Oh, the joys of the holiday party. Strangers come together, alcohol flows, and suddenly I’m standing next to some guy who wants to scratch an inappropriate itch.

Your wife is in the kitchen, sir. She’s talking to my husband. And you just lobbed a line I haven’t heard since last call at the college bar.

To borrow the phrase I teach my preschoolers: “You are in my space bubble!”

Next time I have to go to one of these parties, I’m bringing my own dip: An olive tapenade that simply reeks of garlic and herbs. It’s great on crackers, pita chips and barely toasted bread. I’ve even been known to eat it straight from the serving bowl.

It comes in handy when backed into a corner. Simply breathe …

… and the itch walks away.

Mixed Olive Tapenade

I’d love to give you exact measurements for this, but it’s completely dependent on taste. I like mine heavy with garlic and anchovy, whirled to a silky paste. Other folks might like a little less garlic, a little more rosemary and a chunkier consistency. The only constant: Plenty of olive oil and red wine vinegar to even the flavors out.

Place 1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives and 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives in the bowl of a food processor.

Add peeled garlic cloves and fresh rosemary leaves.

If you want, add a squeeze of anchovy paste and a teaspoon of drained capers.

Season with salt and pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Process to your desired texture. Add a good amount of olive oil, then taste and adjust the seasonings as you wish.

Serve immediately, or let the mixture rest to meld the flavors. Eat with a breath mint in your pocket if you’re among friends; let loose with the garlic if not.

 

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