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Panzanella – Italian Bread Salad

Servings: 4 – 6


2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 slices thick stale Italian bread, torn into bite-size pieces (sourdough is also good but not found in Italy)

1.  In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tbsp vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

2.  Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. If the bread is quite stale and dry, first spoon a few tbsp of water over the bread and let it soak some of the water up, then with your hands squeeze all of the water out and place bread in a different bowl before proceeding. If the bread isn’t too stale this step can be skipped.

3.  Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have absorbed the water from the tomatoes and be  moist. If the bread seems dry for some reason, add a little bit of olive oil and toss well. Serve immediately.

Insalata Russa – Russian Salad

Servings: 6 – 8


About 1 cup mayonnaise
250 g (1 cup) of fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
250 g (1 cup) green beans
2 carrots
2 medium potatoes
2 tbsp capers
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 large can of Italian style tuna, well drained

1.  Trim and wash green beans. Fill a large saucepan two-thirds with water. Bring water to a boil, add salt and the beans, carrots and potatoes. Cook 5-8 mins over high heat, remove beans and carrots tender but still firm. Drain and cool in a colander. Cook potatoes an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from water and let all vegetables cool a bit. In a separate saucepan heat water and cook peas until tender. Drain and also let cool.

2.  Peel the potatoes, and finely dice vegetables. Place diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add half of the capers, all of the peas and tuna. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oil and vinegar; mix carefully until blended. Taste and adjust salad for seasonings.

3.  Gently mix in 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Keep adding more mayonnaise a tablespoon at a time until all of the vegetables are well covered in mayonnaise but not swimming in it.

4.  Using the back of a spoon, press the salad gently to flatten out the top and compress ingredients into the bowl. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. To serve  the salad can be turned out over onto a platter, it should keep the shape of the bowl or it can be left in the bowl. Garnish the top with the remaining capers and arrange the slices of hard-cooked eggs in a circle on top or if on a platter, around the base of the salad. Serve slightly chilled.

Insalata alla Calamari

Servings: 4


1kg squid cleaned
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves peeled, whole
1/4 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh parsley


2 tsp finely-minced garlic
3 tbsp finely-chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely-chopped red onion
1/2 cup olive oil

1.  Prepare squid by cutting the tube into strips about 1 cm wide and tentacles into bite-sized pieces. There should be about 3 1/2 cups.

2.  Put the squid into a saucepan and add the wine, salt, pepper, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and parsley sprigs and enough water to cover the squid. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover and let the squid cook about 1 minute or just until the squid gets firm.

3.  Mix  ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and toss the cooked squid. Serve warm or cold.

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