This summer, Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton is helping bring a taste of Tuscany to your table. She's put together a three-course meal with Italian flavors, and each dish is set to impress while you share dinner with friends and family. Plus, they can be a punctuation mark for your evenings hunkered down at home.
For an appetizer, Silverton shares this composed dish of crisp pea shoots, toasted pine nuts and rich avocados, topped with slices of prosciutto.
This is more like a composed plate than a salad, made up of carefully chosen ingredients, including Sicilian pine nuts, Pinkerton avocados and prosciutto arranged on a bed of pea shoots and dressed with a peppery Tuscan olive oil. This is one of the few salads I make that isn’t tossed. The simple act of picking up the salad and transferring it to your plate tosses the salad just as much as is needed. Formally tossing it would smash the more delicate ingredients.—Nancy Silverton
1/4 cup pine nuts
8 cups pea shoots
2 ripe but firm avocados (preferably Pinkerton, Fuerte or Hass)
Flaky sea salt
1 lemon, halve
Finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
4 thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325° F.
2. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and toasted, shaking the baking sheet and rotating it from front to back halfway through that time so the nuts brown evenly. Remove the pine nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Scatter the pea shoots to cover the bottom of an extra-large platter.
4. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and twist each half in opposite directions to separate them. Plunge the edge of a large knife into the pits and twist the knife to release the pit from each avocado; discard the pits. With the avocados still in their skins, slice each avocado half lengthwise into 4 equal slices, making sure not to cut through the skins.
5. Crush about 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt between your fingertips over the avocados. Use a large spoon to scoop the avocado slices out of the skin and lay them in random directions over the pea shoots. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the avocados and pea shoots and drizzle about 3 tablespoons finishing-quality olive oil over the salad. Tear the prosciutto slices apart and drape 1 torn piece over each slice of avocado. Scatter the pine nuts over the salad. Serves 4.
Prosciutto is a quintessentially Italian ingredient. I ate it practically daily when I studied in Florence, incorporating it into many dishes. Prosciutto’s deep saltiness calls for a minerally white wine with fresh acidity to complement the fatty pork. Vermentinos from the Tuscan coast or Sardinia have just the right citrusy acidity and lightly waxy texture for this dish.—Alison Napjus