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Thursday, November 3, 2011

italian salad.

I almost got mugged on the street, and this salad was born out of it.

James and I had gone to the Wallingford Pizza House because of some bad meal planning on my part, and we got their Peppergoacini pizza. It had large slices of salami, pepperoncini, and dollops of goat cheese, all floating on gooey mozzarella. I was enraptured and immediately became obsessed with pepperoncini peppers. We didn't eat all of it and got the two remaining slices to go.

On the way back, as we passed a glass pipe shop, a very unhappy man came storming out of the shop and slammed his foot into the shop's A-frame sign on the sidewalk. He fumed, swearing, about how the guy in the shop was kicking him out. James and I were taken aback, but kept walking, crossing the street. The guy turned on us.

"Hey, can I have your pizza?" We looked at him in disbelief. James answered-- "No," and we kept walking, as did the guy.
"Come on, lemme have your pizza." James again said no, and, "Why do you want our pizza?"
"Come on, I'm a fat guy. I want your pizza." For the third time, James said no. We all took a few steps, the guy only a foot or two in front of us. He was muttering to himself, and turned, pushing his arm into James's chest.
"You crossed the line into my life...!" I couldn't catch the rest, all I saw was this belligerent jerk pushing my husband around, trying to take our leftovers. (Which we were keeping. I was not about to give this guy food that we probably couldn't even afford but bought anyway.) But James stood his ground, I held onto the pizza box, and we turned around, walked back the way we came, passing the pipe shop and the retail clerk coming out to see if we were okay and telling us that our pizza-loving "friend" had come in threatening to smash the shop's cases. We crossed to the other side of the street to continue on our way home.



I love complex, layered, main course salads, like that blackened scallop salad I wrote about earlier. This salad is inspired from the pizza we had that night because I can't get those flavors out of my head. I'd love to go to the Wallingford Pizza House again, but, for now, I'd rather make this salad at home. Less chance of having my leftovers stolen.

Layered Italian Salad

salad greens
1 Roma tomato, diced
about 2 Tbsp. of pepperoncini slices (from a jar), diced
about 1 Tbsp. sliced olives (from a can), diced
about 3 thin slices from a medium red onion, cut into 1" pieces
1 15-slice package of thinly sliced salami
1/4 of a small log of herbed goat cheese, crumbled

red wine vinaigrette, as follows:
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. parsley
pinch of crushed red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste, but err on the side of more black pepper
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. grate parmesan cheese
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

Prepare a bed of whatever kind of salad greens you prefer. I was using red leaf lettuce. Prepare your vegetables: dice the tomato, dice the pepperoncini, dice the olives, cut the onion. As with most things, buy the best ingredients you can afford. Here, I used generic ingredients, but I'm sure you can go for the fancier option and it will taste amazing.

Cook the salami. Lay the slices in a hot skillet and let it crisp. This won't take long, and the salami provides its own fat, so don't bother greasing the pan. I used about 5 thin slices per salad. Let the salami cool before cutting. Meanwhile, put the onion into the pan and flash sauté in the salami's fat. Because the onion is sliced thin and because there isn't much of it, this will not take long.

Make the vinaigrette by pouring out the vinegars into a jar with a lid or a high-walled container that you can use with a whisk without splashing yourself. (I used a combination of red wine and rice vinegar because the brand of red wine vinegar in my cabinet is very strong.) Measure out the rest of the herbs, spices, sugar, and parmesan and stir into the vinegar. Pour in the olive oil and emulsify by either shaking the lidded jar or whisking.

Assemble the salad: greens, diced tomato, diced pepperoncini, diced olives, salami bits, crumbled goat cheese, and finish by drizzling the vinaigrette over. Suggested side: this focaccia by The Cilantropist. I've made this bread several times, and every time it has turned out without trouble. The salad, in the proportions I've given, serves 2 as a main course.

I should also point out that this salad is very pungent and vinegary. Don't eat it if your mouth is irritated for whatever reason!

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