Without the ricotta, what you have here is a classic Sicilian salad. The salty olives, the anise of the fennel, a bit of extra oniony bite and the sweet tanginess of the orange work in perfect harmony in this recipe, with the cheese adding an extra little bit of creaminess. Perfect as a starter for a meal or as a side to accompany a simply grilled piece of fish or meat.
- 1 red onion
- 4 blood oranges
- 100 ml good olive oil, for dressing
- river salt and black pepper, to taste
- 3 small fennel bulbs, fronds attached if possible
- 100 g kalamata olives
- 30 g ricotta salata, shaved
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cut your onion in half and then slice it as finely as possible with the grain. Place the onion in a bowl of water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. This will temper a little of the bite of the onion.
With a knife, remove the skin of the blood orange, leaving none of the white pith. Over a bowl, hold a blood orange in one hand and use a knife with the other to cut out each individual orange segment. Give the remaining orange membrane in your hand a little to squeeze to collect the last of the juice. Repeat with the rest of the oranges.
Looking at you now will be a pretty bowl of segments and juice. Pick out any seeds, strain off the juice, which we shall keep for our dressing, and place the segments in a small bowl. Drizzle a little oil in the bowl with the orange and give a little stir.
To make the dressing, simply whisk the olive oil and blood orange juice together and season. Set aside.
If you are lucky enough to have attached fennel fronds, pick them, wash them, drain them, and set aside on paper towel to dry.
Cut the fennel into thin wedges and place in a large mixing bowl with the olives and orange segments. Drain off the onion, give it a squeeze to remove excess water and add it to the mixing bowl as well.
Add a little extra seasoning to your salad, use your dressing (you probably won’t need it all), give the salad a little toss and at the last minute gently mix through the fennel fronds and the ricotta.
Serve it as you wish.
• Sometimes it is appropriate to pit your olives before serving them to your friends but I find this often unnecessary, as I like to have an olive stone to suck on.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd. Dish from FortyNine; jug, Koskela.