Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Host of The Splendid Table
produced by Minnesota Public Radio and Tom Voegeli Productions,
distributed by Public Radio International

Insalata Verde
From The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Copyright 1999 By Lynne Rossetto Kasper Permission by Scribner, New York

Serves 4
This is the kind of salad I was raised on and later discovered was eaten on just about every farm I visited. Every night we had a big bowl of mixed greens--tart and mild, changing with what my mother found in the market. On farms I stayed at in Italy, the greens came from the garden, or were foraged from the fields. Dressing the salad was a ritual always done at the table. First, my mother sprinkled it with some dried basil, salt and pepper. She tossed the greens with only enough olive oil to give them a little gleam. She sprinkled a little vinegar in and tossed again. Then she always tasted a leaf, though for a moment and added a little more salt, or oil or vinegar. Another taste, and finally she let us take the salad.

Cook to Cook: Pair this salad with the braised beans of Tuscan Mountain Supper, Potato "Gatto" and just about any roasted, grilled or braised meat. This is the classic Italian green salad, good on its own but readily setting off the character of other foods.

  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings
  • Ice water
  • Pale green inner leaves from 1 large head curly endive, frisee, or other
  • tangy greens
  • Pale inner leaves from 1 large head escarole or 1 small head oak leaf lettuce
  • or green radicchio
  • 1 small head red leaf or Bibb lettuce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons robust, peppery extra-virgin olive oil
  • About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1. Combine the onion and ice water to cover in a bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes.
2. Wash and thoroughly dry the greens. Tear into bite-sized pieces. Turn into a big salad bowl.
3. Just before serving, drain the onions and pat dry. Sprinkle the greens with salt and pepper, the basil, and drained onions. Don't dress the salad until you're ready to serve it.
4. At the table, toss with enough oil to barely coat the greens, about 2 tablespoons. Toss with vinegar to taste, starting with 2 tablespoons. Taste for balance, making sure the vinegar is assertive but not harsh. Serve salad immediately.
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