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Insalata di Songino, Noci e Uva Sultanina (Songino, Nuts and Raisins Salad)

31 Mar

This colorful salad can be either a great side dish for a main course, although the addition of goat’s cheese makes this salad a perfect wholesome, standalone meal, too. I love it after exercising at the gym: it is light and nutritious. The color of nuts and raisins contrast with the bright green of the lettuce and add an exotic flavor to this dish. The dressing , sweet and spicy, is prepared with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and mustard. This mix of flavors goes very well with the taste of songino lettuce.

Songino also known as lamb’s lettuce, has a slight sweetish taste and numerous nutritional properties and health benefits. It is rich in vitamins (A, B and C ) and minerals (phosphorus , potassium, iron and magnesium). It also has diuretic and detox properties, so it is a great choice for cleaning out our bodies in preparation of the summer. Do not forget that nuts are very rich in vitamins (especially vitamin E), minerals and unsaturated fatty acids, therefore an healthy choice too!

INSALATA DI SONGINO, NOCI E UVA SULTANINA (SONGINO, NUTS AND RAISINS SALAD)
Preparation time : 10 min. Servings: 4

Insalata songino

INGREDIENTS
150 g (5.3 oz) lettuce salad
4 tablespoons walnuts
3 tablespoons raisins

Dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing oil, vinegar, honey , mustard and salt
2. Wash thoroughly and dry the lettuce . This type of salad retains dirt easily, so it must be washed several times. Set aside
3. In a large bowl toss the lettuce, walnuts and raisins (keeping aside a tablespoon of each of these ingredients for garnish) with the dressing. Serve immediately. You can garnish with goat cheese cut into small pieces.

Note: The type of nut is purely personal. I suggest pecans, typical American nuts. They have an intense and buttery flavor, they are my favorite. When you taste pecans, you’ll want to replace walnuts in your diet with them in the future, I guarantee! – Paola

 

 

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Insalata con Avocado, Clementine e Pinoli (Avocado, Clementines and Pine Nuts Salad)

5 Feb

This colorful and nutritious salad is a real treat for the eyes and for the palate, something I usually prepare in winter when clementines are juicy and delicious in Italy. The addition of toasted pine nuts give a crunchy, sweet and nutty flavor to this fresh dish. The dressing is prepared with lime that adds a further note of freshness. This salad can be a great side dish for grilled meat (tagliata) while the addition of goat cheese makes this recipe a perfect dish for a light and nutritious lunch.

The avocado is a fruit that was not used in the past in our Mediterranean diet originally from Mexico, but nowadays it is getting more popular because it is tasty and is beneficial to one’s health and beauty. Hemingway called it ” food that has no rival among the fruits, the real fruit of paradise.” It is rich in vitamin A and E (which have high antioxidant properties ), minerals and fatty acids, and it provides a lot of energy. It is a “panacea” for health, and we should not forget that is also an aphrodisiac!

INSALATA CON AVOCADO, CLEMENTINE E PINOLI (AVOCADO, CLEMENTINES AND PINE NUTS SALAD)
Preparation time: 10 min.                   Servings: 4

Insalata Avocado

INGREDIENTS
8 cups mixed salad greens
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 clementines
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil (extra-virgin)
Juice of one lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by mixing olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside
2. Wash and dry the salad. Set aside
3. In nonstick pan over low heat toast the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes. Set aside
4. Clean clementines, cut them into wedges
5. Clean the avocado, removing the skin and the central core. Cut it into small pieces and sprinkle with a few drops of lime juice to prevent darkening
6. In a large bowl, toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with avocado , clementines, onion and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

 Note: The success of this recipe depends greatly on the choice of ingredients, especially the avocado. It ‘s very important to use a ripe avocado. At the time of purchase I suggest you apply a gentle pressure with your fingers on the surface: if it does not yield, it is not yet ripe and you have to let it mature for a few days. If it is soft, but you do not see a groove in the pulp, it is perfectly ripe. Paola

Insalata di Lenticchie (Lentil Salad)

7 Aug

This lentil salad with fresh vegetables is a refreshing, summertime dish that you can enjoy either as a main course accompanied by cheese, or served as a side dish. This is a recipe you can prepare in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. It is quick and easy, in fact, it is not necessary to soak the lentils for several hours before cooking them.  It is best served fresh, “just made”, at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate it and enjoy it cold the next day. Surely this salad is healthy and nutritious. Lentils, in fact, like all legumes, are an important nutritional source of proteins and carbohydrates (in the past they were known as “la carne dei poveri” the meat of poor people), but they are also low in fat. They are also rich in iron, potassium, phosphorus and dietary fiber which are important to keep your cholesterol levels in check. Lentils are ancient legumes, consumed by the Egyptians and present in different quotations from the Bible. In the past, they were peasants’ food because of the high nutritional value and low cost. These tasty and versatile legumes, often found in vegetarian cuisine, are good in salads, soups and other recipes. Do not forget that lentils are a symbol of luck and wealth, therefore let’s eat them in abundance!

