Summer Salad

(“Insalata Palermitana di Stagione”- “’Nzalata all’Antica”)



Years back, before gas was used to cook, the hearth was heated using wood or charcoal, warming up the kitchen and the whole house, a pleasant feeling in the winter but intolerable in the summer, when thescirocco  or sirocco beat down on Sicily. The sirocco is a south-east wind that can reach hurricane speed and comes from the Sahara desert. 
During the summer in Palermo’s open markets, the vegetable stores which sold a large assortment of fresh picked vegetables and legumes started a practice of cooking a few vegetables that housewives would gladly buy to avoid starting the fire. This tradition is alive to present!




In the famous open market, La Vucciria where we did our food shopping, in the summer months a typical display of cooked vegetables are part of the fantastic display of ready to eat artichokes and the three main ingredients to make this delicious and exceptional salad: string beans, potatoes, and baked onions.
In my family we called this salad ‘nzalata ra Vucciria or all’antica, old fashion and it was the delightful combination of those three fresh and flavorful ingredients with the addition of a little fresh oregano, olive oil and vinegar.
On the very hot days, when this salad was the only course for the evening meal (il  piatto unico)other ingredients were added,  typicallyolives and tomatoes and to supplement some proteins we used to add either canned tuna fish, salted herrings, leftover meat, legumes or chunks of cold cuts and cheeses.
My mouth is watering as I remember the smell of oregano and the combination of the olive oil, vinegar and the juice given out by the tomatoes where I dipped fresh bread and enjoyed this hearty salad.




  • 1 lb. string beans, boiled in lightly salted water
  • 1 ½ lbs. potato boiled in lightly salted water, with the skin on
  • 2 medium red or Italian onions, baked 1 hour, with the skin at 425 degrees
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar
  • Hefty pinch of oregano or marjoram
  • Salt and pepper



Cut string beans into three or four pieces and place in a large serving bowl.
Remove outer skin of the onions, split in half and cut into ½ inch chunks, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add to bowl. Whisk with a fork the oil, vinegar, oregano or marjoram, a little salt and pepper and set on the side Peel and slice the potatoes 1½ inches thick or into bite size chunks. Add potatoes and the dressing to the bowl, toss and taste, adding salt or pepper to taste, if needed.




Tomato and olives can be added to this salad to enhance the taste.
To enrich this dish with protein add canned tuna fish, left-over chicken or any other meat or to keep the salad meatless add cooked chickpeas, fagioli beans or a preferred legume. Add more dressing accordingly.