The Lost Italian: Summer is salad time
More than once over the past few weeks Tony and I have found ourselves with cause to stop, smell the roses and be grateful for the sweet and lovely gifts we have experienced already this summer.
- School is out for the summer, which means we get a few luxurious months of downtime with our son, Giovanni. We cherish our lazy mornings together.
- On the World Cup Soccer front, Italy won its first game against England last Saturday, and the Italian flag is waving proudly outside our house. All is well in the Nasello household. (At least until their next game on Friday.)
- Last week Tony, Gio and I hosted the ninth annual Sarello’s Dinner for the Opera, a celebration of food, wine and opera to benefit the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, which has become a highlight in our lives. We raised over $85,000 for the company last Monday night, bringing the total funds received at this event over the past eight years to more than half a million dollars.
We are grateful to everyone who joined us to support opera in our community, and to our Sarello’s kitchen and service crew, who never shy away from a good challenge. Special thanks to our featured musicians, Ms. Hilary Ginther (mezzo-soprano), Mr. Colin Levin (baritone) and Ms. Susan Nagel (pianist) for donating their time and talent for the cause.
Once again, our good friends Dave and Denise Akkerman (a.k.a., our favorite food and wine pairing) joined us with their gifts of wine, culinary talent and creativity to help us create an unforgettable evening for our guests. Our menu for this feast was Denise’s creation, and she introduced a great variety of new dishes to our Sarello’s repertoire.
Our guests enjoyed beer-fried asparagus with crab meat and crawfish in Creole mustard-honey butter, followed by a beautiful summer garden salad, cubes of refreshing balsamic-infused watermelon, an absolutely delectable main course of Beef Balmoral with duchess potatoes and julienne vegetable medley, and a lovely apricot-raspberry almond tart for dessert.
We’re working to convert some of these recipes for home use and will share them with you once we’re successful. In the meantime, we are fixated on the summer garden salad, which was so pretty on the plate and a hit with our guests. Luckily, it’s also easy to make.
Denise was intentional when she selected the components for this salad, which features seasonal items that complement each other not only in flavor, but also color and texture. Mixed greens are the base, providing a variety of green and red lettuce. Radishes, fennel and carrots round out the rest of the ingredients, bringing their own zest and personality to the salad.
For a more elegant presentation, we used a kitchen gadget called a mandoline to create thin slices of radishes and fennel, and julienned strips of carrots. This tool can be adjusted to uniformly slice vegetables and fruits for salads, platters, potato chips and even French fries. Home models are available in most kitchen and department stores for about $20 to $40.
For the dressing, Denise went with one of Tony’s favorites, a simple but delicious balsamic vinaigrette, full of tangy sweetness. No need to splurge on an expensive, aged balsamic vinegar, which would be too thick and syrupy for this salad – go with whatever brand you find at your local market.
Soon our gardens and farmers markets will be blooming with the ingredients needed to make this salad, giving us even more reason to be thankful. Ah, summer – don’t you just love it?
Summer Garden Salad
- 5 radishes, washed and thinly sliced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips
- 1 bag mixed greens
- 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup balsamic vinaigrette
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the vinaigrette until lightly coated, saving some dressing for later. Arrange the vegetables colorfully around the salad, layering as desired. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the vegetables and top of salad to garnish.
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk vigorously until mixed together. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To double the recipe, use 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1/3 cup olive oil. Keep the same quantities for the garlic, salt and pepper to start – taste once mixed and adjust flavors as desired.