Quality Olive Oil Enhances Summer Salads

Posted on July 17, 2013 by Rebecca Ponzi

Whether elaborate or simple, salads are the “go to” meal solution for us this summer in Italy.  Crudo or cooked, the options are infinite when you have fresh summer produce and quality provisions in the pantry.  Extra virgin olive oil is a key ingredient for not only brightening and combining flavors but is a great source of iron, vitamin E, fiber and even copper.  It’s a healthy choice to help sustain an active life.  Throughout this week we found ourselves involved a myriad of events.  It’s “sempre in festa”, always a party, during the summer months in Italy.  But one thing is for sure, we never go hungry.  We performed with Torre di Palme’s choir, Cantate Domino, selected songs from the repertoire of Giuseppe Verdi.  Two other choirs were invited to perform and variety of melodies, from arias to mambo, floated through the heavy summer air.  Between sessions, singers ate gelato and drank prosecco at Le Logge Bar, waiting for the finale and then a late night dinner al fresco in a private garden overlooking Porto San Giorgio.


When a commune invites other communities to participate in an event, it is customary to extend the hospitality through a meal to express gratitude and solidify relationships.  Following our concert, which concluded well after 11:00 at night, members of Cantate Domino hosted a dinner party.  Numerous family recipes of insalata riso -- rice salad were made by the choir members. 


Our friend Angela’s rice salad included green olives, cheese, carrots, tiny onions and pinenuts.  Lorella’s included saffron, lemon, tuna and parsley.  The recipe showcased below is a version from my friend Rosanna with peas, carrots, corn and tuna.  Rice salads are highly flexible and ideally fresh vegetables straight from the garden create a very tasty summer dish.  The role of quality extra virgin olive oil is to not only prevent the rice from sticking, but to act as the flavor base for other ingredients.  Fresh, bright green extra virgin olive oil naturally enhances the earthy flavors of summer.   Insalata Riso is perfect to take camping, on a picnic or to have waiting in the fridge for hungry family members after a long day in the sun.  Make a simple tomato salad on the side and a meal is pronto!


Insalata Riso -- Rice Salad


½ c. Casal Cristiana Extra Virgin Olive Oil (when available)

2 c. Basmati rice, uncooked

½ c. finely chopped carrots (or grated)

¾ c. frozen or fresh peas (not canned)

1 c. of corn (fresh cut off the cob, frozen or canned)

1 can of quality tuna meat such as Ortiz, AsdoMar, or Rio Mare

Coarse sea salt, grind to taste

Italian parsley for garnish


Wash, peel and finely chop or grate one medium carrot, about ½ cups.  Cook rice according to directions. If you chopped carrots you can toss them in the rice while its cooking.  Grated carrots get incorporated raw at the end. When rice is nearly cooked, put in the peas.  Once rice is finished, add corn (grated carrots) and incorporate together.  Transfer rice salad to a large bowl and generously grind coarse sea salt, mix in after a few turns on the salt grinder and repeat.  Let rice cool a little, about 5 minutes, then pour the extra virgin olive oil over the rice.  Mix well to incorporate.  Drain tuna, flake into rice salad and carefully mix together.  Taste for salt and add if necessary.  Garnish with finely chopped Italian parsley.  Note:  It’s important to use a long grain rice, not a sticky rice.


Insalata Pomodoro Semplice -- Simple Tomato Salad


Choose the best and freshest tomatoes you can find of any variety you enjoy.   Wash and dry, cut into slices, grind coarse sea salt, sprinkle a little white wine vinegar, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top. Finito!


We are anxiously waiting for the new harvest to complement our daily culinary experience.  In the meantime, we are tracing the olives fruition.  Earlier this week we posted on our Casal Cristiana Facebook page a photo of the progress of our olives (“Like” our page).  A thunderstorm had passed through giving trees a big drink for better fruit.  Olive trees have shallow roots so although they thrive in hot, humid weather, the quality of the fruit is dependent upon adequate hydration.  Here’s how the olives look right now!  Viva Verde!

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