I realize this is my second salad post in a row, but it is hot as hades in New York and frankly light summer food is the only thing I can think about making or eating. This salad is a variation of the Insalata Di Foccacia that I used to eat at I Tre Merli, an Italian restaurant I worked at for several years. Last year I was craving the salad and tried to recreate it to only find out that I liked my version more (Sorry Paolo). What I think I did was merge the Insalata Tricolore with the Insalata Di Foccacia.
For extra protein/flavor you can add shaved parmesan or halved boccini mozzarella. As is, this salad is vegan, vegetarian and hearty enough to be sufficient as lunch or a light dinner. If you are feeling fancy you can even make your own foccacia croutons, although I find the store bought Italian seasoned croutons good enough. I douse my salad with balsamic vinegar, but since I realize not everyone may like vinegar as much as I do, I have modified the dressing so that you don’t end up with a permanent pucker.
1 package of pre-washed baby arugula or 3 cups of baby arugula washed, rinsed and dried
2 endives halved and sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 small radicchio sliced into one inch pieces
2 ripe tomatoes cut into one inch pieces
6-8 large basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced
1 cup Italian croutons or Foccacia croutons
½ cup toasted pignoli nuts a.ka. pine nuts (see note and picture below)
2 Tbs capers (more if you love capers like I do)
3 Tbs good quality balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste (go easy on the salt and add more if needed later. Capers are pretty briny).
Toss everything into a large bowl, add the dressing and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
The nice thing about this salad is that the arugula, radicchio and endive stand up to the dressing and it won't get soggy as quickly as other salads. What I really like is when the croutons get soaked in the balsamic. Sometimes I just pick at the balsamic doused croutons and leave the rest for my husband. Yum!
Note: Toast the pine nuts lightly over medium heat in a small frying or saute pan until they have reached the color below. No oil is needed and make sure they do not burn! Check ethnic stores for pine nuts since they tend to be cheaper than the ones you find at gourmet shops.