created at: 2014-01-09

Soon after I moved out on my own and started cooking my own meals, I acquired a bad case of food indecisiveness. I no longer had to take anyone else’s likes or preferences into consideration when preparing my meals—it was whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The possibilities were endless. And daunting. There were many nights I ended up throwing together salads with whatever I could find in the fridge because I couldn’t decide on anything that required more planning.

I’ve learned that when it comes to cooking, I do better when I have guidelines. I enjoy cooking for people with food limitations because it helps me narrow down my options. And I look forward to holidays that have traditional foods associated with them because the menu’s already made.

With that said, I also like putting a spin on these traditional dishes. So instead of whipping up a simple olive tapenade to celebrate Tu BiShvat next week, I added something to sweeten the deal.

On this holiday—often referred to as the Jewish Arbor Day—Jews traditionally eat seven symbolic foods: wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, dates, olives and figs. I love olives and anything you can spread on a cracker or piece of bread, so I put together a tapenade using all the usual ingredients. But I’ve rarely eaten a tapenade I didn’t find too salty—the result of anchovies and capers, two traditional but notoriously salty and briny ingredients.

In order to combat some of this saltiness, I chose to include another Tu BiShvat food: dried figs. With bits of this fruit distributed throughout the spread, it struck the perfect balance of sweet and salty. After a few bites, I was sure I made the right decision.


Olive and Fig Tapenade

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, rinsed and dried
1 large garlic clove, minced
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup dried figs, minced
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil

Add all ingredients to bowl of food processor. Process until desired consistency. Serve with crackers or bread.