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Insalata Di Rinforza

  • February 16, 2012
 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.

Grapefruit-Avocado Salad

  • February 9, 2012
 OK, so the Super Bowl parties and Buffalo wings are history but Valentine’s Day and Carnevale are still looming. With those February holidays come a plethora of temptations from cakes and candies to the ubiquitous fried cookies and treats found in Italy at this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to resist all these goodies. That’s why I try to behave myself in the hiatus between all the indulgences.
This salad fits the bill for me for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I know there are more delicious concoctions ahead in the next few weeks that will be hard to resist. So I’m taking the opportunity now to lighten my eating habits in anticipation of the next great eating binges. And trust me, there will be plenty ahead, including a few decadent recipes in the coming weeks right here on Ciao Chow Linda.


Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. Go to for details.
Pink Grapefruit, Avocado and Pomegranate Salad with Nasturtium Flowers
Adapted from “Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume” by Silvena Rowe
(The plate in the photo is only 1/2 of this recipe below.)
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • 2 large avocados
  • 24 leaves fresh purple basil
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • salt
  • 3 T. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. prepared mustard
  • 1/2 t. pomegranate molasses (I didn’t feel like running to the store, so I used reduced balsamic vinegar instead)
  • 1 t. ground sumac (Williams-Sonoma sells it, but if you can’t find it, leave it out.)
  • 6 to 8 fresh nasturtium flowers (It’s winter in NJ and fresh nasturtium flowers are impossible to find, so I substituted candied violets and they were great as a sweet, crunchy contrast to the salad and dressing)
  • purple basil leaves
Peel the grapefruits, then cut into sections. Peel and slice the avocados, and deseed the pomegranate. I found it easiest to do this by cutting the pomegranate in half, then in half again. Hold each quarter of the pomegranate in the palm of your hand, skin side up, over a plate. With your other hand, take a spoon and rap hard against the outer skin of the pomegranate. Most of the seeds will fall down into your hand or on a plate you have placed underneath.  Arrange the grapefruit sections, avocado slices and pomegranate seeds on a plate. Mix the dressing: salt, vinegar, oil, mustard, pomegranate molasses and sumac. Pour over the salad and decorate with the purple basil leaves, and edible flowers.

Cook In Italy With Ciao Chow Linda and cookbook winner

  • October 15, 2011

Want to join me for one week in Italy at this beautiful villa next May, when you’ll also visit lots of sights in the “Castelli Romani” – as the towns southeast of Rome are known? Here’s your chance – not only to see places that are a little off the beaten tourist path, but to live like a real Italian – learning techniques and secrets of Italian cooking – in a real Italian home – from me, Ciao Chow Linda!

You can read all the details by clicking here. The group will be small, so don’t wait too long to decide or you may be left out.

Life is short – don’t delay something you’ve always dreamed of doing. You could be spending the day touring a castle, visiting a baroque church, shopping for and cooking fresh zucchini blossoms, and returning home to a view like this:

Hope to see you there!

On a different subject – “Imbottito” was the winner of the cookbook “Cucina Povera” on my last post, but left no email address for me to contact. If you’re reading this, “Imbottito” please contact me via email at, or I will choose another winner.