Gammelgaard, where my grandmother and then my mother, ran the household and where I grew up. (Father's side)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Italian Salad; a Hardcore Danish Component of any Self-respecting Luncheon

       Preparing for a lunch, regardless of where in the world a Dane might reside; if there is either cold ham involved or openfaced sandwiches in general; the question will arise: how did grandma make her Italian Salad? Usually when living in Denmark and for everyday use, one would purchase a premade tub of said salad and it would have the exact right taste components. Reconstructing this precise but elusive taste-combination on the other hand proves a bit harder; but finally I have figured out just how easy it is, and I thought, I would share my findings with you, so you wouldn't risk developing the same Italian Salad complex I had for 23 years!

       First let's come to grips with the Danish phenomenon, a mixture of vegetables in a mayonnaise dressing served on ham or other cold cuts. It never derived from Italy, but has it's name from the colors which are similar to the Italian flag: orange from crunchy finely cubed pieces of carrot, green from peas and asparagus, and white from either mayo, white asparagus or both. In  Denmark you can buy the exact mix for this salad frozen and ready to put in your dressing (remember to thaw the vegetables first, put them in a sieve and drain) but I recommend going to the trouble of cutting them up yourself and cooking them, to ensure a good crunch.

       You will need equal amounts finely cubed carrot, peas (if you use frozen, make sure they are thawed and drained) and white asparagus cut into 1/2 cm pieces or of a size to your liking. You may use green asparagus, as the white ones are hard to find. Salt a pot of boiling water until it tastes like mild seawater (taste it!) add sugar. Bring to roaring boil. Have a big bowl of icewater at the ready. Boil asparagus for 2 minutes, retrieve with a slotted spoon and immediately dunk into the icewater to shock them into keeping their color, and to stop the cooking process. When completely cold, spread the asparagus pieces on several kitchen towels and dry with more towels or paper towels. In same pot of still boiling water drop in the tiny carrot cubes and boil for just one minute, then dunk into icewater (you may have to replenish ice cubes between batches) When completely cold, dry carrot cubes same way as asparagus pieces. Peas, fresh or frozen (thaw and drain first) will not need to be cooked.

      In a bowl that will be able to hold everything combined. Mix an amount of mayonnaise, that will just coat your amount of greens, with salt and white pepper. One big culprit of not having your Italian salad taste authentically Danish is in the mayo, you use. Finding a Danish mayo is preferable; a Norweigian mayo will come close and I have had reports that the same is the case with a Japanese mayo; as they are all a bit sweeter and thus closer in taste to the Danish ones. Fold and mix in all the vegetables (if you used some asparagus from a glass, I only recommend using a small part of them from a glass, as they are mushy, but will add great flavor, you may add a bit of the liquid from that glass to the dressing.)

       THAT"S IT!! But, your salad will not taste the way you think it should until 1-2 days later, so have patience and put it in the refrigerator; give it a good mix once a day and taste it 2 days later. Enjoy it with your cold slices of ham or other meat and let your mind go back to Denmark and happy family/friend luncheons. Bon Appetit! Happy Easter, Glaedelig Paaske.