Snappy and satisfying, this makes a great dinner starter
Oranges and olives together? Don’t judge.
Sweet oranges are actually a great match for salty, briny olives. And this dish is easy to make, so you can serve it any weeknight.
But it’s also fancy enough for a dinner party. So you could say this salad is diversity on a dish.
Recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Orange and Olive Salad
A Moroccan dinner usually starts with a variety of dishes, often including one like the salad we describe in this post (but without the lettuce base). The menu may also include Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad or Moroccan Carrot Salad. Or maybe a plate of olives or other veggies. Some of these dishes may remain on the table throughout the meal.
We’re not accustomed to starting dinner this way in the US, of course, so we have transformed this traditional dish into a lettuce-based salad. This recipe was inspired by one in Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.
You can use oranges, clementines, or tangerines for this dish. Navel oranges look best, but it’s quicker to use clementines or tangerines, which are easy to peel and section.
Black olives work much better than green olives in this dish. You may be able to find a good selection of black olives (both pitted and not) at your supermarket deli.
Prep and mixing time for this recipe is 15 to 20 minutes. You can prepare the elements of the dish an hour or two ahead of time, if you wish, then assemble it at the last minute (assembly takes no more than 5 minutes).
This recipe serves 4. It’s easy to cut in half or double if necessary.
- 1 or 2 heads of Boston bibb lettuce (or substitute another lettuce; you need about 5 cups of lettuce, cleaned and torn into pieces)
- 3 navel oranges (or about 5 clementines; or to taste)
- ½ to 1 cup pitted black olives (to taste; we vote for 1 cup)
- 1 clove garlic (optional, but tasty)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the better the quality, the better the dish)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (may substitute wine vinegar; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon dried powdered cumin
- a few dashes of cayenne pepper (to taste; for us, a scant ¼ teaspoon)
- a few pinches salt (to taste; see Notes)
- sugar (optional; a few pinches to taste to sweeten the salad dressing)
- 2 tablespoons parsley (optional)
- Wash and dry the lettuce, then tear it into bite-size pieces. Wrap the lettuce in a towel and refrigerate it until needed (you can do this an hour to two ahead of time).
- When ready to make the salad: Peel the oranges, removing the white membrane (we usually cut off the peel with a knife). Using a sharp knife, cut the oranges into sections (we cut along the lines formed by the membrane, removing the membrane as we go). Set aside.
- Chop the olives roughly. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic (if using) and mince it finely. Place the garlic in a small bowl with a lid (make sure the lid closes securely).
- Make the salad dressing: To the chopped garlic, add the olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt, and sugar (if using). Shake thoroughly to combine all ingredients. Taste, and add more salt and/or sugar if needed.
- Wash the parsley (if using), then chop it roughly.
- Assemble the salad: Add the chilled lettuce to a bowl large enough to hold it comfortably. Add a bit more than half the salad dressing to the lettuce and toss. Place the lettuce on serving plates.
- Add the orange sections, olives, and parsley to the mixing bowl. Add the rest of the salad dressing, and toss until all the ingredients are well coated. Divide the ingredients over the lettuce on the serving plates, creating a nice pattern.
- Serve and enjoy.
- We prefer to use lemon juice in this recipe, but substitute wine vinegar if you prefer.
- We like to use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, but you may consider that too much. So start with one tablespoon (Step 5). Mix, taste, then add more if you wish.
- Speaking of taste, add as much salt as tastes good to you. For us, that’s several pinches of kosher salt. Kosher salt is less salty by volume than table salt (because it has bigger flakes), so keep that in mind when seasoning.
- Oranges are in season in our part of the world right now, so this is a perfect time to make this salad. But good oranges are available in supermarkets throughout the year.
- We suggest using black olives in this dish. Black olives are fully mature, while green ones are picked before they’re completely ripe. The flavor of black olives tends to be deeper and less bitter than that of green olives.
- Olives must be cured before you eat them – uncured olives are extremely bitter. We like to use brine-cured olives. (Brining can take up to a year, BTW).
- Olives can also be water-cured (though that takes even longer than brine-curing). You may be able to find salt-cured olives, although these tend to be less common (at least in the stores where we shop). Lye-cured and dry-cured olives are also available.
- Kalamata olives are easy to find in most supermarkets, and that’s what we have used in this salad. Niçoise olives are also generally available, and would be another good choice.
- Beldi olives are what you’d probably use if you were making this salad in Morocco. They’re not easy to find in the US, but their flavor is quite good.
- BTW, Morocco produces superb olives and oranges.
- We like to use Boston bibb lettuce in this dish, but choose any lettuce that appeals to you.
- Boston bibb, a form of butterhead lettuce, was developed in the US, probably during the 1860s. Its originator, Major John “Jack” Bibb of Kentucky, gave his name to the lettuce. How did “Boston” enter into the equation? Beats us!
- BTW, lettuce has been around for a long time. It was first cultivated in ancient Egypt.
“Citrus and salt, together again,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “Double yum.”
“Yeah, this is what I call bibb and tuck in,” I said.
“Olive another bite before I respond to that pun,” said Mrs K R.
“Orange you the diplomat today?” I said.
“Careful you don’t use up olive your luck,” said Mrs K R.
“Are you cumin to get me?” I asked.
“No,” said Mrs K R. “Fortunately for you, I’m feeling gracious in the presence of this storied Moroccan dish.”
Lettuce now praise famous salads.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Moroccan-Spiced Beet Salad
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Mint
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad
Indian Carrot Salad with Mustard Seeds
Or check out the index for more