INSALATA DI LENTICCHIE (LENTIL SALAD)
Preparation time: 30 min. Cooking time: 20 min. Servings: 4

Insalata di Lenticchie
INGREDIENTS
280 g (10 oz) dry lentils
1 bay leaf
300 g ( 11 oz) cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, diced
1 white onion, diced
1 medium pepper, diced
1 bunch of basil
4 tablespoons of olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Rinse the lentils under running water, put them in a pot with the bay leaf and plenty of water, and boil until they are crisp, about 18-20 minutes. A few minutes before they are done, add some salt. The cooking time should be indicated on the packaging. Drain and allow to cool
3. While the lentils are cooking, cut the tomatoes in half, dice the cucumber. Mix together in a bowl and let stand for about 15 minutes at room temperature to remove the water
4. Drain the tomatoes and cucumber with a strainer. Cut the onion and pepper. In a large bowl mix all the vegetables
5. In a small bowl prepare the dressing with olive oil, salt and pepper
5. Add the lentils and some basil leaves to the vegetable mix, toss well with the dressing. Leave for 10-15 minutes and serve at room temperature.   -Paola

Insalata di Ceci (Chickpea Salad)

20 Jun

This is refreshing and healthy salad made with chickpeas, olives, tomatoes and onions, flavored with olive oil and fresh basil making this salad even more delicious.  This is a perfect vegetarian dish for a light summer lunch and is best served fresh “just made” and at room temperature to heighten the flavor of tomatoes and basil, although you can also refrigerate it and eat the next day. Chickpeas – or garbanzo beans – are legumes rich in protein, zinc, B vitamins, folate and fiber, but also low in fat and most of which is polyunsaturated: good friends for your heart!!! They are one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500 year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. They are largely cultivated in the Mediterranean area and are well known in Italian cuisine. The Mediterranean chickpeas have lighter color, larger seed and smoother coat in comparison to Asian ones. I love their buttery taste, like a combination of chestnuts and beans,  and I enjoy them in everything: salads, stews, pasta (the delicious pasta e ceci), in fritters and farinata.

INSALATA DI CECI (CHICKPEA SALAD)
Preparation time: 1h 40 min. Cooking time: 70-90 min. Servings: 4

Insalata di Ceci

INGREDIENTS
280 g (10 oz) dry chickpeas
1 bay leaf
450 g (1 pound) cherry tomatoes
1 shallot, finely sliced
3 tablespoons Taggiasche olives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS
Day 1
You should start the day before you plan to serve the salad.
1.Rinse the beans under running water, then place in a large glass bowl with bay leaf.  Fill bowl with plenty of water to cover generously (about 5 cm, 2 inches above the level of the chickpeas).  Cover with a lid and soak overnight.
Day 2
2. Drain soaking water, put chickpeas into a pan with fresh water and cook until they are tender, from 70 to 90 minutes, depending on how fresh the chickpeas are. A few minutes before they are done add some salt. The cooking time should be indicated on the package
3. Fifteen minutes before removing chickpeas from the stove , cut the tomatoes, add some salt and let them rest for 10 minutes
4. Drain tomatoes in a colander.  Slice onion and chop basil.  In a large bowl mix all together with the olives and olive oil
5. Drain the chickpeas well, add lemon juice and mix.  Add to the vegetable mix
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad rest for 10-15 minutes and serve at room temperature.

Note: You can use canned chickpeas (about 1 pound) but the taste of dry ones is more buttery and exquisite.  If you use canned ones drain into a colander and rinse with cold water until no more foam appears.  -Paola

Insalata di Pollo (Chicken Salad)

11 May

How about a refreshing summer salad made with grilled chicken breast, carrots, red pepper, celery, pickles and delicious Taggiasche olives?  The dressing is prepared with Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and flavored extra virgin olive oil.  The addition of olive oil lends a special taste to this salad, a Mediterranean touch.  Chicken is a healthy choice, in fact it contains less fat than beef or pork, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals; it is  therefore is an excellent choice for a light and nutritious diet .  In addition its milder taste complements a lot of dishes. This salad may be served on top of lettuce, tomatoes  (or the combination of them) or in a sandwich, and it is an easy dish to take on a summer picnic.  Try it cold or at room temperature, as an appetizer or main course.

