12 July 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: A Simple Island Salad

SARONNO, Italy - Insalata pantesca is a great, easy to prepare summer salad  original to the Sicilian island of Pantelleria.  
 Rugged Coastline of Pantelleria
It  is just one of the many local dishes you’ll find  on this little island that I have written about in the past. (see http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.it/2012/06/auntie-pasta-sailors-delight.html

It’s usually served as a side dish, but there is no reason why it can’t be a great entrée as well. Like most regional dishes there are many variations on the insalta pantesca theme, but  the original recipe is fairly simple. It calls for boiled potatoes, firm ripened tomatoes, green or black olives, capers, oregano and a sweet, red onion that locals call cavuli. 
 Just a Few Simple Ingredients
Some cooks add sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tumma cheese, a soft, unsalted, low-fat cheese typical of the island, while others add sun dried tomatoes, chunks of cold, cooked chicken, tuna fish, any kind of white fish or boiled octopus.  The truth is you can add pretty much whatever you want, there are no hard and fast rules, and this simple island dish becomes a great summer meal no matter where you are.
Easy as I, 2, 3
 Insalata Pantesca

1 glass of red wine vinegar (about 1 cup)
Fresh basil
20 capers from Pantelleria (preserved in salt)
1 sweet red onion
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Green or black olives
Dried oregano
600 grams new small potatoes
 300 grams of cherry tomatoes (Pachino from Sicily are good)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash the unpeeled potatoes and, (1) starting with cold salted water, boil them until they are soft. Actual cooking time depends on the size and number of potatoes used. (2) peel them while they are still warm and (3) cut them into thick slices.
 Peel the onion (4),  slice it into rings and put the onion rings to soak in the wine vinegar (5) for about 30 minutes.  Drain the onion rings (6)  and rinse them under running water.
Wash the cherry tomatoes, cut them in half (7), and gently squeeze them to remove the seeds and excess liquid (8); then put them in a colander cut side down (9)

Put the capers in a small colander and rinse them under running water to remove the excess salt (10). Remove the pits from the black olives (11), (you can use a meat tenderizer or flat knife to pound them and help the pit removing process along). In a large bowl (12) place the cherry tomatoes, the drained onions, the rinsed capers, the pitted olives, the slices of potatoes and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a generous amount of dried oregano, the chopped basil leaves, salt, pepper and a few drops of vinegar. Mix gently and serve. 
Like the locals, you can add sun dried tomatoes, cheese, chunks of cold, cooked chicken, tuna fish, any kind of white fish or boiled octopus to turn this simple dish into a wonderful summer meal.

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