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Catholic Recipe: Insalata Ambrosiana


  • 4 large beets (approx. 2 1/2 lbs) — stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans (6 oz.)
  • 3 teaspoons walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 shallots — minced
  • 6 heads Belgian endive (approx. 2 pounds) — sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 6 ounces soft goat cheese
  • prosciutto slices — optional
  • Parmesan cheese shavings — optional
  • Details

  • Serves: 4 - 6
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: N/A
  • Cost: N/A
  • For Ages: n/a
  • Origin:

This Lombard salad can be adapted with the use of local greens and nuts. With the addition of thin slices of prosciutto and ample shavings of parmesan, this recipe for six can serve four as a main dish.

NOTES: St. Ambrose is also known as the "Honey-Tongued Doctor," a pun on the saint's name (the word for honey in Latin is ambrosia); his preaching was said to be mellifluous, as sweet as flowing honey. Also according to legend, when Ambrose was a baby, a swarm of bees settled on his mouth, an omen that he would be a great orator. St. Ambrose is the patron of bee keepers, bees, candlemakers, domestic animals, learning, Milan Italy, and students. He is often depicted with a beehive or bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover the beets with cold water in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the beets to continue boiling until easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. (Do not let them become mushy.) Place the beets on a plate to cool.

As the beets are cooking, spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in oven for another 8 minutes. Turn them over and continue to toast for another 8 minutes. The nuts should be evenly browned. Transfer to a plate.

Combine the walnut and olive oils, vinegar, honey, pepper, salt, ginger, and minced shallots in a small bowl and mix vigorously. Set the bowl aside.

Peel the beets and then cut them into 2-inch wedges. In a large bowl, toss the sliced endive with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the dressing and then arrange on a platter.

Add the beets to the bowl and toss with the rest of the dressing. Arrange the beets on the endive.

If adding prosciutto slices, first arrange them on the endive and then scatter the beets on top. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the salad and garnish with walnuts or pecans. Omit the goat cheese if using Parmesan shavings.

Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: La Cucina Egeriana: Times, Tastes and Tables — A Cookbook for Feasts and Seasons by Eleanor Bernstein, et al, Editors, Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy, 1997
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