I used to intern at a restaurant where they would marinate giant containers of beautiful, ripe olives in extra virgin olive oil, anise seeds, orange zest and black peppercorns. They were usually served with some hummus, fava spread, baba ghanoush etc, a heavy pour of olive oil and some pillowy, homemade bread. They were such delicious olives though. I was always reaching into the service container throughout the dinner rush for a little flavourful and salty bite.
I’ve always loved little bites of pickled or briny things before or as part of dinner. It feels a bit more social, all of the hands reaching into one plate, maybe a bit discreetly spitting out olive pits, messy fingers etc. It really engages you with the meal and the conversation I think. Lucky for me, my boyfriend shares the same penchant for little dinner time nibbles. Bonus: usually when we eat out and there’s one tempting, little sun-dried olive left on the mezze/appy plate, he happily offers it up to me. Good man indeed.
Recently he got me this amazing book by Niki Segnit. I had mentioned a while ago that I was seeking it out and voila! He shows up to our little weekday hangout with the British edition in tow (where the ‘u’ is included in ‘flavour’ most importantly). I am a huge fan of the Flavor Bible. I strongly believe that it replaces the need for most cookbooks. This quirky and beautifully designed volume goes even further with specific ingredient combinations and why they work. I started perusing it and noticed her entry on orange and olive together. It seemed a bit odd at first, but then I remembered my bite-sized snack of choice during service at the restaurant and how perfect it was. So, here it is in salad form with shaved fennel in place of the anise seeds. I love treating fennel this way because the flavour changes entirely. Not as licorice-y and so, so fresh and crunchy.
fennel & carrot slaw with orange, olives and dill
special equipment: a mandoline or some premium knife skills
notes: The dill really amps up the freshness, but other herbs could work too. Basil has a bit of a licorice note that would be nice or parsley’s peppery quality would fit in too.
1 medium fennel bulb, tops and tough outer layers removed
2 medium carrots, peeled
1/3 cup ripe olives, pitted and sliced
3 sprigs of dill, leaves finely chopped (should end up with about 1/4 cup)
juice of 1 orange (might be different for you, I had a dry-ish orange)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper
Core the fennel: cut the trimmed bulb in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, make triangular-shaped cuts around the firm core at the base and remove it. Slice the fennel on the mandoline. I try to go pretty paper-thin, but still retaining structure. Place shaved fennel into a large bowl.
With your peeler, make strips of carrot and place into the bowl with the fennel. Add the chopped dill and olives.
Add the orange juice, olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper to the fennel mixture and toss with your hands to combine. Mound on a serving plate and garnish with some reserved dill sprigs if you like.
You might also like…