Cent’Anni – Insalata Italiana! Get my recipe here…
In my Italian family, we eat a green salad after every meal. It is thought that the greens, when mixed with a dash of vinegar or lemon, aid in digestion.
When it comes to creating a beautiful and delicious salad, the darker the greens, the more nutrients they contain. Cholesterol-free and naturally low in calories, salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and antioxidants, which may help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
I like to visit markets regularly for my pick of unique lettuce varieties. However, I am still often puzzled when the person at the checkout stand gives me an inquisitive look, wondering what kind of lettuce I have chosen. Usually, they ask me what it is and what I do with it. My simple reply? “I wash it and eat it!”
Tasteless and boring, I don’t normally choose the typical ‘head’ or ‘romaine’ lettuce, although these are good for mixing with my personal favorites. I start by foraging the produce isle for dandelion greens; the finest of spring greens with a significant bitter note. I crave these leafy greens that my mother plucked for me from my father’s garden. I love their sour taste, mixed with a little salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Balsamic will soften the flavors a bit.
For a less bitter lettuce, I also enjoy escarole, radicchio or curly endive. I like to buy big bunches, wash the leaves, and construct my own bowl of healthy green goodness. Since I often eat salad as a main course, my idea of a tasty and satisfying meal is any or all of these greens mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, a pinch of salt and a splash of red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. For an extra punch of color and pizzazz, I like to add red beets and crumbled gorgonzola (see recipe below).
Start to look around the produce section of your supermarket or farmers market, and think about some favorite ingredients that would best decorate your green canvas. If you like crab or shrimp, go for it. Experiment with chicken or turkey, and any kind of cheese that you like best. Top with walnuts, almonds and raisins, or experiment with fruits, including juicy orange or grapefruit wedges, pears or apples. Really, the possibilities are endless!
Endive Salad with Red Beets and Gorgonzola
Makes 4 servings
- 8 cups curly endive, cleaned and chopped
- 1 cup radicchio (Italian chicory), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- White pepper
- 3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola, more if desired
- 4 small pre-cooked red beets, peeled and sliced (1 beet per salad)
Place endive and radicchio in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over endive. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and toss gently. Evenly divide salad onto 4 salad plates. Top each salad with gorgonzola and red beets.
Recipe by Maria Desiderata Montana
Maria Desiderata Montana is an award-winning food and wine journalist, editor, and published author based in San Diego. She gained an appreciation of European cuisine from her parents who were born and raised in Calabria, Italy. Visit her website at www.sandiegofoodfinds.com.