Summertime and the living is easy. This means throw-together salads and easy bakes, all of which should feature olives and olive oil in a starring role. Here are some of the ways I’ve discovered to put the fruits and oils of our various olive varietals to delicious use… all light on both calories and prep work.
Watermelon, Cucumber, Olive and Feta Salad
This pretty-in-pink salad is the perfect showcase for our glossy black manzanilla olives. Usually the last to ripen, this year’s early cold snap brought our manzanilla on prematurely. We press the smaller fruits for their lovely mild oil, and pickle the larger olives in brine.
For the salad:
• ½ small watermelon
• 200g feta cheese
• 2–3 radishes, thinly sliced
• ½ cucumber, cubed
• 60g manzanilla olives
• a small bunch of mint
For the dressing:
• 4T extra virgin olive oil
• 2–3T lemon juice
• 1T honey
• 1T toasted sesame seeds
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut the watermelon into squares or use either a melon baller or a tablespoon to create balls of the flesh.
2. Toss together the watermelon, feta, sliced radish, cucumber and olives.
3. To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jam jar. Pop the lid on and give it a good shake.
4. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and garnish with fresh mint.
Serves 4 as a starter or side
Spinach Tart with Olive Oil Crust
Our frantoio oil olives ripened early with the result this year’s is a milder oil, more mellow in flavour and not overly ‘grassy’, perfect for using in bakes. The easy-to-make olive oil-based crust of this spinach tart, which I picked up from a back issue of Martha Stewart, offers a brilliant use for a milder olive oil – it’s also a great option when entertaining vegetarian guests.
For the crust:
• ¾ cup whole-wheat flour
• ¾ cup cake flour
• 1 t coarse salt
• 2 T sesame seeds
• ⅓ cup mild extra virgin olive oil
• ⅓ cup water
For the filling:
• 700g spinach, trimmed, rinsed
• 1T extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small shallot, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ¼t red-pepper flakes
• 50g feta, crumbled
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• ½t coarse salt
• ½t sesame seeds
1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 220°C. Whisk together the flours, salt and sesame seeds, then stir in the oil and water and knead to form a ball. Roll out the dough into a 30cm round and fit it into a 25cm tart tin with a removable bottom. Trim any excess dough, then prick the bottom all over using a fork and bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
2. To make the filling, reduce the oven to 180°C. Place the spinach in a large pot (if spinach is dry, add ¼ cup water) and cover. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a kitchen towel and squeeze to remove the excess water. Coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl. Wipe the pot dry and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and red-pepper flakes and fry, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the spinach, add the feta, eggs and salt and stir to combine.
3. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Potato Salad
Manzanilla olives (the word means ‘little apple’ in Spanish) are harvested while green-yellow, then sorted by hand (our workers wear cotton gloves to minimise the risk of damaging the tender fruits) and sent for pickling. Firmer and denser than its ripe black counterpart, with a far more piquant flavour and a delicious texture, these beauties shine in a cold potato salad.
• 1kg Nicola Mediterranean potatoes, scrubbed, then halved (quartered, if large)
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• ¾ cup sour cream
• sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 3 spring onions, finely sliced
• ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
• ¼ cup torn basil leaves
• ½ cup pitted manzanilla olives
• 50g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
• Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until just cooked through.
2. Drain and cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream and season to taste.
4. Spread half of the mayonnaise onto the base of a serving platter. Top with cooled potatoes, half the spring onions, half the parsley, half the basil, half the olives, half the walnuts and half the pomegranate seeds, then spoon over the remaining mayonnaise. Top with remaining ingredients and serve.
Serves 4 as a starter or side