Mark Iacono sometimes serves a version of this salad at Lucali, his candlelit church of pizza in Brooklyn. It’s what he calls a “bottom of the bowl” salad, reminiscent of what’s left after a long Sunday dinner with family, with tomatoes, black olives and red onion deeply marinated in a vinegar-heavy dressing. He layers these above and below cold, crisp lettuce, adds a final drizzle of dressing and serves the salad with a meatball on top of it. But it goes as well plain alongside a pizza or under a sausage that’s been simmered in sauce, with stuffed shells or lasagna or eggplant Parm. You don’t need fancy tomatoes or lettuce with bona fides, just strong vinaigrette and enough time to allow the tomatoes to bleed out in it before you assemble the salad and serve.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 5smallish tomatoes, halved and cut into fifths
- ½smallish red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1rib celery with leaves, ideally from the heart, chopped
- 18canned, pitted black olives, plus 2 tablespoons olive brine
- 2teaspoons kosher salt
- 1teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1teaspoon lemon pepper
- ⅓cup olive oil
- 1teaspoon red-wine vinegar
- 1head iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and brown bits removed, roughly torn
- 1cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½cup red-wine vinegar
- ½teaspoon kosher salt
- ½teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ½teaspoon lemon pepper
Step 1Combine the tomatoes, red onion and celery in a large bowl. Add the olives, bruising each slightly between finger and thumb, and the olive brine.
Step 2Add the salt, peppers, olive oil and red-wine vinegar to the bowl, and mix gently with your hands or a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Step 3Wash and dry the lettuce, then put in a bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the salad.
Step 4Make the dressing. There will be a lot left over, which you can cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks. Combine the olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt, black pepper and lemon pepper in a jar or large bowl. Cover the jar, and shake until emulsified, or use a whisk to achieve the same result in the bowl. Set aside.
Step 5Assemble the salad. Spoon onto a large platter enough of the tomato mixture and accumulated juices to cover its bottom. Arrange some of the iceberg across the top of the tomatoes, and drizzle a little dressing over it. Add some more of the tomato mixture, then another round of the iceberg. Drizzle with some more of the dressing, and then repeat. Serve immediately, so the lettuce does not wilt, either with Italian bread or topped with meatballs, perhaps alongside spaghetti or pizza.