Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant

Continuing that salty-savory theme from yesterday, Darcie and I have a flavorful, simple dish to finish up Small Bites Week here at the Advent Calendar. Mixed-olive tapenade is easy to whip up the day before a big party (in fact, it’s better if you do!) and you can throw the assembled appetizers together in a flash.

Tapenade can be mouth-puckeringly salty, which is fine in certain applications, but here you want something a bit mellower, so I take a two-pronged approach. Starting with the olives themselves, I err on the side of less salty, fruity varieties, like juicy Castelvetrano or Cerignola olives, both of which I always find at Fairway Market‘s amazing olive bar. If I’m using something a bit brinier, I’ll rinse and dry them before proceeding. And then, it’s really nice to add some nuts to the mix — just be sure they’re raw, or you’ll be defeating the purpose. I toast them lightly for flavor and find they really mellow out the tapenade and add a nice, smooth flavor, especially if you prepare this a day in advance.

You can serve this on crackers, but I encourage you to try the grilled Japanese eggplant rounds. They really complement the tapenade and turn it into a whole appetizer, rather than just a spread.  Let us know what you think if you try it!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Tapenade-Eggplant Bites | Amy Roth Photo

Tapenade with Grilled Eggplant


Grilled Eggplant

  • 2 Japanese eggplants (sliced 1/2)
  • olive oil (for brushing eggplant slices)


  • 2 cups pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1 anchovy fillet (rinsed and dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons brined capers (rinsed and dried)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch fresh thyme (chopped)

Tapenade (Optional)

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • grana padano (shaved, for garnish)


If the olives you’re using are especially salty, rinse and dry them before proceeding. I like a hefty proportion of green olives in this mix, and used a combination of Castelvetrano and Liguria for this preparation.


Grilled Eggplant
Brush cut sides of eggplant with a little olive oil. Grill on outdoor grill at medium heat or in a grill pan on a burner set to medium-high heat until cooked through.
Place all tapenade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in one-second increments until blended. Process less for a chunkier texture and more for a creamier one. Add a little extra olive oil if you prefer it thinner.
To serve, spoon a tiny scoop of tapenade onto a grilled eggplant round and top with a piece of shaved grana padano, if desired.