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Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home.
Today: Put your celery leaves to good use -- and let your olives take center stage -- with this zingy Sicilian salad.
Insalata di olive verdi schiacciate -- a salad of "squashed" green olives -- is a refreshing, flavorful, and easy dish, where green olives are the protagonist and celery leaves are a surprisingly good supporting act.
It's as simple as can be, but some may add a kick of fresh red chile, thinly sliced, or even a handful of chopped pistachios. You may also like to include some of the celery stalk, sliced, for added crunch. But the essence of this salad is its simplicity and freshness. There is something wonderful about the way the flavor of the celery leaves mingles with the briny green olives and mint -– these ingredients, and their careful balance, are essential. Because of its punch, this is a salad that you only need a small amount of -- it is ideal as part of an antipasto (a typical way to eat olives in Sicily), or as a side dish served with grilled or roasted meat.
Since this is such a simple dish, you want the good stuff. So don't use up those wilted celery leaves at the bottom of your vegetable crisper; rather, think of these as crisp salad leaves. Get yourself some of the prettiest celery you can find and use the smaller, more tender leaves. And don't skimp on the olives -- the better their quality, the better this dish will be. Although you may be tempted to skip the squashing and deseeding (it is the only laborious part of this recipe) in favor of already pitted olives, just be sure that you're still getting really delicious, good quality olives. Finish them with a really fresh extra-virgin olive oil to bind it all together.
2 cups (about 200 grams or 7 ounces) good quality green olives
A handful of celery leaves, from about 2 stalks
A handful of mint leaves
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Photos by Emiko Davies