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Celery and Olive Salad (Insalata di Sedano e Olive)

All olives start out green and turn black as they ripen. Green olives are picked early in the season, around September or October, then cured in brine to preserve them and remove any bitterness. Sometimes this brine, called salamoia, is flavored with garlic, bay leaves or fennel stalks. The olives are ready to eat after three to four months. Serve this crunchy, colorful salad with salami or a sharp cheese such as provolone or caciocavallo, and follow it with grilled fish or lamb chops.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. Sicilian green olives, pitted if desired
  • 4 tender celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 small dried red chili, crushed, or pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the onion slices with cold water to cover. Let stand for 10 minutes, then drain. If the onions still smell strong, soak them again, then drain and pat dry. Place in a bowl.

On a cutting board, using the flat side of a heavy knife blade, lightly crush the olives. Add to the bowl with the onions along with the celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, chili, olive oil and vinegar. Stir well, then cover and refrigerate for at least several hours or up to overnight.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).