Thursday, February 16, 2012

Insalata Di Rinforza

It's healthy, low-cal and the perfect antidote to all those rich Valentine's Day goodies. This recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson, the sensuous English beauty and noted cook. She's not Italian, but in my opinion, she's got the best recipe I could find for insalata di rinforzo, a Neapolitan salad generally made at Christmastime. Even so, I added and changed a few things to make it more to my liking. Throw in a little more of this and a little more of that to suit your taste. Quantities don't really matter that much here.

To me, the salad cried out for more dressing, so I added almost triple the oil and vinegar the original recipe called for. Carrots are a beautiful, colorful addition too, as are the multi-colored bell peppers. I added one green pepper, but would skip that next time in favor of another red, orange, or yellow pepper.
Artichoke hearts would be terrific in this salad too. If I had found broccoli romanesco, I would have added that too. Some people add anchovies as well, especially if it's being served on Christmas eve.
Insalata di rinforzo literally translates to "reinforcement salad" and there are a couple of reasons for the name. One is because you can keep adding more ingredients to "reinforce" the salad for eating later on. The other explanation is that the salad helps "reinforce" your stomach for the rest of the meal to come. Either way, it improves with age and is best eaten after the ingredients have had a day or two to co-mingle. Any leftover can be placed in jars and covered with more oil and vinegar and kept in the refrigerator for weeks.
Insalata Di Rinforzo

Inspired by Nigella Lawson

printable recipe here

My changes are in red.


For dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I tripled the amount of the dressing - maybe even quadrupled it.)

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

For preserving as a pickle:

  • 1 bottle white wine vinegar

  • 1 bottle olive oil (not extra-virgin)


Put 16 cups of water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the cauliflower florets and cook them until tender-crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the cauliflower florets with a slotted spoon and plunge them straight into a bowl of iced water.
Pour out half of the boiling water and add the white wine vinegar, remaining salt, fennel seeds, and garlic cloves. Bring the pan back to a boil and add the celery, onions, peppers, fennel, and whole chiles; cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Refresh the vegetables in the same way, plunging them into iced water; when they are cold, drain them along with the cauliflower florets.
In a large bowl, mix the cauliflower and other vegetables with the garlic, olives and capers. Whisk together the vinegar and oil for the dressing and pour over the salad. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chopped parsley. Combine everything really well, which is easiest done using your hands. At this point you have a pickled vegetable salad which serves 8 generously, or you can stuff everything into wide-necked sterilized canning jars and pour in a mixture of half vinegar and half olive oil to cover the vegetables.
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  1. What a beautiful salad! It must taste amazing. A great combination of flavors!



  2. che bella ricetta Linda, la voglio fare anche io, grazie per averla condivisa con noi! Un abbraccio!

  3. This sure is a very yummy antidote. Guilty of eating Valentine's Day goodies, I am going to try this =)

  4. I love this salad! the dressing is exactly the kind I like...nice and vinegary. And it has all my favorite Italian components!

  5. I would have loved to join you in Rome but will be heading to Italy in October. Work, work, work until then.

  6. This salad is certainly worth a try. It reminds me a little of the Israeli health salad sold in Jewish Delis. The cauliflower being switched out for cabbage. We ordered romanescu seeds, so we will see how they grow in Jersey soil. If they come up and grow well, I will be happy to share.
    ♥, Susan

  7. Una bellissima ricetta, sembra un quadro dalle perfette cromie, che buona !! Un abbraccio Daniela.

  8. Oh, my goodness, that salad looks beautiful. I think it would go beautifully with a beef roast too!

  9. I made a version of this last winter and loved it! I have cauliflower in the house, so will try it again! We loved it!

  10. Bella questa insalata Linda! l'hai preparata con un insieme di colori e di sapori eccellenti! Un abbraccio

  11. I made this salad at least 4 times in December and will again - like the addition of the small (pickling!) onions. And think artichoke hearts would be mighty fine. Nice to see something that isn't chocolate (I can't believe I wrote that!).

  12. This reminds me of giardinara, something I love to keep in my fridge at all times. I buy jars of it, but I'm sure it's not as good as yours!

  13. This is one delicious salad...reminds me of something my family's been making for years. Will have to try this version soon!

  14. This is such a beautiful and healthy salad and the fact that it can be kept in the fridge for weeks is certainly a plus.

  15. Dear Linda, What a beautiful salad. I love they way you talk to your reader. Blessings, Catherine xo

  16. Such a colorful and I'm sure very tasty salad.

  17. Beautiful version of this classic dish. I like the idea of fennel seeds....

  18. Not as beautiful as yours, but I made this salad today and posted about it, linking back to you!

  19. This is wonderful...thanks for sharing