On Sunday, the incredible Marcella Hazan passed away. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all she gave to the culinary world here on the blog. Marcella’s cookbooks line my shelves, just like so many other cooks.
She’s been described over the years as brassy, opinionated and encouraging (which is just how my father described my own Italian grandmother). I related to Marcella’s passion with every recipe, every class she taught, every quip that brought a chuckle. That passion was warmth, was love, was the desire to do things right, to feed those she loved and to always reach to taste the flavors of life.
Paving the way for many home cooks, including myself, Marcella let us know that it doesn’t have to be difficult to produce great food. Her books offer foundational recipes that you learn by heart and cook all the time‑ like lasagna bolognese or her amazing tomato sauce that many have shared this week. Today, I’m offering her Orange and Cucumber Salad‑ it is so beautiful, simple and perfect. Early fall is perfect timing, we still have cucumbers and radishes and oranges are coming into season.
The recipe comes from Marcella’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which I recommend for every home cook’s collection. Like all simple recipes, the key is to pick the best ingredients you can get your hands on. It won’t take much for your dish to shine. If you haven’t taken the leap, invest in a great olive oil for finishing.
This salad is one my whole family adores. It’s fresh, delicious and easy which makes it perfect for busy weeknights. It keeps well, so you can make it up a couple hours before serving and it will be fine in the fridge. I throw in some avocado to add a great creamy texture to the mix.
Marcella may no longer be here physically, but her passion and knowledge lives on at our family dinner table and countless more all over the world. Salute Marcella!
Marcella’s Orange and Cucumber Salad
2 Persian cucumbers or 1 large seedless
6 small radishes
1 avocado (optional)
12 fresh mint leaves
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Wash the cucumber and slice it into thin disks arrange on a serving platter.
Peel the oranges: slice the top and the bottom off of the orange and using a sharp pairing knife remove the peel. Try not to leave any of the white pithy part. Slice the oranges and add to the platter.
Wash the radishes and slice into disks, add to the platter.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Then, scoop out the avocado with a large tablespoon and slice, arrange the slices on the platter.
Tear the mint leaves in half and sprinkle them over the top.
Sprinkle sea salt over the salad—use a two-finger pinch.
Squeeze the lemon evenly over the platter and finish with a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Serve.