It’s wonderful having a Fornetto and truth be told, you’ll want to serve delicious things to accompany the masterpieces you’ll cook in it. That’s where this series of posts come in!
I like creating posts that bear the same title that allow me to build up a certain repertoire within a series. So I’m creating multiple blog posts with one title for any subject that can’t be summed up in one post. That’s why this is the first entry under the title of “Salad Compilations”.
Before moving abroad a number of years ago, I owned a small bistro in Montreal, Canada and each of the salads in this post were on the menu. The first is a Tuscan Panzanella (or Panmolle) that I fell in love with at a small Italian restaurant in Florence, I’ll explain it below. The next is inspired by a fantastic florist I know who would bring this salad to work religiously and if I happened to be at the florist at lunchtime, she’d share (she really had no choice though!). There surely are many variants of both of these salads but these are mine. The great thing about salads is that they’re versatile and allow for creativity and change. The last is my great grandmother’s recipe, with nothing changed by me! Why mess with the best? Though it should be kept a family secret I feel that I’d be keeping something delicious from you all!
The importance of a good quality extra virgin olive oil is paramount to all of these salads as the dressings are very light and in one case, the only extra liquid added to the salad is olive oil. So, make sure you have a good quality one. How I dress the Panzanella salad with oil and vinegar is very Mediterranean; by eye. Start off sparingly at first, taste and add more if need be. You can always easily add more oil, vinegar or salt however, removing them from the salad once you’ve added them is virtually impossible. See below for all of the ingredients.
Panzanella is a salad that’s made during the summer in Italy’s Tuscan region. Using day-old bread that has had a chance to go stale (which I might add is not a bad thing when you know what to do with it) this salad is rich in flavour and freshness. The best part is that the bread slowly absorbs all the juices given off by the tomatoes as you’re eating it without going all soggy and mushy like fresh bread would. It’s a treat of a salad full of fresh basil, olives, green onions (scallions), sweet onions, sweet peppers, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. For this salad, serve any ratio of the ingredients you like (making sure there are lots of tomatoes) mixed in a bowl and dress it to taste using the extra virgin olive oil, a red-wine or sherry vinegar, sea salt and a generous grinding of fresh black pepper. Toss the salad well and you’ll see that the tomatoes will start releasing their juices and will coat the bread along with the olive oil and vinegar.
The next on our list comes from a florist friend of mine back in Montreal; Ginette. This salad is hearty yet refreshing and is ideally served paired with fish or poultry cooked in the Fornetto for a light dinner.
This recipe requires a tiny bit more work as the dressing should be made ahead of time and allowed to sit but it’s as simple as pie! Slice one clove of garlic into thin rounds and place it in a clean empty jar with a screw lid. Make sure the jar is big enough to accommodate 375 ml (one and a half-cups of liquid). Start off by adding 125 ml (a half-cup) of white vinegar or red wine vinegar and one teaspoon of salt and mix to dissolve. Allow this to sit for about 1 hour to allow the garlic to infuse. Once that’s done, add 250 ml (one cup) of extra virgin olive oil to the mix, close the jar tightly and shake vigorously. If you wish, you can also add in a teaspoon of dijon mustard to kick things up a notch.
It’s important when using avocados to cut them close to the time that you’ll need them because if they are subjected to the air without an acid on them (like vinegar, lemon or lime for example) they will oxidise and turn black quickly. Slice hearts of palm into rings, artichoke hearts into wedges and cube the avocado. You’ll want equal parts of all three. Add an ample amount of fresh basil and a couple of pinches of dried oregano and toss gently to mix. Dress lightly with the vinaigrette and serve on top of a bed of greens with a generous grinding of red peppercorns. Serve with extra dressing on the side and refrigerate any that’s left-over.
This next salad takes us deep into the heart of Calabria in the south of Italy. Whether this salad is actually known outside of my great grandmother’s village of Ardore beats me however, it should be! I can still remember her making it when I was a kid. She always made it with fresh garden tomatoes that were still warm from the sun. This delicious and farm-simple salad still takes me back to my childhood and is an irrefutable family favorite.
This salad requires that you know how to boil potatoes to the fine-line point between under and overdone. They need to be firm enough that they don’t turn to mush when you toss them yet soft enough that they don’t crunch when you bite into them. You should be trying them constantly while they’re cooking (they’re delicious when they’re hot with a bit off butter and black pepper on them!). Make sure that they have the right consistency and when they’re ready they should be run under cold water immediately to stop any further cooking. Use any variety of new potatoes that you like. A tip for boiling new potatoes without having them burst open has to do with the amount of salt in the water. It’s a ridiculous amount but don’t worry, potatoes cooked with their skins on absorb very little salt. Use about 135gr (half-cup of salt) for every two litres of water.
When the potatoes are cooked, cut them into bite sized chunks, halving them is normally sufficient. Chop sweet onion into pieces and separate them into individual laminates. Cut the tomatoes into the same size as the potatoes. When done, there should be equal portions of potato and tomato. Tear a few fresh basil leaves into small pieces and add it into the mixture. When using fresh basil it’s important to tear it and not to cut it. This will avoid it turning black and will release even more flavour. Pour over a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, a good amount of sea salt (don’t worry about it being too salty, the extra salt helps to flavour the potatoes as they will have absorbed very little salt during their cooking), and freshly cracked black pepper.