Fig & Olive Tapenade





Little is better than good bread schmeared with a delicious spread.  A few days ago I made a simple lentil soup and then prepared several spreads to go with a good flat bread as a middle eastern mezze platter.  This fig and olive tapenade is based on something we purchased years ago at a health food co-op.  It is very simple to make, and because it is not cooked, is a rare food that you can keep in the fridge for 2 days.  

This tapenade is rich, with a great black color.  It is great on bread or breadsticks, and is tridoshic – good for vata, pitta and kapha and in any season. 

“The fig is the most useful of all the fruits which grow on tress” – Athenaeus. 


Figs blossom on the ficus tree in warm climates, like California and the Mediterranean. They are particularly balancing to vata and pitta, and therefor ideal in dry and / or warm climates. When fresh, the skin is thin and soft and either green or black, and the inside is like a pinkish jelly filling.  Dried figs become quite firm and leathery, and have been used since ancient times as a sweetener. One of the first edible plants to be cultivated by humans, figs play a key role in many ancient stories, religions and philosophies.  


  • Adam and Eve were said to have clad themselves in fig leaves
  • The Buddha discovered enlightenment under the bodhi tree (tree of knowledge), which is large sacred fig tree (ficus religiosa)
  • The Ancient Greeks were said to have received from India, a request for dried figs, along with grape syrup and a philosopher. 
  •  Mohammad, in the Qu’ran, says that the fig is a fruit of paradise because it contains no pit

Figs are sweet, rich in calcium and fiber and can be used to gently treat constipation. They cleanse the mouth and rebuild vitality and sexual energy. Thus, they may be symbolic of abundance. 


“Thy children, like the olive branches, around thy table” – The Bible



Like figs, olives appear in both black and green varieties and grow on trees in warm and dry climates. They are harvested in the fall, and are now used throughout the world. 


  • The olive branch is extended as an act of peace.
  • Olive oil was used by Israelites for both cooking and sacred lighting
  • In Ancient Greece, the olive was sacred to Athena, olive branches were made as crowns to symbolize victory in both games and war and olive oil was used in ancient greece to anoint Kings
  • The olive is mentioned many times in the bible and the quran. 
  • In the middle east, olives and olive oil are used abundantly, including using the oil for massage

Once prepared for eating, they are salty, astringent, and oily, making them particularly balancing for vata and kapha. They are both rich, and light. 




You can vary the ingredients to taste. 

  • 1 and 1/2 C. dried black mission figs, rinsed in warm water, and hard stems removed. 
  • 1 C. kalmata olives (without brine)
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C. pine nuts (walnuts work as well)
  • 1 heaping TB capers (optional)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 packed TB fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon (or 2 TB fresh parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns (or 1/4 tsp ground black pepper)


  1. Soak the figs in hot water for 10 minutes, to soften them
  2. Place all the ingredients in a blender (such as a vitamix) or food processor (beware, with a food processor, the liquid may press out of the sides, so cover it with a towel).  And pulse repeatedly to begin combining.  Eventually you can blend until smoothe.  You may need to add more olive oil, lemon juice, or a little water to get it to blend, or turn off the blender to mash around the tapenade. 

Serve with bread or breadsticks along with other spreads or as a side with a soup, salad or pilaf. 



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