When people have to give up gluten, they usually go through a lot of grieving over the loss of bread…good bread. I have to admit that bread was not that hard for me to give up. It had given me a tummy ache for my entire life, so I think even before giving up gluten I already was in the habit of eating far less bread than your average food obsessed person. I missed bread in so far as I missed having a convenient delivery system for foods that I really love like butter, marmalade, fancy cheeses and salty, smoked and/or cured meats.
I order this salad whenever I go out to eat at Il Bambino, a favourite spot of my friends who have the good culinary fortune to live in Astoria, Queens. Most of the menu is dedicated to delectable sandwiches made on what looks to be amazing bread. Luckily, the good folks at Il Bambino have the sense to include a Spanish style tapas menu with excellent offerings for non bread eaters (also for the vegetarians by the way). Il Bambino serves my favourite salad sandwich form as well and I am sure that it is delicious, but I am always totally content to eat this without the bread.
Il Bambino has a diagram of a pig on the wall by the entrance showing where prosciutto, bresaola, speck, di parma and pancetta come from. The star of my favourite salad is Bresaola, the leaner, darker, and to my palate, tastier relative of prosciutto. I know, I know, salads are supposed to glorify fresh vegetables. I like vegetables. I eat vegetables. If anything, cutting wheat out of my diet has inspired to eat more vegetables. What I have not been getting enough of since giving up bread totally is cured pork products. As delicious as Bresaola is, it is just not he kind of thing you eat all by itself. Too salty! Too fatty! Too much flavour! In this salad, the bresaola shines because it’s deliciousness is balanced by spicy arugula, lemony home-made mayonnaise and creamy, nutty cheese. Even that last sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper adds an important touch.
I do not live in Astoria, so I sometimes make this salad at home. I have to admit to having on one occasion added fresh figs to this salad and on another, crunchy radishes. Both additions were wonderful as far as I was concerned, although those of you who read this blog have probably noticed that I am obsessed with both fresh figs and radishes and will put one or the other in just about anything. Yeah, maybe just stick with the basic recipe.
I get my Bresaola from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. I actually work in this neighborhood once a week, even though it is a TWO HOUR commute from my house in Brooklyn. Why on earth do I do that commute?
- I love making puppet shows with the students and teachers at Public School 205x! That’s my job!
- Arthur Avenue offers the BEST prices on and quality of Italian ingredients.
- The school is across the street from the Bronx Zoo AND The New York Botanical Garden.
- There is some amazing inexpensive clothing shopping on Fordham Road.
All I’m saying is, you don’t have to get a job there to visit the Bronx. That neighborhood is well worth the trek! While I’m at it…if you are planning a trip to New York City, don’t feel obligated to stay in Manhattan eating overpriced and dubious food in Midtown…find somewhere to stay in Astoria and eat at Il Bambino and the Kebab Cafe and your pick of amazing Greek restaurants and just about every other cuisine represented in NYC!
Sorry, just having a moment of outer-borough pride. Now the recipe…
A SALAD OF BRESAOLA AND ARUGULA
- Make some home-made Mayonnaise (recipe here). Add an additional juice form 1/2 a lemon and adjust the salt to taste. Spread a generous about of the mayonnaise on the bottom of a shallow bowl or plate.
- Layer several slices of bresaola on top of the mayonnaise.
- Arrange a loose pile of clean, dry arugula on top of the meat.
- Cover the salad with a generous amount of finely grated, good quality pecorino romano or parmesan.
- Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and eat it!