L'estate Insalata

by Patricia Nieh
(Portola Valley, CA, USA)

Who wouldn't jump at the chance to dine at the home of a friend in Tuscany? I arrived right on time and was charmed with the table outdoors set with sturdy crockery. Hens scratched about nearby.

I was introduced to family members who welcomed me warmly. They tactfully navigated their way through my stumbling Italian as we traded pleasantries. Meanwhile I was peripherally intrigued by the tantalizing aromas emanating from the kitchen.

We were all soon eating delicious pasta and then the next course was triumphantly delivered by the perspiring cook. A large platter of something brown and lumpy was passed around. I shot at inquisitive look at the person next to me. "Bull's balls!"
he said in his best American English.

I tried but could not partake in that quintessentially Italian dish. Here's one I did eat and enjoy.


  • 1 cup fresh cherry or pear tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole black pitted olives, drained
  • 1 cup whole button mushrooms, drained
  • 1 large fresh avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 and one-half cups marinated artichoke hearts (do not drain)
  • 1 cup Bel Paese cheese diced into bite-size chunks


  • In a large salad bowl combine all ingredients.
  • Toss gently so that artichoke marinade
    is evenly distributed.
  • Chill for at least one hour before serving.

    Serves 4-6.

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