This pairing of olives and juicy oranges is yet another brilliant combination of ingredients, dictated by necessity. My Albanian friends explained that the oranges their gardens produced were sour and full of pips, nothing like today's sweet, lush and pip-less fruits. Paired with salty olives and sweet baby leeks or onions, and often complemented with shredded cabbage, the oranges became a robust and delightful treat. In the old days, this salad would have been dressed simply with olive oil, the natural tartness of the oranges adding depth to the dish. I compensate for the sweeter oranges you are likely to find with a fragrant verjus or lemon dressing. Fresh or dried mint is the most commonly used herb in Albania, but I also like to add tarragon when available. In place of oranges, thick-skinned sweet lemons, like the ones from Amalfi, are often made into a similar salad.
Recipe courtesy of Aglaia Kremezi
Orange, Olive and Baby Leek Salad with Verjus-Tarragon Dressing
Total:
1 hr 10 min
Active:
10 min
Yield:
4 to 6 servings
Level:
Easy
Total:
1 hr 10 min
Active:
10 min
Yield:
4 to 6 servings
Level:
Easy

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 Valencia oranges
  • 2 cups (360 g) full-flavored brine-cured black olives (such as Pelion or Nicoise), rinsed and dried on paper towels 
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) good, fruity olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons verjus (see Notes)
  • Good pinch of Mara pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon (see Notes)
  • 4 baby leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced (keep the rest for use in broth)

Directions

Place the leeks in a bowl, sprinkle generously with salt, add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water and toss. Cover and let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

Peel the oranges, halve them, discard any pips and remove the hard central membrane. With a sharp knife, carefully cut each half into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange on a shallow platter and add the olives. 

Drain the leeks and press between double layers of paper towels to dry. Sprinkle the leeks over the sliced oranges. 

Make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, verjus, a pinch of salt (keep in mind that olives are usually quite salty), the Mara pepper and the tarragon. Taste, correct the seasoning, pour over the salad and serve. 

Cook's Note

You can substitute 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon white wine for the verjus, if you like. If you cannot find fresh tarragon you can substitute 3 tablespoons mint leaves.

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