I'm ashamed to say that it's been a long time since I contributed to the I Heart Cooking Clubs group; nevertheless, some of you may recall that the group is cooking with Mark Bittman, and our theme this week is Raw Foods. I'll be honest - when I read that my heart sank. Now that doesn't mean I have anything against raw foods - quite the opposite in fact - but here in New Zealand, in the middle of winter, our thoughts turn more readily to soups and stews right now. And, let's face it, a lot of what's seasonal here right now doesn't exactly lend itself to being served up "in the raw", so to speak. Raw kumara (sweet potato) or pumpkin? I don't think so!
What's more, this idea seemed to just compound the battle already raging within over my food choices right now. As I mentioned last week, having just come back from a month in Greece, I find myself constantly longing for the food which reminds me of that time - which was of course beautiful, light, fresh summer food.
The salad in this photo is one that I made while on Paros of fried eggplant, rocket, green olives, lemon zest and a local cheese called Mizithra
I just cannot get excited right now about root vegetables and casseroles, things that normally I really enjoy when the season comes around. So I have been trying in my cooking lately, as much as possible, to give my wintery food a bit of a summery twist or "tweek" it in some way that is reminiscent of the food I ate in Greece. I think I succeeded reasonably well with the Dried Fruit Compote I posted last week - a compote of dried peaches, apricots, figs, cherries and prunes - same fruit that I had eaten almost daily on Paros, just given a different treatment. I think I also captured some of that feeling in a warm salad I made during the week of steamed beetroot and brown lentils - I got my Greek fix, by tossing everything in a very lemony vinaigrette (sweetened ever so slightly with a little honey and spiked with dried oregano), then adding black olives, chunks of feta, and some roasted hazelnuts.
So the challenge then for me - make something raw, using seasonal ingredients, and which would also transport me back to Greece for a few glorious moments. This orange and black olive salad fits the bill perfectly for me, and even though Mark Bittman was actually inspired to make this dish after a visit to the south of France, I could easily be in Greece. You see I chose to use blood oranges, instead of the naval oranges that were called for in the original recipe, and just the gorgeous rosy-orange colour of those on the plate with the pile of black olive paste reminds me immediately of this beautiful Paros sunrise.
Now, I know you are waiting for me to just get on with the recipe, but before I do here is a little mystery food item for you. Do you know what this is in the photo below? Post your answer in the comment section - sorry I don't have a prize for getting it right, and I imagine for some of you out there it's a complete "no-brainer", but it was something I had never seen before. Clue - unsurprisingly, I took this photo during my holiday in Greece...
Keep watching this space for next week's mystery food item. Now, on with the recipe.
Blood Orange & Black Olive Salad
Adapted from Mark Bitman's
Click here for a printable copy
1 cup of Kalamata olives (or any black olives you prefer)
olive oil (quantity will vary with type of olives used)
1x blood orange per person
Begin by removing the seeds from the olives - please do yourself a favour and avoid already pitted olives. This is very easy to do - simply place the olive on a hard surface such as a plate or board; press firmly with your thumb (or if your olives are harder you can use the bottom of a cup or glass); the olive will easily split open; remove the seed and discard.
Put the pitted olives now into your food processor with about a teaspoon of olive oil and pulse a couple of times to roughly chop the olives. Add a little more olive oil and keep pulsing till you have the desired consistency - take care not to turn this into complete "mush"; you want to keep a bit of texture to the paste.
Now to the oranges. Grate the zest of one orange and set aside. Then remove all the skin (including the white pith) from the oranges, and slice into thickish rounds. Hint, do this on a plate so that you can collect all the juices which will come out of the oranges.
To serve, arrange orange slices on a plate and top with a dollop of the olive paste. Drizzle with your best olive oil and some of the reserved orange juice. Sprinkle with a few thyme leaves and fennel seeds and a little of the reserved orange zest.
Then sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy your Paros sunrise on a plate!