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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Two Italian-Inspired Salads

An antipasto-style salad

Two Italian-Inspired Salads
by Victoria Challancin

Usually, the only salad a good Italian meal needs is simply dressed, fresh, fresh greens.  But occasionally, I get inspired to do more.  In a recent cooking class, I gave into that urge.

The first of these salads, an antipasti-style dish loaded with Italian goodness, was published by Saveur magazine.  Apparently, this salad is a signature dish at La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills.  As a basic, hearty salad, this one is full of robust and bright flavors.  Fresh and dried herbs enliven it, two kinds of cheeses give it heft, and top-grade salami rounds it out.

Served at La Scala, a Beverly Hills institution since 1956, this salad is served to over 400 diners a day, which means, according to Saveur's article, that 8 out of 10 customers order it.  That is quite an accomplishment for any restaurant!  The name "Leon" comes from the names of the owners.  Check out the article on salads in which this one is featured here.

 Main Dish "Leon" Salad 

Cook's Notes:  For this salad I picked arugula in the campo near my house; plus I used mint and large-leaf Italian basil from my garden.  Although I didn't have any radicchio, I did have some purple cabbage, which I forgot to add--but it would have been nice.  The red leaf lettuce, called sangria here in Mexico, gave some pretty color in addition to two baby romaine hearts.  I had smoked provolone on hand and bought baby mozzarella balls from Remo, one of our local cheese makers.  This salad lends itself to interpretation.  Just think of any antipasto plate you have ever enjoyed and let your imagination go wild:  artichoke hearts or bottoms, olives of all sorts, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, bresaola or prosciutto, pickled vegetables or peperoncini, anchovies, tuna, hard-cooked eggs, avocado, gorgonzola-stuffed dates, grilled eggplant...all served with grisini or a crusty bread.  Serve it all tossed together, or with the ingredients presented in lines, as in a Cobb Salad.

Recipe:  "Leon" Salad from La Scala
(Recipe from Saveur, based on a salad served at La Scala in Beverly Hills)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
1 12-oz can chickpeas, drained (and rinsed)
4 oz sliced provolone, cut into 1/4-inch strips
4 oz baby mozzarella balls, drained and quartered
1 4-oz piece salami, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
2 hearts of romaine, finely chopped
1 head radicchio de Treviso or regular radicchio, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, thyme, oregano, mustard, chile flakes, and garlic.  Stir in chickpeas, provolone, mozzarella, salami, and onions; cover.  Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Combine basil, parsley, mint, romaine, and radicchio in a large bowl and transfer to a serving platter.  To serve, top lettuces and herbs with marinated chickpea mixture and season with salt and pepper.

  Yes, that's the edge of a very non-Italian borscht that I wrote about last week

The second Italian-inspired salad is simply a riff on the traditional antipasto dish of prosciutto with melon.  This version calls for watermelon and honeydew, though I substituted cantaloupe for the latter.  It is also lacking arugula, not because I didn't have it (it is flourishing post-rains in the countryside near my house), but because I forgot and put it in the previous salad, where it sparkled.  Peaches had to be substituted for nectarines as well, but of course I did have the ever-present Mexican serrano chile.    But yikes!  Where is the cheese?  I think I must have forgotten it as well!  Alas, in a perfect world, that would never happen.

This is such a refreshing salad, especially if your main dish is somewhat heavy.

Recipe:  Melon Salad with Prosciutto
(Recipe from Cooking Light, July 2012)

2 cups sliced seeded watermelon
2 cups sliced seeded honeydew melon
1/3 cup very thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 serrano chile, very thinly sliced
2 ripe nectarines, pitted and sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
4 cups arugula (or watercress or purslane)
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
3 ounces prosciutto, very thinly sliced
1/2 ounce pecorino Romano cheese, shaved

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl; sprinkle with salt.  

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, and honey, stirring well.  

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit mixture; toss gently.  Arrange 1 cup arugula and 1 tablespoon mint on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 1 3/4 cups fruit mixture.  Divide prosciutto evenly among plates; top evenly with cheese.

Parting Shot:

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Remember that like life itself, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permissions before using text or photos.  Thanks!


Hotly Spiced said...

Love the letter box! What a great Italian salad. I love it! I would like to order it if I dined at that restaurant too. But, in the meantime, great that you have posted the recipe so I can try it myself. I'll just have to work on converting it to metric and I'll be set. Love the sound of the salad with melon in it too - I do one that's a bit similar and find it very refreshing xx

Eha said...

The most elegant of chef's salads, methinks? Believe I actually had it the only time I was taken to 'La Scala' sometime in the 1960s [oops :) !]. Also appreciate your version of the melon/prosciutto one with its multiple melon tastes, mint and chilli! But, most of all, would love to pinch the Hawaii number plate off that letterbox!! Have been around the world and then . . . perhaps it was that first time I went to Kauai, got off the plane and found a street sign called 'Eha Street' in front of me!! How could you not have a lifelong love affair?

Victoria Challancin said...

Indeed, Eha, how could you not love a place that names its streets after you? Recently, in Paris, I almost squealed when beneath the Louvre there was a mini van with "Challancin" written boldly on the side. It was a cleaning service--probably doing the toilets. But I took a photo nevertheless. ; )

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Oh to have arugula growing wild where I live. I can easily make a meal on your first of my husband's favorites. The fruit salad if a nice play on prosciutto and melon. I'll have to give it a try.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Both salads look wonderful but that Leon salad has a great story to it! I've been watching an embarrassingly trashy show-Real Housewives of Beverly Hills lately so I feel like they might have tried one of these salads at one stage! :P

Eha said...

[Shhh!] Methinks the noise emanating from me was a squealy sound too, as the taxi driver jabbed the brake : 'Yes, lady?' - back to lovely salads ;) ! And husband dear uttered :'Oh for goodness sake!' !!

Minnie(@thelady8home) said...

Great Salad. Looks so delicious. Thanks ton for sharing.