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.
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.
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.