Recipe: Warm Olivada

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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.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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