In honor of my dear friend Kate leaving this week to embark on a 40 day European trip with her hubby, I’m reminiscing about a trip I took to Italy several years ago and all the incredible food I was inspired by while I was there. This week, I’ll be sharing with you a few standout dishes that left me craving another trip to Italy soon. Today’s post is about a salad I had when I was in Tuscany, a Tuscan Salad.
I spent two weeks in Italy and about three or four days in the Tuscan region. It was absolutely phenomenal. Every meal was eaten outside, mainly on the back patio of the Capannelle Vineyard Villa where I was staying. The villa sat up on a hill overlooking the property’s olive groves, vineyard and out over the valley past neighboring villages. The first meal I had there was lunch and there was no ordering off a menu. The man who oversaw the villa simply asked what sounded good and a gave a couple suggestions. After a glass of wine (maybe two or three) and a simple cheese plate with bread to kick off the meal, a gorgeous plate of perfectly blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and mixed lettuce was served. It was a wonderful and different spin on a caprese salad. An incredible pasta dish was served next, but in all honesty, the only thing I was interested in was the wine, cheese plate, bread and salad. That is how lunch should be served and I don’t usually pass up the opportunity to eat pasta.;)
For dinner one night, I ventured out to a spot called Monna Ginevra at a little Inn called Le Pozze di Lecchi Chianti. It was a tiny restaurant with only about 15 tables. There was a chef, a sous chef and one waitress running the whole place and it was literally all hands on deck. Wherever there was a need, the first available person was helping. This particular spot was so good, I actually ended up eating there twice. I don’t normally like to do that when I travel, but it was so good, I couldn’t resist.
The first night I ate there, I ate outside. It was a somewhat cool night in late July, perfect for dining al fresco. Along the rock wall where I sat, they had little votive candles scattered in spots where rocks had fallen out and there were full grown lavender plants lining the entire length of the wall. Over by the back door to the kitchen, there was a little garden full of herbs. Every few minutes you’d see the chef or the sous chef run out and clip what they needed for the dish they were preparing. I don’t know how ya’ll feel about that, but to pop out of a door, grab a handful of ingredients and use them immediately in what you’re cooking is just pure heaven in my opinion. That gives “freshness” and “homemade” a whole new meaning.
One of the dishes I got that night was a salad that had fresh herbs, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes and this delicious parmesan crisp on top. On the menu, it was called something funny that I couldn’t pronounce or understand the meaning of. When the chef came out to take my order, yes, the chef…I told you it was all hands on deck, I asked what it was and he told me the name of the salad meant, vanity and healthy. It was supposedly made up of healthy ingredients that preserve your vanity. This was definitely one to recreate at home. My Tuscan Salad has some slight variations and the bean salad that goes on top is a copy of a salad that another friend of mine made years ago when we cooked out together. You’ll love the flavors of this salad. It’s long overdue to wind up on the blog, but here it is! Now, make this and go be vain!;)
Monna Ginevra: Tuscan SaladSERVES 4 PrintDownload
- 1 15 oz can of cannelloni beans
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 roasted red pepper. about 1/4 cup
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
- 1 heaping tsp of freshly chopped rosemary
- 1/2 heaping tsp of fresh chopped thyme
- 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 6-8 cups/1 container of salad greens
- salt and pepper
- parchment paper
- In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add the olive oil and garlic together. Microwave in 30 second intervals for 2 minutes, letting the oil sit for about a minute between each 30 second interval. You want to gently infuse the olive oil with the garlic. You can also do this on the stove if you have a tiny sauce pan or sauté pan. Heat the olive oil and garlic to low heat on simmer and let it hang out for about 10-15 minutes. As long as the garlic is submerged in the olive oil, it shouldn't burn in this amount of time. Remove from the heat when the oil is fragrant.
- Drain the cannellini beans. In a medium bowl, combine the beans, olive and garlic oil, chopped rosemary and thyme, the chopped roasted red pepper and halved cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper. Gently toss to combine. Test to see if you need extra seasoning. Set aside to let the flavors come together while you prepare the parmesan crisps.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Space out little 1/4 cup piles of parmesan cheese on the baking sheet. Make sure to give them a couple inches to spread out as they cook. Bake for about 10-12 minutes on 350 until the cheese starts to turn brown and is flat and lacy. Allow them to cool completely.
- Divide the salad greens among 4 shallow bowls. Divide the bean mixtures among the salad greens and top with a lacy parmesan crisp.
- This salad doesn't have a dressing because the infused olive oil from the bean salad acts as the dressing. If you need a little extra, try squeezing a lemon on the greens and gently toss before adding the beans to the greens. Ha! That rhymed.v