In Palermo, as I mentioned earlier, the insalate cruda/cotta that you can buy at the markets will vary with the season. In America, we can enjoy that same variety so do not feel confined by these ingredients: Use other greens such as escarole, mesclun, and frisee together with cooked vegetables such as boiled leeks, boiled beets — anything else you have on hand or enjoy.
Serves 6 or more
What you need:
1 pound sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
1 Pound butternut squash pealed, remove seeds and cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh green beans
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon co arse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons small capers, drained
1 or 2 fresh ripe tomatoes (about 1/2 pound), cored and cut in wedges
1 or 2 heads of Bibb lettuce (about 3/4 pound)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the verdura cotta (cooked vegetables):
Peel and trim the onions and slice into rounds, about 3/4-inch thick. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt lightly on both sides. Toss the butternut squash with one tablespoon of oil , season with salt and pepper. Lay the onions on a baking sheet as well as the seasoned butternut squash giving each piece room to roast, and set in a pre-heated 375° oven for 30 minutes or longer, turning once, until slightly softened and nicely caramelized on the flat sides and edges. Cool then separate the rounds into thick onion rings.
Trim the ends of the green beans and, drop the beans in bpoiling water and cook unt il al dente, 4 minutes or so. Scoop them from the pot with a spider and drop the beans into very icy water, to set the color. Once chilled, drain and dry the beans and cut them in 2-inch lengths.
For the verdura cruda (raw vegetables):
Rinse, dry, and core the tomatoes and slice them in wedges. Separate, rinse, and spin dry the lettuce leaves.
Put everything in the bowl except the lettuce: onions, butternut squash, beans, olives, capers and tomatoes. Sprinkle over the remaining salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle over the rest of the olive oil and the red wine vinegar, and tumble the vegetables to coat them with dressing.
Scatter the lettuce on top, tearing the larger leaves in two, then toss the greens with the vegetables gently but continuously for about a minute, to distribute the dressing evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if you like, and toss again.
Serve immediately — always including some of the heavier goodies that drop to the bottom of the bowl and hide under the lettuce.
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is an award winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and Public Television cooking show host. Her latest series, "Lidia’s Italy," was nominated for an Emmy in 2008. Lidia is also well-known for her acclaimed restaurants, including the three-star Felidia and Del Posto restaurants in New York, the popular theater Becco restaurant and Lidia’s restaurants in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Lidia and her son, Joseph Bastianich, a popular wine expert and restaurateur of multiple locations in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond, also produce award-winning wines at the Bastianich and La Mozza vineyards in Italy. For more information on Lidia, visit www.lidiasitaly.com.