Fruity Salads

With the weather turned on to extreme temperatures, a cool salad with fresh ingredients seems to be the ticket. Italians are not overly fond of mixing fruit with savory notes, but here is a salad I came across as I perused some old Cucina Italiana magazines from the 1990s. Green tomatoes are a favorite in Italian kitchens. It is not uncommon to find firm green or barely turned blushed pink tomatoes in the market as their specific purpose is for “insalata.”  If you can’t find green tomatoes, substitute them with cucumber. The cantaloupe should be at the peak of its flavor to counterbalance the crunchy tartness of the tomatoes. This salad is best with ingredients from the garden or farmer’s market (if you can find green tomatoes!).

Cantaloupe and Green Tomato Salad

2-3 Green medium tomatoes (off the vine) diced (1/4-1/2 inch)

1/2 ripe cantaloupe (diced the same as the tomatoes)

3/4 lb. small shrimp

3-4 basil leaves

1/4 cup (or less) olive oil

1/2 tsp.Worcestershire

several dashes Tabasco

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the tomatoes and the cantaloupe. Set aside. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry, roll in paper towels to remove moisture. In a blender or food processor place the basil, the olive oil, the Worcestershire, the Tabasco, and a pinch or two of salt. Emulsify at high speed until smooth. Add to the salad and let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the dressing to blend. Before serving, add a dash of freshly ground pepper. Serve as an unusual antipasto or a main salad for lunch or dinner.

Insalata con melone, pomodoro verde, e gamberetti – Cucina Italiana – Luglio 1999

Here is another quick idea for a refreshing summer salad using fruit. Take a very ripe nectarine and make a delicious vinaigrette with it! Mash it in a bowl just like you would an avocado.  It will look something like this:

Add a teaspoon of honey, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a teaspoon (or more to taste) of wine vinegar.Select the freshest greens (preferably mixed) and place them in a bowl with some finely shaved red onion. Delicately add the vinaigrette (I hold some back to add to individual salads later), some sliced almonds, and a little feta or goat cheese. The nectarine flavor just shines with brightness! Give it a try when you have some overripe nectarines sitting by!

Beautiful summer bounty!




Marinated Fire-Roasted Peppers

A joyful sight!
A joyful sight!

Nothing speaks more to me of summer in the kitchen than marinated roasted peppers.  With their robust and rounded shape, they look like brilliantly dressed ballerinas dancing on fire. image_19090041022_o

I usually work with three peppers of each color, but that’s not really necessary. Find sturdy peppers that will not fold or lose water that easily. Yellow peppers are the most delicate, so watch them closely. As soon as they blister, take them off the fire. Red peppers take the charring well as long as they are not too burnt. Green peppers are the toughest and usually take the longest to soften. Put them on a low fire and let them sit there until they char. Keep turning them so they are evenly blackened on all sides and ends.


The acrid smell of charring permeates the kitchen and lets everyone know…roasted peppers are on the way. As they turn black,  I keep turning them over the fire and  I’m reminded of the early days of summer with the family watching Formula One races, boys playing in the living room, and the heat of the stove flaring up in my face. Once the peppers are mostly blackened all over, remove them one by one from the fire and place them in a brown bag (close the lid tightly) where they will continue to steam until cooled.

Martha Stewart had a great hint for peeling roasted peppers. Hold the pepper in one hand and take a paper towel in the other. Carefully brush the blistered skin off, then pull the stem gently. The inner core and seeds will come away with the stem. I split the pepper in half and gently clean the rest of the seeds and peel. Never wash the peppers under the faucet! It washes away the flavors! my aunt used to say to us young cooks. So of course, the process becomes much more laborious and tedious. I place the sections of pepper on a paper towel to drain. I stack them between layers or towel paper so they will be relatively free of moisture. When I’m ready to cut the sections, I dry them one more time. You don’t want watery peppers! I slice them into slivers about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and place them in a 5 cup pyrex dish or other container.image_18475029023_o

With each layer, I salt lightly, then place some slivers of raw garlic and whole basil leaves here and there on the peppers. I keep doing this until all the peppers are sliced. Then I use a good quality olive oil and I fill the bowl until the peppers are covered completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. These are best after a day of resting….but usually don’t make it that far! They get better and better as they marinate. When you want to use them, take them out of the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature. After use, pack the peppers down and make sure they are covered by the oil before you store them again. Don’t throw the oil out! It’s excellent in salads or even thrown into hot spaghetti  and parmesan cheese.

Ways to use these peppers…

  • As an appetizer with crackers, assorted cheeses, and mixed olives
  • As a side dish to grilled meats such as steak, marinated chicken breasts, or pork loin
  • As a salad or in a salad with mozzarella
  • In sandwiches, of course…but try grilled panini!
  • In a pasta, especially spaghetti, with grated parmigiano and lots of black pepper.
  • In a warm potato salad with red onions
  • In a quesadilla with Monterey Jack and slivered white onions
  • Fan wide slices of the peppers on a platter, top with zest of lemon and capers, sprinkle with lemon juice
  • Drizzled over crusty bread and joined by a slice of salamiimage_18473192044_o

Cipolline in Agrodolce


Lovely pearly bulbs with a light green blush! These little globes beckoned me at the market last Saturday, so I took them home to make a dish which I confess, I didn’t quite like as a child. I grew into it as time went by and now, whenever the chance, I like to serve it to my family. Cipolline in agrodolce, or sweet and sour little onions, is a favorite Roman dish which you can adapt to many uses in summer or winter.



1 lb. white pearl onions or small sweet onions peeled.

2 Tbl sugar

2 Tbl balsamic vinegar

2 Tbl olive oil or butter (or a little of both!)

Put all three ingredients, sugar, vinegar and butter, in a saute’ pan and allow them to warm up to a boil under medium heat. Stir briefly.

Then add the onions, add half a cup of water and cover. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, checking every so often to make sure the pan does not dry out. Once the liquid is  thickened and syrupy, and the onions tender, turn off the heat. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature before serving. The aroma from the balsamic vinegar permeated my refrigerator, tantalizing whoever opened the door! These onions are best after a day, so this is an easy make-ahead dish for a party.

If you want to see an excellent demonstration of how to cook these little sweet onions, take a quick look at this!

Cipolline cotteThe finished product!!

You can eat these onions as a simple antipasto together with other dishes such as prosciutto e melone, a variety of soft cheeses such as taleggio or fontina,  or hard cheese such as asiago. Serve with olives, some crusty bread or crackers, and of course some good white wine! Imagine serving these cipolline with a creamy gorgonzola or in a sandwich with roasted peppers! I highly recommend you try this soon!