Monday, February 21, 2011
Moroccan Blood Orange Salad with Black Olives
It’s snowing again. Again! Sadly it’s too soon for another cassoulet, so I chose a different tack and decided to prepare some Moroccan food, which never fails to bring sun and warmth to mind.
Vegetables haven’t traditionally been a major part of the southern Berber diet, but in Fez and Meknes, and along the coast, they have a rich history. Salads there are usually served at the start of the meal, and, as Paula Wolfert observed, they tend to more closely resemble Italian antipasti platters both in form and in function than the dressed green salads we serve in the States. Moroccan salads can be savory or sweet and feature meat as well as fruits and vegetables. It is common to see several served at a time, and I especially like when they are left on the table throughout the meal as a refreshing, sometimes spicy counterpoint to a tagine.
I imagine this particular salad might have originated around the famous citrus groves of Fez or Agadir. It’s a favorite of mine – I can’t resist the colors. Plus there’s something comforting about slices of orange arranged on a platter that reminds me of my mother’s dinner parties in the eighties (when they were usually drizzled with raspberry purée for dessert).
Citrus and olives are a classic flavor combination throughout the Mediterranean, and I love them here with the added earthiness and heat of the spices. The whole is balanced in a lightly garlic-flecked dressing that brings out the best in the herbal parsley. You can add a small amount of cinnamon to the dressing, but there’s so often cinnamon in tagine that I like this vinaigrette “clean.” You can also mix up the citrus, maybe blending sour oranges like bergamots or Sevilles with the sweet, or adding fresh or preserved lemons. And when blood oranges are in season – they seem to be everywhere in New York right now – I relish the chance to use them.
Whichever version you prefer, it works nicely as part of a salad course alongside a twangy cucumber salad and maybe some slivered radishes in orange blossom water or spiced fava beans. The spiced oranges pair well with many tagines, including my kdra style Chicken, Carrot & Chickpea Tagine and my Beef Tagine with Olives & Dates. But even enjoyed alone as a simple lunch, along with perhaps some grilled flatbread and a nice piece of sheep’s milk cheese, this dish packs a punch against the gray endlessness of February.
Serves 6 - 8 as part of a larger meal or 2 - 3 as a light lunch with flatbread and cheese
3 lbs blood oranges, navel oranges, or other mixed citrus
1 cup black oil-cured olives, pitted
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
½ tsp paprika
pinch of cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
pinch of granulated sugar
Extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of flat leaf parsley (or more if preferred), torn or roughly chopped
Slice the ends off of the oranges and then use a knife to cut off the rest of the skin from top to bottom in sections. Turn the oranges on their sides and gently slice into disks across their equators. Arrange on a platter with the olives.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne, and sugar. Season with salt to taste and then whisk in about twice as much olive oil as there is lemon juice. Check the seasoning with a little more salt if necessary and then drizzle as much over the oranges and olives as you like. Sprinkle over the parsley and serve immediately.