Tasty Tuesdays – Fig Tapenade

Tapenade is surprisingly easy to make and is full of healthy ingredients.  I found this particular recipe here and have made it many times since.  It’s important to let the flavours marinate overnight because if you try it right away I can guarantee you won’t enjoy it.  This tapenade will last for about a week in the refrigerator and can be used as a spread on sandwiches, or as a dip for crackers and bread. My favourite way to devour it is to put it on a brick of goat cheese and garnish with toasted walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried figs (approximately 8 figs)
  •  ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 /4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup kalamata olives
  • 2 cloves garlic

Directions

  • In a saucepan combine chopped figs and water, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced (approximately 8 minutes).
  • In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, thyme and cayenne pepper. *Crush the dried spices in your hands before mixing into the oil and vinegar; it really helps to bring out the flavours.
  • Remove the pits from the olives and roughly chop.  Add the reduced figs and olives to mixing bowl.
  • Finely chop the garlic and add to the mix.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Interesting Facts

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest regimes to follow.  The diet is rich in olives and olive oils because of the hundreds of varieties of olive trees which flourish in this region.  Interestingly, in comparison to the western world, southern European Mediterranean countries experience lower rates of cardiovascular mortality (Covas, 2007).  Olives are technically a fruit belonging to the drupes family which is identified by the fleshy part containing a pit or stone, such as peaches, cherries and plums (Gómez-González  et al, 2011).  The olive tree can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years and is an important agricultural resource in Southern Europe (Loumou and Giourga, 2003).  Its importance has been noted in ancient literature numerous times and its health benefits have been increasingly studied.  Normally, people consume pickled olives but they are also edible straight from the vine.  The pickled olive contains calcium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, E and K (USDA, 2012).  Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds shown to be strong antioxidants which protect cells from free radical damage (Carpenter and Harper, 2006).  These antioxidant properties are important for heart health and the prevention of various cancers.  Olives also possess a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids which have been demonstrated to decrease blood cholesterol levels (Mensink and Katan, 1989) which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Hydroxytrosol, one of the main polyphenols found in olives, is a strong antioxidant that inhibits the oxidation of lipids and LDL cholesterol (Raederstorff, 2008).  An in vivo study done by Chandak et al. (2009) using animal models showed that extracts from olives have significant antihistaminic activity and anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a known precursor to many health related diseases, including CVD, and therefore its prevention is crucial.  Future research aims to replicate the above mentioned results in humans, in hopes to mirror these benefits.  Overall, adherence to the Mediterranean diet is a good idea since it is inversely related to coronary heart disease (Fung et al., 2009) and may possibly improve your body’s own antioxidant defense system.

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