How to Make Insalata Tricolore
Any Italian recipe that includes the word tricolore in the title is to be treated with respect denoting as it does the use of ingredients that make up the colours of the nation’s flag: red, green and white. As such pizza margherita could qualify for the honour of being described as tricolore but it already possesses a colourful history that leaves no one in any doubt about its patriotism.
Salad of Basil, Tomotoes and MozzarellaLet’s begin with the simplest method of flying the flag: a salad of fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella, preferably made from buffalo milk. Ideally fresh San Marzano tomatoes would play a starring role on the plate but many cooks, especially those living outside of Italy, are going to find them very difficult to source. However, in the summer months many specialist greengrocers and supermarkets sell fresh plum tomatoes (the canned variety will not work in this instance).
Simply take each tomato, make a small cross in the base, then drop into boiling water for about 10 seconds, then transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water to prevent the flesh cooking. It is a simple job to peel away the skin, cut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and watery centre, and either slice into julienne strips (ie long and thin) or into dice.For the mozzarella, the creaminess of bufala will make all the difference. No preparation is needed other than tearing off pieces from the moist spherical cheese and distributing evenly. Similarly with the basil, tear the leaves rather than chop with a knife.
Dress the Salad at the Last MinuteIn terms of dressing, many would argue extra virgin olive oil and a light grating of black pepper is all that is needed to make the principal ingredients sing, but a frugal amount of balsamic vinegar never fails to enhance the flavour of tomatoes.Don’t forget to dress the salad only at the last minute, otherwise it will become rather soggy and sorry for itself. And don’t be too prissy with serving: present the salad on a large flat plate and let the guests help themselves with their fingers, perhaps offering a bowl of warm ciabatta as a crunchy accompaniment.
Pasta, Spinach and Sundried TomatoesA tricolore can also utilise pasta as the white element. In this case opt for farfalle, or butterflies. Use spinach instead of basil to provide the verdant hue to the finished dish, while the red can come from the addition of sun dried tomatoes reconstituted in some warm water and sliced. Alternatively choose some cherry tomatoes and pan roast in extra virgin olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Prepare the dressing by sautéing a finely sliced onion in olive oil, then adding the sundried tomatoes and a sliced chilli pepper (the seeds removed for those who don’t like it hot) together with a finely sliced garlic clove. Do not allow the garlic to burn. Set to one side and when the oil has cooled, drop in some fresh oregano and allow it to infuse the vegetables and oil mix.
Wilt the spinach in a pan, boil the pasta to al dente and then toss all the ingredients together, adjusting the seasoning to taste. Finish with a garnish of toasted pine nuts and serve either warm or cold.