Italian Summer Essentials: Big Fat Italian Salad & Bruschetta

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There are some things you just keep returning back to, no matter how many summers pass. Italian food doesn’t have to be baked in the oven, topped with bubbling cheeses for a cold night (although those are nice, too).

Here are some of my favorite Italian meals for summer—enjoy one outside!

My Big Fat Italian Salad
Make this as the precursor to some lightly dressed pasta for a summer dinner or, as I like to have it, as a satisfyingly fresh lunch. You might add cannellini, kidney beans or fresh torn mozzarella for extra protein if desired.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of red cabbage
1/2 cup of spinach
2 heirloom tomatoes

Dressing:
2 anchovies
2 tablespoons of capers
1 spring garlic clove
1 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Method:
Set up your mise en place: Chop the red cabbage into thin strips. Cut the tomatoes with a serrated knife by slicing off the top and placing it cut side down on the cutting board. Cut the tomato vertically, and then horizontally for bite sized pieces. Finely mince the garlic clove and set aside with dressing ingredients.

Put washed spinach, cabbage and tomatoes in a large bowl.

Next, rinse capers and anchovies and add them to a small bowl or drinking glass. Add mustard, olive oil, garlic clove, salt and pepper and whisk vigorously.

Dress the salad, drizzle balsamic over it straight from the bottle, and enjoy. Serves 1–2 people.

Winter variation: Toss in roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade), sub dressing for pesto.

Ultimate Bruschetta

First of all, let’s clear this up. Lots of people say “brew-shetta” to describe this deliciously tomato dish, but that just isn’t right. “Brew-sketta” is how it’s pronounced in Italian, and I encourage you to say it that way.

But let’s not get too serious—you’re about to be let in on quite the summer food secret. This makes a highly satisfying lunch or appetizer, but let’s face it, you’re not sharing this with anyone. How this recipe varies is the way the tomatoes are handled, but we’ll get there in a minute.

Ingredients:
2–4 heirloom tomatoes, all colors, preferably from the farmer’s market
1 handful of fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bread
Freshly ground pepper
2 slices of crusty bread—thick sourdough, ciabatta or Como from Grand Central Bakery are all good options
1 garlic clove

Method:
First, cut tomatoes the way stated in the first recipe, and place in a small bowl. Take basil leaves and tear with your hands and mix in with tomatoes. Add olive oil and pepper (you don’t want to add salt yet since that will cause the tomatoes to release their juices and you don’t want a watery bruschetta, do you?). Now the secret to this bruschetta is to let the tomatoes marinate with basil for a little while during the frying bread process.

Next, take your bread slices and drizzle with olive oil on both sides. Preheat a medium skillet to medium high and wait a few minutes until extremely hot. Add bread slices and lower the heat to medium, flipping when a nice brown color emerges.

When bread is finished, place on a plate and run the raw peeled garlic clove over each slice. The rough texture will act as a grater for the garlic. Use the entire thing if you love garlic, or less if it’s not your thing.

Top bread with tomato mixture and a dash of salt if desired, and enjoy!

Prosciutto e Melone
This is an Italian lunch classic, but it doesn’t really need much of a recipe. All you need is a good, sweet orange melon and some prosciutto de Parma (buy from the deli in slices, not by the pound and it will be cheap).

Ingredients:
1/2 melon
3 slices prosciutto

Method:
Simply chop up the melon and lay the prosciutto on top, wrap it around melon slices, or pin it to tiny pieces with a toothpick if you’re serving it as an appetizer.

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