My favorite kind of recipes are the ones that combine a few ingredients into something truly extraordinary. Strawberries + sour cream + brown sugar=BAM! It isn’t really cooking, more like assembling. Like this salad, which features the unlikely combination of olives and celery. They combine to form something very special.
I found this recipe in a book on Sicilian cooking, and had been wanting to make it for months. I was waiting for that dark green farmers market celery to arrive. It is more beautiful and flavorful than the pale stuff you find at the grocery store, although both have their merits. This celery also has the advantage of beautiful celery leaves, which add some nice bitterness to the salad. As always with recipes like this, make it with the best ingredients possible. I remember once a friend revealed that he had never eaten an olive. We were at a party and there happened to be a bowl full of olives and so I encouraged him to try one. Oh, they taste like baby corn! Huh? I tried one and they definitely tasted like baby corn. They were some terrible canned olives. Point being, don’t use those for this recipe.
The other point being, this is a fantastic salad that I will definitely make again. I think there is potential to use this as a bruschetta topping, maybe with some fresh cheese (burrata?), but it is great eaten with a fork. We ate half of it before we even brought the bowl to the table.
***Special thanks to Bryan for chopping the ingredients for this salad, even if it took him an hour.
A Salad of Crushed Olives adapted from Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli
- 3 cups good whole green olives in brine
- 7-10 celery stalks*, with leaves if possible, all finely chopped
- the leaves from 7-10 stalks of mint, finely chopped
- wine vinegar
- olive oil
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Drain the olives and pat dry. With a sharp knife, make four cuts in each olive from end to end, then cut each segment away from the stone as carefully as you can. Put the pieces into a bowl and add the celery, the celery leaves and the mint leaves. Toss with the dressing, season and serve.
In other words, dice everything up and throw it in a bowl. You can vary the amount of any of the ingredients to suit your taste. We added more celery than the original called for.
* celery stalk size varies widely. you’re aiming for a 50/50 mix of celery and olives.
October 3rd, 2012 at 12:38 pm
The olives are not really crushed? Would they be good crushed, and the stones removed that way, and then chopped? Or is all the precise cutting worth it? Maybe Bryan should answer that.
The salad looks delicious.
Rebecca Richmond says:
October 3rd, 2012 at 12:40 pm
I would have never thought of this one, but it’s going on my grocery list this week. It really is the simplist dishes that stick with you isn’t it?!
October 3rd, 2012 at 12:49 pm
Nancy- Yeah, I know. No crushing. Chopped? Maybe something was lost in translation. I don’t think you actually want to crush anything, it would ruin the texture. You just want the olives diced. Buying high quality pitted olives will make this a breeze.
October 3rd, 2012 at 1:55 pm
So green but looks so good!
October 3rd, 2012 at 2:18 pm
Silliness ! Smack those olives to get the pit out and then cut them to size. It is a rustic salad after all. Put it on the table with some chunks of bread and a flask of oil and mangia mangia !
October 3rd, 2012 at 2:26 pm
Ha, Josie! I like your style, but I am not convinced you want soft edges on those olives. It would be fine, but texture is pretty important here and I liked the dice.
Caroline Shields says:
October 3rd, 2012 at 2:30 pm
I am all about “assembling recipes!” This one looks fab! Hope all is well!
October 3rd, 2012 at 4:01 pm
Although it’s now October, northern California is sweltering. All I want is to eat cool and crunchy green things doused in vinegar. Perfect timing!
T. Erne says:
October 3rd, 2012 at 5:35 pm
My mouth literally started watering reading the ingredients….I love olives :-)
October 3rd, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Do you think this could be made into a meal with tuna? :)
October 3rd, 2012 at 6:31 pm
Hey Kristen- Sure! The challenge will be making it not look gross. I would use a nice poached tuna in large chunks. Let me know how it turns out.
October 3rd, 2012 at 6:38 pm
Baby corn! Yikes.
October 3rd, 2012 at 8:23 pm
did you use castelvetrano olives for this? those are my favorite. also, I’ve never seen celery that bright green. it’s gorgeous!!
October 3rd, 2012 at 8:26 pm
Hey Jenny, I had a mix of green olives but some of them were castelvetrano, I like them too. Yeah, it was some beautiful celery! : )
October 3rd, 2012 at 8:39 pm
Will do! :)
Julia | JuliasAlbum.com says:
October 3rd, 2012 at 9:37 pm
Olives and celery? Hmm, never tried that combination before. I am so hungry now anyway, I’ll eat anything. :)
October 4th, 2012 at 7:59 am
Red onions would be good with this too, methinks.
October 4th, 2012 at 10:24 am
We have way too much celery growing in our garden! This recipe is perfect!
October 4th, 2012 at 4:59 pm
The green bean salad from that book is also really lovely – I think it’s called summer salad – green beans, olives, anchovies, tomatoes . . .
Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers says:
October 4th, 2012 at 5:19 pm
Those are some mad crazy knife skilz, Bryan.
Erin @ bigsislittledish says:
October 4th, 2012 at 5:56 pm
Hooray! I can’t wait to try this. Celery is such an underrated vegetable. I bet that Cerignola olives would be good.
