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The Valentine's Day Salad of Love: L'insalata Italiana d'amore

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One of the great Valentine's Day traditions is taking that special someone you love out to dinner to a fine restaurant and enjoying a romantic dinner. With the way the economy is today, this isn't quite feasible. So this year instead of going out, enjoy a romantic dinner at home with some one of the romantic classics from Casa de Cuisine.

I don't care whether you've been married since Noah built his ark or if it's a first date, there is nothing more romantic than a sultry dinner for two. A little lovers lighting (candles), some love nectar (wine) and a condom or two (you can never be too safe) -- these and a wonderful meal can create a night of passion or at the very least a few minutes of fun!

Aside from the romantic aspect of this salad, it is also damn tasty and quite nice to look at it but it is romance which created this salad. We were asked to create a salad for an Italian couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I, quite obviously, took into consideration they were Italian and then I did a little research into Italian food lore and found the elements which make-up this salad.

Once I had the ingredients to the salad, I had to think of a dressing which would not take away from the bountiful tastes of the fresh ingredients. We went through about eleven different dressings and none of them did the trick. If I had hair I would have been pulling it out. So I had about four of these salads laid out on a counter and one of my waiters took one, drizzled a little balsamic vinaigrette on it and smiled at me saying "damn Chef, this is good!" Which just goes to prove, if you think to much you will always miss the obvious.

As with any salad there really is not a recipe. You go by taste and desire (and sometime intuition, just don't think too much). So, I will share with you how we make this salad but as far as amounts, that is up to you. If you do decide to try this salad and want to make a lovely romantic dinner out of it, simply add a good crusty Italian bread and a dry white wine (you'll want dry to compliment the balsamic vinegar and the smoked meats).

For the dressing I use 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar for two salads.

For the best tasting salads, always have your ingredients at room temperature. The simple fact is, chilling vegetables and fruits retards their taste.

So enjoy an evening with that someone special and L'insalata Italiana d'amore!

Ingredients needed to make L'insalata italiana d'amore!:

  • Leaf lettuce (not iceberg)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Sweet baby onions
  • Grilled red peppers (and be found packed in olive oil at most markets)
  • Pancetta (Italian-style of smoked bacon), lightly sauteed
  • Italian dry salami, thinly sliced
  • Kalamata olives, pitted
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mound the lettuce in the middle of the serving plates. Layer the other ingredients over the lettuce.
  2. Place the pancetta atop the salad (as if it were a crown).
  3. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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