I devised this coarse olive paste as a way of using up several kinds of olives that were a little past their prime. When heated, the flavor of the olives becomes more complex and aromatic. I use this versatile olivada as a topping for rustic bread, pizzas, and focaccias, as a sauce for pasta, even stirred into mashed potatoes.
Makes 1 cup
• 12 ounces mixed green and black olives, drained and pitted
• 1 garlic clove, peeled
• 3/4 teaspoon chopped or grated orange zest
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
• Juices from the olive container
• Freshly ground black pepper
Chop the olives coarsely. In a mortar (or working right on the counter), with a pestle or other heavy, flat object such as a meat pounder, pound the garlic clove until it is reduced to a puree. Add the orange zest and the thyme leaves and pound to a coarse paste. Add the olives and continue pounding until the olives are smashed into a very coarse mash. Add pepper to taste.
To serve, heat the crushed olives in a medium skillet over moderate heat, adding a tablespoon or two of water to keep them from sticking, until they are hot. Serve with slices of rustic peasant bread.
To store, pack the olivada into a clean dry jar, stir in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, cover and refrigerate.