How do you feel civilized when you’re squished into a musty airplane seat that reclines all of two inches and is in startlingly close proximity to a public bathroom? The answer is NOT schlepping your own germ-proof seat cover or a personal blanket with foot slots to keep your toes warm (these are real products, people). The thing I’ve found to keep me feeling like the clever, discerning traveler that I am, as opposed to a piece of vacuum-packed ahi, is my homemade tapenade.
Imagine the seatbelt sign being extinguished by the captain as you rub a generous squirt of hand sanitizer between your palms and unwrap an ingeniously packed (to prevent smooshing) ciabatta roll laden with roasted vegetables, a slice or two of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella cheese and a schmear of salty tapenade. As you dab a bit of eggplant juice from your chin with the corner of a napkin, the fellow-passengers in your row will wince at their own lack of planning as well as the after-effects of the Cinnabon they scarfed down before boarding.
Sometimes I use pita bread; sometimes I switch the prosciutto for salami. I change up the tapenade as well. We were feeling like something particularly pungent when we created the recipe here, so we included some anchovy fillets for a fuller, more complex saltiness. They are offset nicely by about half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes (not the marinated ones) that we rehydrate in simmering water before adding them to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. We also use a generous handful of fresh basil leaves, making this nearly a cross between a tapenade and a pesto. I also find that I do not need nearly as much olive oil as most recipes call for. You can always add more oil or a bit of the water used to simmer the tomatoes for additional moisture. This spread can be used on anything from crostini to grilled meats, but when I take it along for a mid-flight meal, being a frequent flyer is a lot tastier.
Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade
The sun-dried tomatoes are usually found in the produce section or near the tomato sauce. I used a mixture of green Queen olives and Kalamata olives, but use any kind of good Mediterranean olives you like.
Makes 1 ½ to 2 cups and keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
½ c. sun-dried tomatoes (not in marinade)
1 c. olives, pitted
3 anchovy fillets (packed in olive oil)
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1 rounded tsp. capers, rinsed
1 c. basil leaves
1 1/2 tblsp. lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a small saucepan and add water to cover. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and drain, reserving a couple tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
Add the rehydrated tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic, capers, basil, lemon juice and pepper to a food processor. Blitz for 20 seconds, scrape down the sides and keep blitzing until the contents is finely chopped. Turn the processor on and add the olive oil through the tube. Check for seasoning and consistency. You might want to add more pepper or lemon juice, additional olive oil or some of the reserved tomato cooking liquid if you think it is too dry. I like to be able to see tiny bits of the individual ingredients in the finished product, as opposed to a totally blended paste.