Makes 1 1/2 cups
I first made this coarse olive paste as a way of using some olives that had been languishing in my refrigerator and were a little past their prime. Warmed and spooned onto peasant bread as an hors d'oeuvre, it was a revelation: The flavor of olives changes when they are heated, somehow becoming milder.

Make the paste in a mortar or on the work surface rather than in a food processor, to produce a coarser texture that leaves the flavors of the mixed black and green olives distinct. In addition to the garlic, thyme, and orange zest, you could include other flavoring elements, such as chopped herbs, lemon zest, or toasted coriander seeds.

Put the skillet of warm olivada right on the table, along with sliced bread, for guests to serve themselves. You can also use it to sauce pasta and polenta.


  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped or grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 12 ounces (2 cups) mixed green and black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1. In a mortar, pound the garlic clove and salt with the pestle until reduced to a puree. Add the orange zest and thyme and pound to a coarse paste. Add the olives and continue pounding until they are reduced to a very coarse mash. Add pepper to taste.

2. Alternatively, make the olivada right on the work surface. Using a chef's knife, mince the garlic with the salt. Placing the flat side of the knife almost parallel to the cutting board, mash the garlic a little at a time by crushing and smashing it against the work surface until it is reduced to a paste. Add the orange zest, thyme, and olives and continue working the knife in this way until they are reduced to a coarse mash.

3. To serve, spoon the olivada into a small skillet, add a tablespoon or two of water, and heat, stirring frequently, over moderate heat, until hot. Serve at once.

4. The paste will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 weeks.

Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001). Copyright 2001 by Sally Schneider.