INSALATA DI POLLO (CHICKEN SALAD)
Preparation time: 20 minutes                                       Servings: 4

Insalata di pollo piatto

INGREDIENTS
500 g (18 oz) grilled chicken
3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 medium red pepper, julienned
3 celery stalks, diced
7 medium pickles, julienned
2 tablespoons Taggiasche olives

1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Pound the breast chicken to 1 cm (½ in) thickness . Grill the chicken for about 3-4 minutes each side but not too long otherwise the meat will dry out. Let it cool and cut into strips 1 cm (½ in) wide and  6 cm (2 ½  in) long
2. Clean and wash  all fresh vegetables.  Julienne the carrots, the pepper and the pickles. Dice the celery. Pour all vegetables and chives in a large bowl.  Set aside
3. In a small bowl mix well the yogurt, mayonnaise, the mustard, salt and pepper.  Then slowly add the olive oil until well blended
4. Combine the vegetables and the chicken. Mix well and toss with the dressing
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note: I partially substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt because it makes the dressing lighter. You can use a variety of mustards. I like sweet mustard, but you can substitute with your favorite one.  -Paola

Insalata di Farro e Verdure (Farro and Vegetable Salad)

28 Apr

The fresh vegetables make this salad a perfect and colorful dish to celebrate the flavors of spring.  Farro is an ancient grain, a variety of wheat called emmer.  It was used by the Etruscans, Egyptians and the Romans. Nowadays it is cultivated especially in northern Tuscany, in the province of Lucca. Farro has a delicious nutty and earthy texture that makes it a wonderful choice for entrees, soups, side dishes and salads. It is a versatile ingredient, as well as being highly nutritious. Farro is rich in proteins, dietary fibers and magnesium; it is a good source of vitamin A, C, E and vitamin B complex, and it is low in fat. It has a very low glycemic index, making it also suitable for diabetics. I use farro perlato (pearled farro, from which a portion of the outer bran has been removed) instead of whole farro for my recipes, because it cooks faster and does not requiring soaking. In fact, farro perlato cooks in only 20 minutes. This is a quick, easy and tasty recipe to prepare, something you can eat either warm or cold. The sautéed and sweetly flavored vegetables combined with the nutty farro make an irresistible vegetarian dish.

INSALATA DI FARRO E VERDURE (FARRO AND VEGETABLE SALAD)
Preparation time: 35 minutes                            Servings: 8

Insalata di Farro

INGREDIENTS
320 g (1 ½ cups) farro perlato
8 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 red chili pepper, finely sliced
3 carrots, finely cubed
1 red pepper, finely cubed
1 fennel, finely cubed
3 zucchini, finely cubed
250 g (2 cups) fresh peas (or frozen)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, basil or mint for decoration

DIRECTIONS
1. Rinse the farro in cold water and drain
2. Bring 4 cups of salted water (about 7 g,  1 ½  teaspoons of salt) to boil, add the farro, reduce heat and cook covered with a lid for 20 minutes (cook according to the directions on the package).  It should be firm and chewy
3. While the farro is cooking, in a non-stick pan sauté scallions, garlic and red chilli pepper in olive oil over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring frequently
4. Add the carrots and pepper, toss for a few minutes
5. Add the fennel and zucchini, cook for 5 minutes. At this point add the peas and cook for additional 3-4 minutes stirring a few times to prevent burning. The cooking time for the vegetables can vary according to your taste: crispy versus soft and well cooked.  I go for crispy!
6. After 20 minutes drain the farro and add it to the vegetables. Toss to mix all the ingredients well! Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve it either warm or cold. Decorate with parsley, basil or mint.

Note: Instead of farro perlato you can use regular farro (cooking time is different) or any large grain. I would suggest brown rice for a gluten free version. -Paola

Insalata di Polpo con Patate (Octopus and Potato Salad)

16 Apr

Octopus and potato salad, a refreshing and light dish that reveals the exquisite taste of the octopus.  It is a Mediterranean delight to enjoy either as an appetizer or a main course, served either warm or cold and accompanied by a glass of dry white wine.  The simple dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice brings out the flavor of the octopus and the potatoes. This is a lovely way to eat octopus, a low-calorie and lean seafood, and is an ideal way to get protein, minerals (especially iron), vitamins and antioxidants, without taking in too much fat.  The name of octopus derives from Greek,  octo eight and pous piede, with eight feet. Octopus is delightful, but it can be tricky to cook it, with possible results ranging from soft and tender to tough and rubbery.  The cooking time is critical for the best results, and I would recommend tenderizing it with a meat hammer (see note) before cooking.

