As I write this, there’s snow falling outside the window. The wind chill is colder than the air’s temperature (it cuts through the warmest coat). I run from one heated indoor destination to another. The subway commute between home and work changed from a quick route of waiting outside to a longer time inside a warm station. It’s basically a brutal winter.
To keep warm, my primordial instinct is to crave warm, starchy wintery meals. On a rare occasion, a meal with a fresh taste to fill a winter-hungry appetite is desired. I happily oblige to make an Italian-inspired salad. Except this isn’t a delicate, summer salad. The flavors in this salad are slightly rich, but it’s refreshing.
A few months ago, I was invited to a Taste the Tradition of Italy event by the Italian Trade Commission. The event demonstrated Italy is more than its celebrated pasta dishes. Instead, I learned about its famous ingredients, such as grana padano cheese, rich Gorgonzola (for the recipe here, Mountain Igor Gorgonzola was used), cured olives and their oils, aged balsamic vinegars and prosciutto. Most are designated Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products of the European Union. An ingredient that is a PDO guarantees it’s completely from it’s traditional region of origin. Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), is another category to indicate the product is made in the same style as the traditional method, but it’s partially manufactured in its region of origin.
At last count, Italy has 269 PDO and/or PGI products and represents 40 percent of the value of the overall European production. PDO products allow producers to guarantee quality, authenticity and to protect products’ names. To obtain the status, the producer proves it’s made in the same traditional style. Some products use the same method of production started 2,000 years ago. Furthermore, each PDO product is transparent about their production and resources, in which every detail is recorded about the production process, such as starting with an animal’s meal to processing to packaging to shipment to being served to customers in a restaurant or sold at a grocery store.
As I gathered my notes about the event, it inspired a robust, wintery salad with Italian ingredients. There were visions of a salad with delicate prosciutto slices, fulfilling farro, rich blue cheese, briny green olives and thin cracker-like bread sticks. Since, prosciutto is a thin salty bite, Lemon-Olive Oil Rubbed Grilled Chicken Breast made the salad into a substantial dinner. The idea of creating lemon-olive oil comes from Chef Carla Hall, in which she blitzes a whole lemon with olive oil in a food processor or a powerful blender. Drizzle extra lemon-olive oil over a plated salad, and sprinkle the salad with Italian balsamic vinegar, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Not only does this salad work as a refreshing dinner meal, but it packs well in a tightly sealed lunch container. Pack the salad dressing in a separate container to avoid soggy greens.
This isn’t a wimpy, summery salad. It’s creamy with a hint of a salty bite. The farro has a nutty flavor as the lemon-olive oil grilled chicken turns this salad into a substantial meal for the middle of a wintery, brutal day. Not bad for Italian products with at least 2,000 years of history.
Visit Parade.com’s Community Table to get the recipe for my Italian-Inspired Salad Bowl here.