One day, I devised a coarse olive paste as a way of using up several kinds of olives that were a little past their prime. I spread them on the counter and pitted them by tapping them lightly with a rock, one of the many pounding devices I’ve collected over the years to mash garlic, make pestos and aiolis, crush spices…The olives’ flesh broke open making the pit easy to remove. Then I kept gently pounding to smash the olives further and worked in a scrap of mashed garlic and some fresh herbs and orange zest. I use this versatile olivada as a topping for rustic bread, pizzas, and focaccias, as a sauce for pasta, even stirred into mashed potatoes When heated, the flavor of the olives becomes more complex and aromatic.
To pit the olives,tap them with something heavy-ish that has one flatish side: a pestle, a stone, a tin can, a hammer, rolling pin…
Recipe: Warm Olivada
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
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Chop the olives coarsely. In a mortar (or working right on the counter), with a pestle or other heavy object with one relatively flat side (see above), 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, drizzling in olive oil as necessary. 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.