Italian Food and Flavours
Summer Salad : Insalatona
Summer Salad/ Insalatona
This is one of my favourite lunches at home or when in a local trattoria, especially when I’ve been unable to resist a steady stream of evenings out at local pizzerias. Don’t get me wrong, I love Le Marche pizzas, cooked in a wood fired oven and our local pizzeria also bakes bread which at 10.30 am you can purchase when its still warm. However enough is enough and believe me if you’ve been over indulging, then a few days of eating what is basically a large salad as your whole meal will make you feel a bit lighter on your feet.
Throwing together a salad is easy and not worthy of a cooking holidays blog was my first thought but actually getting the balance and the flavours right is quite an art and not just about opening a ready prepared mixed bag of salad and throwing in a few cherry tomatoes. At my local market, there are no bags of salad but seasonal lettuces and leaves complete with dirt! There are romaine lettuces with large, stiff leaves which generally form the base of my salads and grow in my orto. On offer is always a loose leaf variety, maybe lollo rosso which provdes colour in a salad and then there are the more bitter leaves of radicchio. I personally leave out the bitter leaves as I find them over powering. For this salad I added young leaves from my pot of baby leaf salad on my balcony – so easy to grow this cut and come mix even if you don’t have a garden, never mind a veg patch.
Tips for creating a nutritious and satisfying insalatona :
1) Although the basis is a green salad, add a variety of salad leaves to add colour, texture and different levels of crunch. Also add an italian cucumber which needs peeling but is more flavoursome than the long English greenhouse cucumbers.
2) Nothing in the salad should be used straight from the fridge, let everything be at room temperature.
3) The insalatona is a whole meal, not just a side order so once you have the leafy base then add some protein but not too much – getting the balance right is important. Here I’ve added a couple of hard boiled eggs, still warm, a ball of buffalo mozzarella sliced but I often add tuna and local anchovies from the Adriatic.
4) I always add a vegetable protein such as chickpeas but you can add canneloni beans or fresh fava beans.
5) Dress the salad just before eating. I’m spoilt as I have my own extra virgin olive oil which I like to mix with a squirt of lemon and a little salt and pepper for a simple dressing. It has been proven that adding a fat to a salad improves the absorption of antioxidants from the raw leaves. Adding avocado as I have done or some nuts will also add some essential and healthy fats to your meal as well as make it more interesting to the palate.
6) A great salad should be a balance of different textures, colours and flavours so use whatever herbs you have to enhance it. Basil, chives, parsley, oregano, majoram – experiment. In this salad I used lemon thyme which I infused in extra virgin olive oil for half an hour before pouring onto the salad.
Recipe by Debby: from Italian Food and Flavours
Summer Salad/ Insalatona