Cuori di scarola in insalata con ricotta salata/
Escarole Heart Salad with Ricotta Salata and Anchovies
This pretty salad gets its unusual flavor and texture from the salted ricotta and anchovies, a combination long enjoyed in southern Italian cuisine. I'm happy to see that these ingredients are now being used and appreciated on a wider scale, as cooks discover their versatility and ability to add zing to many recipes.
One of the specialty cheeses of Basilicata, ricotta salata is a variety of ricotta that has been pressed, salted, and dried. As a child, this is one of the first cheeses that I helped my parents, Rosina and Biagio, make. We used fresh milk from our cows and goats, and to coagulate the milk we mixed in rennet from baby goats that had not yet grazed - the purest form possible. It was not unusual for us to make 20 baskets of tangy, creamy ricotta a day.
2 medium heads of escarole, cleaned
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 roasted red pepper, julienned
4 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded ricotta salata, crumbled
Remove the green outer leaves of the escarole and separate the white inner (harder) leaves for use in this recipe. Cut them into 2-inch pieces. (Remaining outer leaves can be stored and tossed into a soup, if desired.)
In a bowl, add lemon juice, oil, and the anchovy fillets, and whisk vigorously to obtain a emulsified vinaigrette.
In a medium bowl, combine the escarole and vinaigrette and toss well.
Distribute salad onto serving plates and top with pine nuts, roasted red pepper slices, and ricotta salata.
Italian Cooking Primer
Escarole is a member of the endive family, yet it has a less bitter flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and is most commonly used in soups, salads, pasta, and side dishes.
Note that since this recipe has a pronounced lemon base, wine is not recommended.