4 April 2012

Dreaming of Italy with the Virtual Cooking Light Supper Club and Crispy Greens with Tonnato Dressing

Crisp Greens with Tonnato Dressing

When I tell people one of my goals in life is to travel to the Adriatic Coast of Croatia or take a hot-air balloon ride over the Cappadocia area inTurkey it simply does not evoke the response as when I say I will be spending 5 weeks in Italy this coming fall. Maybe we all dream of being in Italy.

Yes I will be spending 5 weeks in Southern Italy exploring the art of making pizza in a wood fired oven in Naples; renting a medieval house in the Portico Antico of a mountain village and learning from an Italian nonna how to make the local pasta dishes; travelling Sicily with a group of food enthusiasts and preparing arancini, pistachio gelato and making our own couscous; living in a 13th century convent in a coastal resort town in Calabria with a volcanic island as my view; and balancing between the sea and the mountains in a pedestrian only town on the Amalfi Coast where the road was built only 10 years ago. This is my sojourn in a nutshell where my dreams will become a reality as I discover the hidden treasures of Southern Italy.

I have lived vicariously through the travels of our Virtual Supper Club members Sandi and Jerry who have inspired me with their culinary adventures as they explore this diverse country as well as Roz who comes from Italian roots. There is still time to join me Giz:D Sandi of Whistestop Cafe Cooking is heading to Italy this Spring so here we are dreaming of Italy and taking you all along for the ride.

A few weeks in Italy can produce a whole new level of body image anxiety with visions of spare tires, "pasta pooch", rotoli, muffin top, pupa or even regaining my love handles. But eating tasty Italian food does not need to send us back to the gym to work out on the treadmill for several hours.

Let's see what healthy dishes from the pages of Cooking Light our group have come up with....

 Jerry of Jerry's, Thoughts Musings and Rants starts us off with an appetizing Chicken Panini with Fig Jam. In  Italy the southern province of Calabria-in the area of Sibari  figs grow best!! Figs together with cheese, bread, and even olives were among the staple foods of the Roman legions.

Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking wows us with the main dish of Pork with Lemon Caper Sauce. Forests of chestnut trees conceal small-scale farms where the nero di Calabria pig roams as good as wild producing the buttery flavoured pork that is used in the area.

Roz of La Bella Vita has our taste buds lingering over a side of Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes and Basil. It is said that Italians will drive farther to eat a fine risotto than the best ravioli. The lure of this sublime comfort food, once relegated to simple Italian family dinners, is the variety and intensity of the vegetables, fish, poultry, meat, herbs, spices or seasonings painted on an otherwise blank canvas of unpretentious rice.

For a tasty salad course I brought along Crisp Greens with Tonnato Dressing. (see below)

And for the finale, attempting (and succeeding) to become the star of the show Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen ends our tasty Italian feast with a Ricotta SemifreddoU
ndoubtedly, the best ricotta you’ll ever experience comes straight from the farm and sold in street markets and local cheese stores all over Italy. 

Many of you are familiar with tonnato (tuna) sauce which is spooned over thinly sliced chilled veal or chicken breast to make a tasty alfresco meal. Once the warm weather hits this silken, briny, creamy tuna sauce is an addictive addition to our summer repertoire. It is equally adored spooned over thick slices of rare roast beef, or, as in Italy, poached veal. If you have a glut of summer tomatoes, that’s perfect, too. "Tonno" is Italian for tuna, and the name of this dish refers to the primary ingredient in the sauce. The tuna is blended with capers, olive oil, and lemon juice to make this a rich, flavourful sauce. This recipe uses a twist on the classic by creating a homemade mayonnaise based sauce perfect for summer salads.

Now on to the recipe.....

**Crisp Greens with Tonnato Dressing **


1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (6-ounce) can light tuna in olive oil, drained


8 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 cup peeled sliced cucumber
8 green bell pepper rings
8 red bell pepper rings
2 plum tomatoes, cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, divided
4 teaspoons capers, drained and divided

To prepare the dressing, combine the first 9 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth, scraping sides.

To prepare salad, combine lettuce, cucumber, green bell pepper,red bell pepper, and plum tomatoes in a large bowl; add dressing, tossing gently to coat. Place about 2 1/2 cups salad on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon onion and 1 teaspoon capers.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.

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  1. A great salad! I love the tonnato sauce.



  2. Val, I'm smiling so big. :-) Clearly we were BOTH dreaming of Italy this week. :-) A hot air balloon in Turkey? I love it!!! Funny how Italy brings out the dreamer in so many of us. :-)

  3. I can imagine that a lot of us would give our eye teeth to join you in Italy. Your trip sounds like a dream Val.

    I love Veal Tonnato so I know I would love your healthy salad. We are eating lighter today than ever before. This would be a fabulous lunch.

  4. I would love to go to Italy Val. I can understand why you are counting down. I can't wait to hear all about your trip and see the photos :)

  5. you know i thought i made a pretty stellar tuna salad yesterday, now seeing this, not so much LOL
    I dream of paris the way you dream of italy!

  6. How exciting - it will be fun to hear all about your adventures! Your salad looks delicious and so unique!

  7. Somehow even the tonnoto tastes better in Italy... their canned tuna comes pack in Olive Oil.

    This salad looks amazing!

    I am looking forward to your posts from southern Italy.

  8. What a dram trip you have ahead of you sounds wonderful and enough to make a foodie quite dizzy.
    I hope you are able to keep us posted of your adventures;I have never tasted Veal Tonnato,but was always intrigued with the recipe. I will be making this salad very soon.

  9. Val,

    I'm going to have to post my risotto on Thursday (tomorrow) or Friday. I had a report due this week that tied me up. I hope that is OK. Your tonnato looks wonderful; I've heard so much about this dish and have never seen it on a menu nor ever tried it anywhere else. I've got to taste what all the rave is about this entree!

  10. I am so so SO excited for your trip! And Italian food does not have to be weight gain-inducing...in fact only Italian-AMERICAN food is. Real Italians have a whole other mentality towards food...everything is so fresh and delicious.

  11. What a lovely salad, Val. The tonnato sauce sounds delicious. The other selections are wonderful as well. It will be great fun to see your post trip recipes. It sounds like your trip will be wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  12. This is a keeper and will make its way to my dinner table in April. Although, I did come back from two weeks in Italy with 8 extra pounds I have yet to shake... but that was one delicious weight gain!

  13. I want to visit Italy, the Croatian coast, and Turkey. I may skip the hot air balloon though.

  14. I've been dreaming of Italy ever since we left. Hopefully I can return sooner than later.

    Love this salad with the tonnato dressing along with all the flavors and colors. Beautiful photo as well!

  15. And I always use the rest of the tonnato sauce on pasta, with tomatoes and basil.... cold, of course. 5 weeks - how wonderful. And the coast in Croatia is fantastic. We spent time on Brijuni Island just off the Croation coast.... If you get a chance...

  16. Loving the sauce! Oooh I'd love to go to Italy too one day. FIVE weeks Val - lucky you! xx

  17. I'll bet you'll be so excited as your trip draws closer (not that we want to wish summer away!).

    This sounds wonderful. I've never tried any tonnato sauces but I do love tuna so must try this.


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