I made this salad on the weekend after Sydney had experienced its second potentially catastrophic fire day this spring. Last Thursday was a day of 40 degree temperatures and searing hot winds. This was followed on the Friday by a spectacular cool change but, on Saturday, the memory of the heat still lingered. I had a friend over for lunch and I still couldn’t be bothered cooking anything. So we ate this salad, some cherry tomatoes, cucumber, hummus, olives, cheese and bread and it was actually a pretty spectacular feast for all its simplicity.
I’ve made this salad a lot over the years – it comes from Antipasti: The Little Dishes of Italy by Julia Della Croce, a now out-of-print book that I had on a rotating loan out of my local library for about six months before I bought a couple of second hand copies online for myself and a friend. Most of the recipes are like this: deceptively simple but with perfect flavour combinations. In between eating huge amounts of this salad, my friend and I tried to deconstruct what made it so special, and all I could come up with was the blanched, slivered almonds, which I usually only buy for this salad, set against the mild delicacy of the blood orange and olive oil dressing. Whatever the reason, it’s the perfect salad to make when recuperating from unseasonable and unreasonable days of extreme heat.
This salad can be made with sugar snap peas but I usually use snowpeas because they’re more readily available. I used blood oranges this time, though I generally make it with ordinary oranges throughout the year.
Snowpea and almond salad with mint and blood orange dressing
Adapted from Antipasti: The little Dishes of Italy by Julia Della Croce
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 450 grams (1 pound) sugar snap peas or snow peas
- freshly ground white and black pepper
- 5 tablespoons of blanched, slivered almonds lightly toasted
- 2½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice (blood orange is best, if available)
- ¼ teaspoon orange zest
- 6–8 fresh mint or basil leaves (or a combination of both) torn into pieces
- Extra slices of orange for garnish (optional)
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add salt then quickly blanch snow peas or snap peas (about a minute for snap peas and 40 seconds for snowpeas). Remove from water and plunge them into a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking.
- Drain the peas, place in a bowl. Combine orange juice, olive oil and zest, then dress peas toss in herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with toasted nuts just before serving.
- This salad will keep crisp for several hours at room temperature.