I love the annual reminders of March: daffodils, March Madness (go Jayhawks!), my birthday, lions, lambs, ides . . . really, all the things. And, though I live in Hawaii now, I still remember and loathe how the beginning of March tells itself like a bad joke in most seasonal climates—emerging from February, we hope for sunshine and daisies and are instead greeted with more bracing cold and slush as far as the foot can step. One starts to wonder if winter will ever end until she spots spring’s first blooming bud, and—all of a sudden—life is technicolor again, like every musical moment with dancers twirling in public places, except you are the only one twirling and your neighbor’s giving you the spring-fever side eye.
March also represents the beginning of picnic season (one of the few sports I care about). Instead of visiting grandparents or corporate theme parks, my siblings and I spent our childhood spring breaks testing our mother’s sanity, and we hauled out the picnic baskets and broken kites quickly once pairs of well-aimed, sensible flats started whizzing by our heads. We liked to picnic in graveyards, and though our lunches weren’t sophisticated affairs, we knew little touches like sliced vs. whole apples and the best kool-aid ten cents can buy went a long way toward making the tombstones festive (we should have brought Tombstone pizzas, but we were poor, and that’s a little too on the nose for my liking). We seemed to understand intuitively that al fresco dining called for a little something extra.
Here’s that “little something extra” for March 2016: a Kalamata olive and chickpea tapenade.
I can usually take or leave Kalamata olives (why is it that, when someone says they’ll take or leave something, they always leave it? Chalk it up to another poignant observation on human nature from yours truly)—their briny flavor tends to overpower most other notes—but the presence of chickpeas in this tapenade mellows the flavors out in such a lush way that you’ll find new and inventive ways to eat it (I’m talking biscotti and/or toothbrushes once we’ve exhausted fingers, y’all). It’s best served, however, as a key player on your charcuterie board, as the main star of your crostini plate, or, perhaps my favorite way, as a fantastic sandwich base. All of these extras can and should be served at your next picnic, whether that’s in a graveyard or your living room.
And just when you thought your chance had passed, I went and saved the best for last (amen, Vanessa Williams): you can also add this to your repertoire of seemingly difficult but impossibly easy recipes because it whips up in under 5 minutes in the food processor. Add it to your sandwiches, bring some extra with a baguette and goat cheese, and don’t forget a bottle of this cocktail. You’ll have earned the scorn of every neighbor within side-eyesight as your twirl down the street; unless, of course, you’re sharing.
- 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 heaping cup of pitted Kalamata olives
- 4 large marinated garlic cloves (you can find these at the olive bar of your grocery store), or alternatively 2 whole, raw garlic cloves
- ½ tablespoon capers, drained
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- ½ cup fresh parsley leaves (some stem remnants are ok)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add all ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor and pulse until chunky.
- Add the olive oil in a slow drizzle while the food processor runs. Keep processing until smooth, or until the consistency you prefer. The BTC prefers a little chunk.
- You can salt to taste; however, we find that the olives and capers can add enough salt.
- Refrigerate until serving. Keeps for 1 week to 10 days.