Insalate: Authentic Salads for All Seasons

Insalate: Authentic Salads for All Seasons

by Susan Simon
Since the first insalata on Sicily, tossed together from the wild herbs and greens that covered the island, Italians have been enjoying the bounty of their fields and waters, creating fresh, flavorful salads. Insalate offers a delectable sampler of refreshing, authentic Italian favorites accompanied by enchanting photographs of open-air markets, artisans, and


Since the first insalata on Sicily, tossed together from the wild herbs and greens that covered the island, Italians have been enjoying the bounty of their fields and waters, creating fresh, flavorful salads. Insalate offers a delectable sampler of refreshing, authentic Italian favorites accompanied by enchanting photographs of open-air markets, artisans, and vineyards. Organized by season to take advantage of produce picked at the peak of ripeness, over 50 simple yet exuberant recipes use fruits and vegetables to create glorious palate-pleasers. With selections ranging from classic to contemporary, served as appetizers, main courses, or the crisp finale to a meal, Insalate offers acolorful way to recreate the flavors of Italy in your very own salad bowl.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just when it seems that all possible Italian cookbook topics have been exhausted, along comes a book illuminating a little-discussed course in the Italian meal: the salad. Simon (The Nantucket Table; The Nantucket Holiday Table) provides more than 60 simple recipes for traditional, composed, entr e and numerous other salads, organized by season. Casual headnotes explain the origins of, and Simon's connection to, each recipe many are provided by Simon's Italian friends and acquaintances. An introduction explains the history and subtleties of the Italian salad, noting that while the recent American trend has been to eat salad at the end of a meal, Italians may begin with, make a meal of, or conclude a meal with salad. Simon, who runs a catering business in New York City, serves up favorites like Seafood Salad and Arugula with Parmesan and Pine Nuts, along with inventions like Italo-Sri Lankan Salad with pineapple, Asparagus and Vegetable Citronette. The Summer section includes a Salad of Wild Greens and Herbs and a Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. Not all of Simon's salads rely on greens (e.g., Pasta Salad with Eggplant and Mixed Berry Salad with Blueberry Sauce), and many (Fontina and Roasted Yellow Pepper Salad, for instance) are more likely to be presented as antipasto than as salad courses. What all these recipes have in common is their inventive use of fresh, in-season produce. 40 color photos. Agent, Marian Young. (June) Forecast: This little volume arrives just in time for summer's lighter eating, and has an appealing look and feel that will translate into healthy sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Si sente la primavera: You feel springtime, you smell springtime, you hear springtime, you taste springtime—sentire is the Italian verb used to describe physical sensation. There's no other Italian season that awakens the senses so fully. The Italian spring starts in February in Sicily, when artichokes are harvested in abundance, then rather quickly, on the wings of a warm African breeze, it works its way up the peninsula, fanning the fave of the Marches, the greens of the Roman countryside, and the asparagus of the Veneto. Finally, it ends in an explosion of pale pink apple blossoms in Alto Adige. Now, there are new foods for the winter weary, and the earth is ready to be planted for the summer harvest. Primavera: the first green. Springtime all'italiana.



[Artichoke Salad]

4 large artichokes
1 whole lemon
1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, shaved
with a mandoline or vegetable
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste

SERVES 6 I landed in Italy for the first time in September 1965, when I went to study at L'Accademmia delle Belle Arti in Florence. In February 1966, a friend and I took a trip to Sicily, where we stayed in the beautiful resort town of Taormina. At every turn of that town'snarrow, strictly pedestrian streets, there were unfamiliar, yet engaging things to see, smell, and taste. Of all the magnificent things that I encountered, nothing has stayed in my mind longer than the sight of children holding a whole artichoke in one hand, and tearing off the leaves to snack on with the other hand. Raw artichokes as a snack—what a concept! * From that time on, the artichoke harvest has been one I anxiously look forward to so I can make this classic raw-artichoke salad. * It's very often eaten with thinly sliced, raw beef fillet (carpaccio).

1. Prepare the artichokes: Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze both halves into a large bowl filled with water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut the stem away from the base. Remove the outside leaves by bending them backward and pulling down; they'll snap at the "meaty" point of the leaf. Pull away the leaves until you see only the pale green ones, at about the halfway point of the artichoke. Use a very sharp knife to cut away the remaining leaf tops. Quarter the artichoke. Cut out the fuzzy choke. Using a very sharp knife or a mandoline, cut each quarter into very thin slices. Immediately add the slices to the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Continue this process until all the artichokes have been sliced.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the artichoke slices from the lemon water to paper towels to drain for a few minutes. When they're dry, add them to a large bowl. Add the Parmesan shavings, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley to the artichokes. Toss to thoroughly combine. Taste for salt and add with freshly ground pepper as needed. Serve immediately.


