So, this is one of those recipes that if you aren't FROM New England, and specifically Maine, you aren't going to understand what an "Italian" is, so allow me to educate ;). The Maine "Italian" is a sandwich I grew up with and loved to death and I used to eat as often as I possibly could (that and eating pizza by sprinkling chips down the middle and wrapping the pizza around the chips like a taco...man how did I live to be an adult on a diet like that?). The "Italian" was a sandwich, that really wasn't different from any other sandwich out there, except for the list of ingredients and how they married in the sandwich? Pure magic!
Since going gluten free, I've tried making the Italian on Udi's gluten free hot dog buns and while they were okay and all, something just seemed to be missing. Mainly the soft Italian submarine style roll that the Italian was traditionally built on.
In thinking I'm more of a cook than a baker (thank goodness we have so many talented gluten free bakers out there to make up THAT gap for me!), so I really wanted an Italian a couple of weeks ago and tried to figure out how to make it happen without the gluten. So, I decided to make it into a salad! And it works awesome!
Now, traditionally, the Italian has pickles as one of the main ingredients on the sandwich, but since I was making it into a salad, I decided to just use a balsamic and oil topping to it. BUT, instead of that, if you have fermented veggies or some pickled veggies (go for just straight pickled here, not hot or spicy or it won't be the same!) in your pantry you could try using those instead.
I normally don't do cow dairy very well and I haven't even looked at American cheese slices in years, but I did find some organic ones at the store with an ingredient list I could pronounce and such, so I got those. If you can't do cow dairy at all, this would be just as yummy with some goat cheddar on it I think, or even some non-dairy cheese sprinkled over the top.
The Maine Italian Salad (gluten free, dairy free option)
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces (yes, I cut my romaine lettuce, but feel free to tear it too)
- 2 Roma tomatoes, juice squeezed out and cut into bite sized pieces (feel free to double the amount of tomatoes used...I just have to cut down on tomatoes due to acid reflux issues with my husband)
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 slices organic American cheese (or however much other non-dairy cheese you'd like to use), cut into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 cup diced up gluten free ham (I used an all natural deli meat I buy that is free of nitrates for this)
- 1 can sliced black olives (or 1/2 can unsliced medium sized black olives), drained
- 1/2 large onion (your choice of color, but I like a sweet white for this), peeled and diced
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Combine lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, olives, ham and onions in a bowl. Toss well to combine. Add cheese about 1/4 at a time, tossing between adding more cheese (it'll help to stop the cheese from sticking together in one big lump).
- Sprinkle top of salad with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Repeat with olive oil. Sprinkle top of salad with salt and pepper to taste (I serve salt and pepper at the table and let everyone salt their own salad. It helps to stop over salting and such).
Note: This post is linked to Gluten Free and DIY Tuesdays on Allergy Free Alaska.