Take two favorite foods—braised fennel and olive tapenade—put them together, and what do you get? Total lusciousness in a cocktail spread. The braised fennel blends up creamy and smooth and tames some of the briny, garlicky bite of a traditional all-olive tapenade.

Tapenade may not be the prettiest dip on an hors d’oeuvre table – it’s usually brown-black or drab olive green—but what it lacks in loveliness it makes up for in flavor. You can always dress it up with fresh herbs or sliced olives or a lemon slice, but I find that once guests have tasted tapenade (especially this one), it disappears quickly regardless of how it looks!

4 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 large or 2 small heads fennel, cut into wedges
½ cup (50 g.) pitted green olives
1 Tbs. drained capers
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, and sear 2 to 3 minutes on each side until they turn a deep golden brown. Add enough water to the skillet to come halfway up the sides of the fennel wedges, cover, and simmer 30 minutes, or until the fennel is fork tender.

Drain the fennel (I reserve the juice to use in soups or drink like a broth), and place it in a food processor with all the other ingredients, including the remaining olive oil. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature before serving.