[Seafood Salad]

1 cup steamed mussels (about
4 pounds in their shells)
2 cups peeled and deveined
medium-size boiled shrimp
(about 1 pound)
1 cup cooked squid cut into 1/4-inch
rings (about 1 pound)
1 cup steamed and flaked firm,
white-fleshed fish such as
snapper (about 1 pound)
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
Mixed greens for serving
Lemon wedges for garnish

SERVES 8 In late February (the start of Italian springtime) 1967, some friends and I drove from Milan to the Ligurian seacoast town of Sestri Levante for lunch. At Genoa, we left the Autostrada dei Fiori and turned onto a road that curves and snakes its way around—and sometimes through—the mountains that border the Mediterranean Sea, and headed toward Sestri Levante. As we passed through one town more charming than the next, the mimosa trees that lined the streets of the villages gave off a scent so powerful that it came into our car through closed windows and nearly intoxicated us. Thankfully, we arrived at our destination unscathed. Our many-coursed meal began with a seafood salad something like this one. This insalata di frutti di mare can be made with the ocean's offerings from any season, but, for me, it will always mean springtime.

1. In a large bowl, combine the mussels, shrimp, squid, and fish, lemon zest and juice, parsley, olive oil, and pepper flakes. Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours before serving.

2. Serve on a bed of greens. Garnish each individual plate with a lemon wedge.

— FALL —


[Eggplant Salad]

8 cups water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 eggplants, peeled and cut into
1/2-inch dice (about 10 cups)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red hot pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
fresh mint

SERVES 6 "Eggplant and fennel forty years ago were just beginning to be seen in the market in Florence; until then they were considered the vile food of the Jews." So wrote Pellegrino Artusi in 1891 in his seminal book, Culinary Science and the Art of Eating Well. Artusi's classic work doesn't have a single eggplant preparation among the over 750 recipes. Can you imagine Italian cuisine without eggplant? * Now, eggplant is ubiquitous—especially in the southern part of the country, where it's used in pasta, stews, and salads. My Roman friend, cuoca per eccelenza Ester Bini, makes this salad in the fall as a way of preserving end-of-the-summer eggplant. She kindly shared her recipe with me.

1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the water and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add the eggplant in small batches, cooking each batch for 4 minutes and occasionally pressing the pieces down into the liquid with a wooden spoon to ensure that all the pieces cook. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and whisk together.

3. Using your hands, gently squeeze the excess liquid from the eggplant. Put the eggplant in a large bowl. Add the olive oil mixture and mint. Toss to thoroughly combine. Serve at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month by floating a thin layer of olive oil over the top.

— FALL —


[Mixed Mushroom Salad]

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
2 pounds assorted mushrooms
such as cremini, portobello, or
shiitake, dusted off and thinly
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh
flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
6 cups mixed salad greens
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Croutons (recipe follows)

SERVES 6 Lucia Piccini, the very talented young chef at the Hotel Abbazia's restaurant, Alla Corte, generously shared her recipe for mushroom salad with me. I ate it on the first night of a week-long stay in the Veneto in November a few years ago. I was looking forward to infinite amounts of the renowned Italian mushrooms and truffles that are on everyone's menu in the fall. Luckily for me, Lucia's salad was the first one I ate, because the next day I ordered a mushroom salad in a little restaurant near Padova and became ill from it. When I told Lucia what happened, she said that even though raw mushroom salads are everywhere—and really tasty—she always gives the funghi a quick sauté before serving them. "Mushrooms are quite porous, and you never know who's touched them," she said. * I've made this salad with cultivated mushrooms. If wild mushrooms are available at your local market, however, by all means use them.

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallots in the 1/4 cup olive oil until translucent, about 90 seconds. Increase heat to high and add the mushrooms. Sauté for about 30 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and put in a large bowl.

2. Add the lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss to thoroughly combine. Dress the greens with the oil and vinegar. Serve surrounded with the croutons.

CROUTONS: Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Cut a baguette into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Brush the entire surface of a baking sheet with a bit of corn oil. Place the bread slices on the sheet. Brush each slice with a bit of corn oil. Bake until the slices are golden, about 10 minutes.



[Salad with Oranges, Black Olives, and Herring]

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
% teaspoon ground red hot pepper
3 cups tightly packed torn escarole
4 blood oranges or navel oranges,
peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick
slices, then halved crosswise
3/4 pound Mediterranean salted
herring, smoked bluefish, or
smoked trout, cut into 3/4-inch
pieces (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted
black olives, such as kalamata

SERVES 6 This is an adaptation of a recipe by cooking teacher Anna Tasca Lanza. She told me, "... this may be the first salad invented by the Arabs when they brought the first oranges to Sicily. It's the marriage of flavors—the sweet-tart of the oranges and the saltiness of the herring—that makes this absolutely special. The escarole is my personal addition. Its slightly bitter taste makes the dish even more exquisite...." * The salted herring is a bit problematic for us in the United States. The most widely available salted herring comes from the North Atlantic, and it's very strongly flavored. Unless you can find milder-tasting Mediterranean salted herring or sardines, use smoked bluefish or smoked trout instead.

1. Soak the onion in a small bowl of salted ice water for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to remove some of the bite.

2. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until emulsified.

3. Add the escarole, oranges, fish, and olives to the bowl. Drain the onions and squeeze them dry. Add them to the bowl. Toss to thoroughly combine. Serve immediately.


By Summer Wood


Copyright © 2001 Summer Wood. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Susan Simon spent her first summer in Nantucket in 1960. She runs a catering business in New York City and is a part-time resident of the island.

Manfredi Bellati whose work has appeared in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Grazie, and Town and Country. He lives both in Milan and on his family's historic estate in the Veneto region of Italy.

Richard Eskite is a San Francisco-based photographer.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >