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salad question

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I keep eating this really good salad in Italy and I'm dying to know how to make it. It consists only of iceberg lettuce, olive oil, and another liquid ingredient-- possibly lemon or vinegar.

But the combination of the oil and lettuce tastes strangely delicious, and I can't figure out why.

I'm thinking that it's because the lettuce is soaked in water beforehand for an extended period of time. But that can't be the only thing different about it. Does anyone know what I'm talking about, or am I just going crazy? What is it about the salad that's so good-- the type of oil maybe? I've had many, many types of olive oil and I don't think that's the only factor.

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  1. I wonder if it is because they are salting the lettuce? You'd be surprised how a small amount of sea salt will change the taste of a basic salad. In fact, one of my favorite ways to serve salad is a sprinkling of sea salt, and just a good does of EVOO. I'll add some vinegar for my husband, he prefers it that way, but I do without.

    1. Wow! A number of things could be said here. Soaking lettuce leaves in cold water almost always revives any wilted leaves. Soaking iceburg-lettuce-leaves will make them cold and crispier making the salad more appealing for diners. Sea salt is also a plus when assembling your salad. Be mindful of that too. Not enough can be said about using a high quality extra virgin olive oil. The same holds true for a great white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar for that matter. These type of ingredients all contribute different and unique tastes in your preparation, and ultimately you can achieve a completely different result if there's an absence of even just *one* ingredient. If you had the salad in Italy a lot can be said for Sicilian lemons. Maybe those were used. It's really difficult to say what ingredients were used in your salad without isolating each of the tastes you experienced. I'd ask the chef. : )

      Scusi, cosa c'รจ in questa insalata? They might oblige.

      1. Italians do that neat thing too, where they toss the lettuce in oil, then salt it, then toss in vinegar so there's a layering thing going on.

        I agree with the thoughts about though, that it's the unique lettuce, the oil, the salt and the vinegar or lemons. Wouldn't it be great if all you needed to recreate it was some local industrial vinegar?

        Could you ask & post? I looove to get variations of terrific oil & vinegar dressings.

        3 Replies
        1. re: orangewasabi

          This is actually the answer to your dilemna. Italians put the oil first, to protect the leaves, and then they salt and vinegar, thus preventing the leaves from burning. The vinegar for an iceberg salad would be red wine vinegar.

          1. re: swissfoodie

            fascinating . . . and what would some of the other lettuce/vinegar combos be?

            1. re: orangewasabi

              I personally like romaine with tarragon vinegar because it brings out the anise flavour of the lettuce. Arugula and balsamic is pretty classic.

        2. Could it also be the freshness of the iceburg? I've had iceberg fresh from the field and it's nothing like you buy in stores.

          1. I would guess that it's just oil and vinegar on the salad as that is what is traditionally used in Italy. Also, I agree that salting the salad is probably a factor. My grandmother (Italian) always made salads with just oil, vinegar, and salt that tasted better than what you would expect, and I finally figured out one day, that it was the salt that made the whole thing better. By the way, she used just plain red wine vinegar, regular (not virgin) olive oil, and store-brand regular salt. I don't know if she put the oil on first.