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Compose your salads to create a stunning and appetizing presentation

"Home with the Lost Italian" columnist Sarah Nasello says this Italian Grazing Salad recipe will bring some variety and excitement to your meals.

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Chopped Romaine lettuce gets drizzled with a zesty Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette to form the bed of this deconstructed salad.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — We celebrated Tony’s birthday last weekend and his only request for dinner was my Baked Ziti Casserole (featured in January 2015) and a salad. Giovanni and I both agreed that this was too humble for a celebratory dinner, so we created this Italian Grazing Salad to accompany the pasta — and suddenly we had a feast before us.

I love a composed salad like this is, where every component is featured individually. If you have started the new year resolved to eat a healthier diet, composed salads are a wonderful way to bring some variety and excitement to your meals. Not only do they create a stunning and appetizing presentation, but they also allow each diner to pick and choose the ingredients they prefer to graze on for a little pre-dinner nosh.

For this keto-friendly salad, we chose a variety of colorful, fresh vegetables, including Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion, Kalamata olives and banana peppers. To give it a little antipasti flair, we also added two Italian meats and fresh mozzarella cheese.

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Chopped Romaine lettuce gets drizzled with a zesty Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette to form the bed of this deconstructed salad.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I used sliced Genoa salami and cured pepperoni on this occasion, and you could choose any Italian cured meat or even sliced deli meats like turkey and pastrami. We love fresh mozzarella, but any soft or semisoft cheese, such as fontina or goat cheese, will work well in this salad.

This is an easy salad to prepare and assemble and you can vary the ingredients and amounts to suit your own taste. For this recipe, you will only use a portion of some ingredients, like the cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes and onion, and I recommend chopping the entire vegetable and keeping the extra on hand to use later in the week for salads and omelets.

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Arranging each component individually allows one to pick and choose the ingredients they prefer.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

I made a Zesty Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette to accompany this salad, which incorporates a blend of lemon zest and juice to make this dressing pop with flavor. Other ingredients include extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and one garlic clove. I cut the garlic clove in half so that it just flavors the dressing without making it too garlicky, and then discard it just before serving. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the salad, I place a layer of chopped Romaine lettuce on a larger platter and then drizzle it with the Zesty Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette. Next, I arrange each component individually in rows atop the bed of lettuce, separating them by color to create the most pleasing presentation. At this point, you can serve the salad immediately or refrigerate it for up to four hours. Just before serving, I drizzle the salad with more of the dressing and serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

This Italian Grazing Salad is full of flavor and nutrition, and it's a terrific alternative to a traditional tossed salad. Even better, it was a hit at Tony’s birthday celebration. Buon appetito!

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Sarah's Italian Grazing Salad is a healthy, fun and delicious blend of vegetables and protein.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Italian Grazing Salad

PRINT: Click here for a print-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients:
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into 1/2-inch strips
½ English cucumber, sliced
½ green pepper, cut into small strips
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup banana peppers, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
12 slices Italian salami
12 slices good pepperoni
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, halved or quartered (or mozzarella balls)
Zesty Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette or favorite Italian dressing
For the Zesty Lemon Oregano Dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
Prepare the dressing first so it has time to marinate as you prepare the vegetables.
In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously until fully emulsified. Taste and adjust acids and seasoning as desired. Add the halved garlic clove and let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. May be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Remove garlic clove before serving.
To assemble the salad:
Distribute the chopped Romaine lettuce evenly around a large serving platter. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the dressing on the lettuce.
Arrange each ingredient individually in rows atop the lettuce, separating each by color for the best presentation. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Before serving, drizzle the salad with 2 more tablespoons of dressing and serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPESMEMBERS-ONLY
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.
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