Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Delightfully Simple Little Salad

The Minimalist has actually made me a decent cook!
by Charlie Leck

Sometime ago (18 months, perhaps) I discovered the Minimalist -- also known as Mark Bittman. He has a regular blog called Bitten that always provides wonderful recipes and cooking tips. I never miss it. Then, too, he produces wonderful weekly videos (The Minimalist) that show you how to cook lovely items in a minimal amount of time and with a minimal amount of work. I try the majority of them and most have been rousing successes. You can find the videos and navigate to their archives file by going to Bitten. I actually tried homemade crackers a couple of weeks ago and found out they're really simple and much fresher tasting then those you buy in a store -- and much, much less expensive. Remember, everything he shows you how to do is done easily and quickly -- but have a food processor for sure.

I struggle some in coming up with appropriate salads for a lot of my dinners. But, the other night, thanks to Mark Bittman, I had a smashing success with the salad I served with an extraordinary tomato based lamb stew. It's an idea I never would have dreamed of without this tip.

Sliced Oranges and Fresh Black Olive Paste
Don't snear at this one until you've given it a try because the zesty combination here is spectauclar and the contrast of the competing flavors is nothing short of captivating.

Here's Bittman's recipe for the salad:
a cup good olive oil
cured black olives, pitted
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
4 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
fennel seeds

1. In a food processor, combine olives and thyme, if using, with a bit of olive oil. Pulse machine once or twice, then turn it on and add remaining olive oil rather quickly; you want this purée on the rough side. Thin with more olive oil if necessary. (You can
refrigerate this for up to a month.)

2. Layer 3 or 4 orange slices on each plate, drizzle with a little more olive oil, top with a tablespoon of olive purée, and sprinkle with a few fennel seeds.

Now the Minimalist has posted a video showing him making this salad!

The cup of oil in the above recipe is very important. I made it another time and tried to hold back on the olive oil and I got chopped dry olives instead of a lovely paste. I've also tried the recipe with and without the thyme. It's much better with the herb. The recipe works better with a tasteful olive and not bland ones. I went to the olive bar and tried black olives until I found one with plenty of flavor.
I also have a couple of Bittman's cookbooks and they are wonderful.

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