Thursday Dinner: Tapenade and Provolone Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Tapenade is a lot like hummus and not because it can be found on the olive bar of your local supermarket. No, tapenade is like hummus because it’s an absolutely brainless enterprise to make and it’s universally enjoyed. Think about it. Prepare by tossing a bunch of stuff in a food processor, pureeing, and drizzling in olive oil until creamy. Serve with pita, crostini, crackers or small spoon. The ingredients vary from recipe to recipe but the spirit is still the same. It’s best when salty and mild in its base flavor (chickpeas for the hummus; olive for the tapenade).

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My friend Allison makes the finest tapenade I’ve ever consumed and she refuses to share the recipe, telling me that it’s her retirement plan. Given the stock market’s performance and the GOP’s itchy trigger finger on public employee pensions, I would say that the olive spread is a safer bet. During an evening of alcohol consumption, I guessed six of the seven ingredients but she would not reveal them all. I suppose I cannot begrudge a woman her nest egg.

The one thing that tapenade has that hummus does not is versatility. Beyond a dip or salad topping, there’s really not a lot one can do with it. I’ve tried it on chicken before with poor, poor results. Tapenade, however, is perfect as a stuffing or topping for a protein. In this instance, it went inside of a pork tenderloin with some extra sharp provolone and on the grill.

WHAT WORKED: I opted for a more Latin-inspired green olive tapenade instead of a Mediterranean kalamata olive tapenade. It was milder in its flavor but still did the trick.

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WHAT DIDN’T: If I did this again, I would just use sharp provolone. Extra sharp is just too powerful.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium because it involves tying things together and knowing when the meat has come to proper temperature. And, I’m awful at cutting stuffed meat.

BEST FOR: Switching up the mid-week grilling routine.

SERVE WITH: Extra tapenade and some pita.

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Tapenade and Provolone Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
  • 1 cup green olive tapenade, store-bought or: 3/4 cup manzanilla olives, 1 tbsp. capers, drained, 2 roasted red pepper halves, 1 anchovy filet (optional; if you don't just add a two-fingered pinch of kosher salt), olive oil
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 4 oz. sharp provolone or manchego cheese, sliced thin

If you are making your own tapenade, combine the first four ingredients in a food processor. Puree, drizzling olive oil into the spout of the food processor, until creamy. Stop the processor, scrape down the edges, and pulse for 2 to 3 seconds until pureed.

Cut four pieces of butcher's twine and space them out evenly on a clean working surface. Set the pork tenderloin on the strings and slice the pork with a sharp knife along the long side. Open the pork like a butterfly, taking care not to split it in two pieces. Lay pieces of cheese along the length of one side, then top with spoonfuls of tapenade. Spread the tapenade into an even layer.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Bring one tablespoon of olive oil to a shimmer in a skillet or cast iron pan over high heat. Sear the pork to a golden brown on all sides, then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until the pork and not the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

By Jared Paventi

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