Olivada is an olive spread which is made by blending olives, oil, garlic, and various spices. It comes in a number of incarnations, from incendiary to sweet, and it can be found throughout the Mediterranean. A closely related dish is tapenade, which comes from Southern France. When made with green olives, some people call this dish oliverde. Many gourmet markets carry olivada, and it is also a snap to make at home, assuming that you have access to a blender.
The base ingredient in olivada, obviously, is olives. Greek brine-cured Kalamata olives are a popular choice, although a wide range of brine-cured Mediterranean olives can be used, depending on the desired flavor. The addition of oil allows the olives to blend more easily, lubricating the blades of the blender and ensuring a smooth, even mix. Garlic is often added for its pungent flavor, although it can be left out, and various herbs and spices can be mixed into the olivada along with ingredients like brined roasted peppers and artichoke hearts to create a unique and distinctive taste.
There are all sorts of uses for olivada. It can be spread on an assortment of breads and crackers, for example, or included in sandwiches and appetizer platters. This spread lends itself well to picnics, and it is also at home on the buffet table, especially if a tasteful sampling of cheeses is paired nearby. It can also be mixed into sauces and other spreads to integrate the flavor of olives.
When you make olivada at home, you may want to think about how the flavors of various ingredients will interact in the finished product. Blend them evenly into a fine paste, and pack the paste into a clean container. Refrigerated, the olivada will keep for around 10 days, and it is often best after sitting for a day or so, allowing the flavors to thoroughly mix.
Many markets carry several versions of olivada. The best is usually fresh, so if you have access to a deli which offers this product, that is probably the best source. The other advantage to buying this product fresh is that you can often request a sample to see if it tastes as you expect it to. Other companies make pasteurized olivada which is sold in cans and jars, and the flavor of this type can be surprisingly good, depending on the quality of the ingredients used to begin with.