The Italian salad repertoire features many that possess an assertively bitter flavour profile, and this is one of our favourite examples. Despite its scant list of ingredients, it packs a wallop of flavour. The sharp and salty nature of a well-aged artisanal caciocavallo from Sicily is a league apart from that of even the finest caciocavallo from Calabria or anywhere else on the mainland, so do make the effort to find one.
2 bunches dandelion leaves, torn
1 handful parsley leaves
1 cup (250 mL) small quality olives, pitted
¼ cup (60 mL) aged wine vinegar
2 tbsp (30 mL) fine olive oil salt and pepper
4 oz (125 g) Caciocavallo siciliano
In a salad bowl, combine the dandelion, radicchio, parsley, and olives. Toss.
Add vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper, and toss again. Taste and correct seasonings.
Shave half the caciocavallo over the salad, and serve with the extra cheese on the side.
From the perspective of cost, this simple dish must be seen to carry the banner for Italian peasant food. Its traditional ingredients–old bread, garlic, and water–are even cheaper and more pedestrian than the handful of basics required for a spaghetti alla puttanesca. But they acquire majesty in their symbiosis (especially if you make the profligate choice of using good stock in place of the water.)
2 QUARTS (2 L) VEGETABLE OR CHICKEN STOCK (PAGE 286)
4 BAY LEAVES
4 JUNIPER BERRIES, CRUSHED
30 CLOVES GARLIC, PEELED
15 SAGE LEAVES
1 TSP (5 ML) THYME LEAVES
2 CUPS (500 ML) CUBED DAY-OLD ITALIAN BREAD, CRUSTS TRIMMED
1/3 CUP (75 ML) 35% CREAM
SALT AND WHITE PEPPER
6 SLICES CIABATTA
1 TBSP (15 ML) OLIVE OIL
SALT AND PEPPER
GRATED GRANA PADANO OR PECORINO ROMANO
FINE OLIVE OIL
CRISPY-FRIED SAGE LEAVES (OPTIONAL; PAGE 278)
Bring the stock to a boil. Wrap the bay leaves and juniper berries in cheesecloth, tie the bundles closed, and add to the stock along with the garlic, sage, and thyme. Return to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer until the garlic is tender, about 30 minutes.
Add the bread and cream. Return to a simmer, stir, and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove spice sachet and blitz the soup in a blender (or with a hand blender). Pass through a strainer if desired. Season to taste.
Sprinkle one side of the ciabatta with some of the olive oil, season, and grill until crisp and golden. Turn, sprinkle with more oil, seasonings, and a little cheese, and grill until crisp and golden. Place the crostini in 6 warm bowls. Pour the soup around the crostini, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sage (optional), and serve.