Friday, September 4, 2009
A Salad for Every Language ~
While visiting the gorgeous city of Geneva, Switzerland en-route to Crans-Montana located in the Alps, I was lucky enough to have dined on this gorgeous French salad (above) that was quintessentially, well...French. It was a Salade Niçoise, that also included two lightly fried eggs perched atop the towering greens, and were the perfect companions for the freshly sliced ham, real Swiss cheese and fresh tomatoes. And the way they drizzled just the perfect amount of oil and vinegar on the salad almost seems like an art because it NEVER tastes the same to me, once back in the States...Thousand Island dressing, Ranch...PLEASE! All you need to be happy and satisfied is oil and vinegar, and we'll allow a pinch of Sel de Mer, if you please.
What I admire most as a Celiac, when eating overseas, is the simplicity of ingredients and the realistic and civilized-sized proportions of food served. I mean really...does anyone need a super-sized plate of ribs, 2lbs. of mashed potatoes and 1/2 lb. of beans served at every good ole American eating establishment?
I digress...When I say that I could eat an Ensalada Mixta every day of my life, I'm not joking or exaggerating- I really could...and practically do! It's gluten-free heaven jam-packed with amazing flavors, textures and whole-food goodness and every western European country has there own version that speaks to their traditions and culinary pleasures.
This delicious tomato, mozzarella, basil salad I ordered while in Zermatt, Switzerland is a direct take-off of a Italian Insalata Caprese, but this version (much more influenced by Swiss-German cooking) included a much stronger Swiss-Gouda type cheese, a spicier vinegar, pine nuts and more peppery herbs. It was delicious and fresh, but I could really taste the difference vs. eating the same salad just over the boarder in Italia.
La Ensalada Mixta however, is truly my favorite in Europe and is served throughout Spain and the Basque Country...it's worth the trip just for the salad! After eating a Mixta day after day, it's easy to become quite used to the simplicity and deliciousness of this meal and then long for it with great desire once the feet are planted back on American soil because let me tell you, it's tough to recreate the real deal...but I try, and keep trying. The Mixta below is my creation as I painstakingly attempted to mimic the Mixtas from San Sebastian(Donosti) or Bilbao.
The recipe is rather easy, though depending upon where you live, tricky at times to find authentic Spanish ingredients, such as tuna in a jar, white asparagus and real Spanish olives. Keep trying until you do - it's worth it, or check out the Spanish Table in the Bay Area - they have a lot of the goodies I mentioned that you'll need for the Mixta.
Here's the recipe/creation I threw together, but feel free to experiment with your own flavors and flair - that's what makes it fun:
Prep Time: 10 minutes
•1 head Iceberg or Romaine lettuce (I use red leaf butter lettuce)
•2 tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces
•1 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
•1/2 cup green olives, stuffed with anchovies
•1 can (approximately 15 oz) white asparagus
•1 red or yellow pepper, sliced in long thin strips
•1/4-1/2 yellow or red onion, sliced thin
•1 carrot, grated
•1 6 oz can tuna, drained
•2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarters
•red wine or sherry vinegar
•extra virgin Spanish olive oil
•salt to taste
•1 15 oz can baby corn, drained
•1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, drained
I also love to add a small plate of Basque cheese and Membrillo...along with my any gluten-free crackers to accompany the salad. Whole foods has a nice assortment of Basque cheeses and the membrillo can be found there as well, or at the Spanish Table.
For me, part of the true joy that travel brings to my life is not only the excitement that overtakes me when lost down some amazing cobblestone alley somewhere/anywhere,...but also the happiness that eating other countries' food adds to my life...and again, I always find that eating in Europe as a Celiac is much easier, though mistakes do happen. But food that was enjoyed while overseas or in any new location on the map has a way of conjuring up such feelings of nostalgia, once home and reminisced upon. You get a whiff of that "fresh Parisian bakery" while walking down the street, or perhaps a home-made omelette reminds you of sitting along the Seine in Paris sipping wine, eating pomme frites and watching the Bateaux Mouches float by - food and travel, travel and food - either way you rotate them on the page, they are sure to bring up feelings of happiness in your heart...they sure do in mine!
Enjoy bringing a little bit of Europe into your kitchen and please feel free to send me any of your favorite dishes and recipes from travels abroad.
Coma! Mangia! Manger! Essen Sie!