Vindaloo Tiramisu says:
October 5th, 2012 at 3:19 am
The combination of olives and celery together is magical. One of the best salads I’ve ever eaten was a similar one in a small, family-owned Italian restaurant in Jackson Heights, NY. The only table left was the last one at the back of the long, crowded space, by the kitchen doors and underneath the rickety shelf of cleaning supplies (I clearly remember seeing a bottle of Clorox and a can of Comet leaning precariously overhead)…I was presented with a rough-chop of romaine, celery leaves and celey, black and bitter cracked green olives in EVOO and sharp red wine vinegar. Served with bread that was warm, crusty and tender-crumbed, it was a revelation. I’ve recreated it many times. I’m thankful for your post; now I have a new version to try.
October 5th, 2012 at 7:57 am
This sounds delicious. I am also a big fan of the “throw together” kinda salad. I love the tuna idea too. Thanks!
October 5th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
This is very Sicilian. I ate it at my grandmother’s house every time we went over for dinner. It always was served with the main course — after pasta — and was eaten to promote digestion. It was a lot chunkier. Big slices of celery and the olives were just smashed on the side with a knife. You had to deal with the pits yourself. Simply dressed and always slightly bitter. I make it for my own kids who think it’s just weird. But someday….
October 5th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
So, so, SO psyched that you will be at the event with Matt and Renato in November! What a great combination of people!
October 5th, 2012 at 6:21 pm
Thanks, Susan! Good information.
October 5th, 2012 at 6:21 pm
Thanks, Marisa! I am excited, too. : )
October 8th, 2012 at 7:15 pm
i love recipes like THIS, that make me re-think my refrigerator, and make something out of nothing.
this sounds absolutely fantastic, and unexpected, and wonderful.
October 10th, 2012 at 6:49 am
Made this for the husband and me on Monday night. Where has it been all our lives? Fantastic!
October 10th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
Never thought of combining olives and celery, but now I need to try this asap. Looks and sounds absolutely delicious.
October 12th, 2012 at 4:30 pm
I’m with everyone in thinking this salad sounds amazing and unexpected and delicious. It’s inspiring in so many ways, and I just LOVE that it features oft-forgotten celery.
October 14th, 2012 at 1:05 am
I love this. I made it with good pitted olives in about 5 minutes (don’t tell Bryan)–but I quite like Susan’s suggestion above of serving it with smashed, pit-in olives. I agree with Tim that I did like the cut-edge texture here, but when I’m cooking I also enjoy any opportunity to make my eaters do some of the work.
October 14th, 2012 at 12:15 pm
thanks for sharing this recipe. it came right on time, because i harvested a lot of celery and had no idea what to do with such an amount. and what shall i say, the salad was super delicious. great combination. we liked a lot!
October 15th, 2012 at 4:25 am
This looks delicious. I can get good pitted olives at my local store so this is definitely on the cards. Do you think it might work OK with black olives instead, as there are a couple of fusspots I happen to know?
October 15th, 2012 at 6:58 am
Stephen- I can’t recommend it. I think green olives vibe better with celery, but also the beautiful green color! But it would not be bad. If you try it, let us know how it turns out.
October 21st, 2012 at 10:56 pm
This is lovely, thank you for sharing such a great blog. This salad reminds me of a “pea salad” that my Mississippian grandmother-in-law makes. She includes celery, green olives, peas, and hard boiled eggs. I think that’s everything… I think maybe I am forgetting something but that’s the basics. Sometimes mayo based and sometimes olive oil based dressing. Thought you might find it interesting.
November 1st, 2012 at 5:49 am
I was just ogling that cookbook the other day… It looks so amazing.
December 2nd, 2012 at 10:11 pm
just found you through happy yolks…this salad looks great, I have my own Bryan and he is called Chris, he does precision way better than me..we all need a Bryan…trouble is its his 40th and I want to surprise him with a bunch of never eaten before dishes so i will have to chop solo
December 11th, 2012 at 8:13 pm
I meant to tell you about it, but totally forgot: made this recipe straight away. My family are not celery lovers, they actually claim they are allergic to celery. So when I cook with the ‘forbidden’ ingredients, I just don’t tell them what’s inside and also usually come up with some fancy Italian names. So the feedback about this salad was: “Wow, this is amazing!”
Thanks for sharing and inspiring. Your passionate follower, Tara
January 11th, 2013 at 11:10 pm
This looks wonderfu — eager to try soon, even though it is not summer. One question: I absolutely cannot abide mint. Can you think of another herb that would meld well with the celery/olives? Italian parsley, or is that too bland?
thank you! grateful to have found your site.
July 22nd, 2013 at 7:23 am
Made this last night and served in on grilled baguette that had been brushed with garlic. Everyone loved it! The mixture can be made several hours ahead and refreshed with the mint at the last minute. Thanks!
January 20th, 2014 at 8:41 am
I despise celery. I loved this salad. Here’s to food that makes you think! I paired this with seared, herbed fish and citrus with red rice. it was beautiful. My girlfriend loved it as well.