maple syrup and a pat of butter), celeriac (decadent when plumped up with heavy cream), and countless other vegetables and fruits.

Although you may remember shivering at the sight of a puree (hello, peas!) as a kid, when done right, they’re hardly dreary mushes. “We’ve all had really awful puréed things in our lives,” Reardon admitted. “But you really can elevate them!”

Tapenade Spread
Courtesy of The Wayfarer
Makes 4 cups

3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 2-inch sprigs of rosemary
9 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cups of mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Rinse olives thoroughly, then soak in fresh water for 15 minutes. Rinse, then repeat three times. After third time, drain olives well and squeeze out excess water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then, in an oven-safe pan, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Sweat shallots and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, then add olives, rosemary, and thyme. Toss to mix and coat ingredients with olive oil.

Put pan in the oven for 30 minutes, giving the mixture a toss every 5 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, let cool, then discard rosemary and thyme.

Transfer contents of pan to blender and purée until very smooth. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and fold in mayonnaise and lemon juice. Serve.