Lime & Chili Tapenade

The closest I get to being a scientist these days is to pretend to be one in the kitchen. I like cooking. The fact that it’s chemistry that tastes good is a huge plus. I generally mix things on the fly out of the variety of spices in the cupboard, but sometimes I sit down trying for a specific effect. The following recipe is such a result.

Please note: I like doing unusual dishes with non-traditional ingredients. That’s by way of saying 1) proceed with caution and 2) alter the recipe to your specific tastes. While I actually did measure the ingredients and faithfully wrote them down, your palate will differ from mine, so you might want to amp one thing up, knock another down. My suggestion, therefore, is to hold back on some of the spicier bits, taste as you’re going, and add more to balance things out.

I decided to make a tapenade. My goal was to get a mix of spices that would provide a similar profile to lime and chili corn chips, which I adore, but don’t eat very often because they’re much too salty and pack a lot of calories into a handful of crunch. Tapenades, as you can read through the link above, work really well spread over toast or on crackers, and can even be used as a condiment. With the Superbowl coming up, I figured it would be fun to have something unusual to enjoy during the game.

1 6 oz. Can of black olives, drained.
20 banana pepper rings (I used mild, store brand. You could opt for hotter. If you use whole peppers, seed them first.) Dry them on paper towels.
20 cloves roasted garlic (I got them from a deli cart at the grocery, but it’s easy to make your own, too.)
1.5 tsp Chili powder
2/3rds tsp salt (I used sea salt from a grinder package)
2-3 tablespoons mayo/Miracle Whip (optional. If you omit, double up on the olive oil)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp lime juice

Toss the olives, pepper rings and garlic cloves into a food processor. I used a wand blender, as pictured above, with an attachment for chopping the heck out of things. (Most useful kitchen appliance I own after a sharp knife.) Finely mince. Adding the mayo and olive oil can help the chopping process. Scrape the sides to make sure everything is chopped up well.

Add the spices and lime juice. More chopping. Lots more. Stop, taste.

What you’re looking for is an initial burst of lime, a touch of the salt, then a hint of garlic and a little burn from the chili as the finish. The key balance is the chili powder and the lime. Be careful with the salt, less is more here.

If putting this together takes more than 15 minutes, I’d be very surprised. You can store it in the fridge for later use. I’d chuck leftovers after a week. (Okay, that’s what I advise you to do. In my fridge it will probably become a mold culture.)

There are a variety of ways to kick the heat up. Tossing a couple of jalapeno slices into the mix would work, or just using some chipotle sauce. (A whole chipotle chili would kill it.) If it does get too hot. A little sour cream can thin it out, or fully sub for the mayo, and moderate the heat.

Works great as a dip, as something to use for appetizers (garnish with a sliced green olive or three slender slivers of pepper stuck in it like feathers in a cap), and works great on a hamburger or over poached eggs.

I’m not sure what inspired this gastronomical experiment. Could be that I spent all weekend reading over and editing the Merlin Bloodstone novel, Mysterious Ways. Probably was that, actually, as reading over the descriptions of food in there did make me hungry. Regardless, it’s a tasty surprise that packs a lot of flavor into a tiny package.

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3 Responses to “Lime & Chili Tapenade”

  1. OOH! This sound fabulous. My family eats enough garlic to keep a horde of vampires away,so 20 cloves of garlic is not out of the realm of possibility for us. 😀

    Definitely putting this on the to-make list. I must confess I’m curious as to whether or not 1/2 tps of lime juice is enough…but then, I like limes. Thanks!

  2. I totally love garlic. With more vampires released today in Void City, we need every opportunity we can get to use garlic.
    No seriously, the recipe sounds great and I am anxious to try it. Will let you know how it turns out.
    And to E.R.P. : Much more lime juice might may it to runny. Will have to experiment.
    Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  3. If I make this recipe, I am definitely going mild. No way am I using full blown banana peppers. Those will launch your you-know-what right off the St. John’s Throne.