Italian salad dressing is always very simple, so as to let the quality of the ingredients shine through. Like the sauce on pasta, there should be just enough dressing to coat the salad, and never so much that there is a pool of it left at the bottom of the bowl.
Dried herbs, bottled lemon juice, flavored vinegars, or poor-quality oil do not make a good salad, so don't even think about it. The so-called Italian dressing sold in bottles has nothing to do with the real thing.
Italian salad greens include all the familiar varieties, such as romaine, Boston, and leaf lettuce, as well as less well known kinds, such as soncino, known here by its French name, mâche, or sometimes as lamb's lettuce. The silver-dollar size leaves are dark green and tender and have a mild flavor and soft texture. Misticanza is a mix of wild baby greens and herbs, preferred in central Italy, especially Rome and Abruzzo. The flavor depends on the type of herbs gathered. In the springtime, Romans eat puntarella, Catalan chicory. Trimmed and soaked in cold water, the greens curl up, resembling pale green ribbons. Puntarella is crisp and chewy and has a slightly bitter flavor.
To keep them fresh as long as possible, it is best not to trim or wash salad greens until shortly before you plan to use them. Tear off the stems and discard any bruised or discolored portions and tough outer leaves. Wash the greens in a large basin or bowl of lukewarm water. Slightly warm water removes soil better and helps to perk up greens that are a little wilted. Allow the greens to stay in the water briefly to allow any grit to sink to the bottom while the greens float to the surface. Lift the greens out of the water with your hands and drain them. Repeat, washing the greens until there is no grit in the bottom of the basin.
An important key to a good-tasting salad is to dry the greens thoroughly. A salad spinner does the job best. Once dried, the greens can be wrapped in paper towels and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, though the sooner they are used the better. Many greens turn brown when cut with a knife, so just before assembling the salad, tear the leaves into bitesize pieces.
Mixed Green Salads
Green Salad with Lemon and Pine Nuts
Spinach and Egg Salad
Arugula and Parmigiano Salad
Roman Spring Salad
Green Salad with Gargonzola and Walnuts
Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad
Neapolitan Tomato and Bread Salad
Tuscan Bread Salad
Tomato, Arugula, and Ricotta Salata Salad
Tomato and Egg Salad
Avocado and Tomato Salad
Mushroom and Parmigiano Salad
Fennel and Parmigiano Salad
Fennel and Olive Salad
Spicy Carrot Salad
Potato and Watercress Salad
Artusi's Potato Salad
Green Bean, Potato, and Red Onion Salad
Green Bean, Celery, and Olive Salad
Warm Lentil Salad
Fava Bean Puree with Seven Salads
Summer Rice Salad
SALADS WITH FRUIT
Pear and Pecorino Salad
Orange and Fennel Salad
Beet and Orange Salad
Shrimp and Rice Salad
Shrimp, Orange, and Anchovy Salad
Sardine and Arugula Salad
Grilled Scallop Salad
Venetian Crab Salad
Calamari Salad with Arugula and Tomatoes
Tuscan Tuna and Bean Salad
Couscous Tuna Salad
Tuna Salad with Beans and Arugula
Friday-Night Tuna Salad
Gorgonzola and Hazelnut Dressing
Lemon Cream Dressing
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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