INSALATA DI POLPO CON PATATE (OCTOPUS AND POTATO SALAD)
Preparation time: 1 h       Cooking time: 40 min.               Serving: 4

conchiglia con polpo

INGREDIENTS
1 whole octopus, about 900 g (2 pounds)
1 carrot
1 celery rib
1 yellow onion
2 bay leaves
1 black pepper corn
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
8 medium size potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon capers, washed and dry
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Wash and clean the octopus, removing the ink sack and the internal parts
2. Prepare a pot of a vegetable stock with plenty of water and the carrot, celery, onion bay leaves, black pepper corn and vinegar.  Bring it to boil, and dip in only the tentacles (holding the head) 4-5 times to curl and soften them.  Then drop the whole octopus into the water, cover and cook on low heat for approx. 40 minutes
3. Meanwhile cube the potatoes and cook until tender in salted water
4. When the octopus is done boiling, remove it from the water with tongs, chop off the head (there is not a lot of good meat in it) and cube the tentacles in small pieces 2, 5 cm (1 in)
5. In a small bowl prepare the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic
6. In a large bowl combine the octopus, the potatoes and the capers and season with the dressing.  Place it on a serving plate or in a shell.  You can either serve it warm or cold. You can, alternatively, also set the potatoes on a serving dish and place the octopus in the center, then add the dressing on top.

Note: When you buy the octopus, you can verify the freshness from its color; it should be bright and intense.  The octopus meat is soft and tender, but it can also rubbery depending on the preparation.  Traditionally, the octopus was beaten on the rocks to tenderize its meat.  If you don’t have a rocky coast just outside your kitchen door, you can tenderize it with a kitchen hammer for 10 min.  -Paola

Insalata di Finocchi e Arance Rosse (Fennel and Blood Orange salad)

2 Mar

This year’s citrus season is almost over, but we still have time to enjoy this delicious Sicilian salad made with fennel bulb, blood orange and olives. This is a simple and refreshing dish, perfect to serve either for a light lunch or as a side dish with dinner. The sweet and beautifully colored blood oranges complement the delicate anise taste of fennel, while the addition of olives makes this recipe a symphony of flavors for your palate. The brilliant red flesh color of Sicilian blood oranges is due to an antioxidant compound which – although found in many fruits but uncommon to citrus fruit – makes this citrus very special! Fennel is indigenous to the Mediterranean area, but it is now widely cultivated in many other parts of world as well. The fennel bulb, foliage and the seed are used in various culinary traditions and medicinal purposes. Fennel is very refreshing, purifying and diuretic. The bulb is a crisp vegetable that can be used in many ways: sautéed, braised, grilled, stewed, au gratin or just eaten raw in salads, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. This salad is not only very beautiful, but it is also delightful and healthy. It is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and nutrients, and it helps keep you healthy too!

INSALATA DI FINOCCHI E ARANCE ROSSE (FENNEL AND BLOOD ORANGE SALAD)
Preparation time: 15 minutes                   Servings: 4

insalata di finocchi small

INGREDIENTS
Salad
2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly shaved with a mandolin or meat slicer
2 blood oranges, peeled
12 green olives or black (pitted and sliced) + 4 whole pitted

Dressing
4 tablespoons olive oil (Extra Virgin)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Soak the unpeeled oranges in boiling water for about 5 minutes. This method facilitates removal of the white membrane when peeling
2. Using a sharp knife peel the oranges and remove membrane. Cut them into the shape you prefer. I like one in small pieces and the other one in slices
3. Coarsely slice the olives
4. Wash the fennel bulbs, slice off the stalk and any fronds, and thinly slice
5. In a large bowl combine the orange pieces, the fennel and the sliced olives. Toss with the dressing
6. Arrange the sliced orange on a serving plate. Place the salad mix in the middle and decorate with the whole olives. Serve immediately.

Note: When you purchase your vegetables choose fresh fennel; it is even better if you use male fennel without sprouts. Oranges should be firm and plump, and feel free to use either green or black olives, whichever you prefer. Fennel turns brown (oxidizes) quickly, so as soon as you slice it, quickly add the dressing to it. The presence of lemon juice will slow down the process. -Paola

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