Reinforcement salad, why is it called that?

L’side salad is a classic dish of Christmas festivities in Naples and surroundings. Its notoriety, however, is no longer confined only to the Campania area, but is now widespread throughout Italy. Every year, in fact, in the weeks leading up to the 25th December the inevitable television services on the menus of Christmas lunches and dinners are back. And, in this special schedule, a fixed place is always reserved for Neapolitan traditions. Including, of course, the reinforcement salad. And, every year, so the same question comes back punctually: why is it called that?

Why is the reinforcement salad called that?

The reinforcement salad is a side dish based on cauliflower, papaccelle, olives, capers, pickles and anchovies which is almost never lacking on Neapolitan tables from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve dinner. Almost never because over time someone has decided to eliminate it from the menu. In fact, the pungent flavor determined by its ingredients often does not meet the tastes of all diners (especially children).

The older and/or traditionalists, however, continue to offer this dish, one of the many elements that compose it the ritual of the Neapolitan lunch in the Christmas period. And it is during these banquets that we often return to ask ourselves the fateful question: “Why is the reinforcement salad called like that?”.

There are not many certainties about the official reason. The most accredited version wants the side dish to be born as a dish for Christmas Eve dinner. In fact, according to tradition, this it had to be light. That’s why they were usually eaten spaghetti e dishes based on fish (including the capitone), a habit that has remained almost unchanged. But to make this meal more substantial and nutritious, this salad began to be prepared with the task, precisely, of reinforce the menu.

The other hypotheses on the name

There are, however, other versions as to why the reinforcement salad is called that. Equally widespread is the hypothesis that the name derives from the practice of add new ingredients after the first preparation. Having to accompany lunches and dinners from 24 to 31 December, the side dish had to be “reinforced” with new additions to be re-proposed at the table.

Others argue that the name is due to presence of the vinegar and salt from the anchoviesingredients that They would “reinforce” the light flavor of the cauliflower. Yet another version deems the boundary something capable of stimulate the appetitetherefore to “strengthen it”.

An uncertain story

It’s not just the name of the side salad that is uncertain. The origins of the dish are also unclear. The different existing versions all derive from the Christmas salad described by Cavaliere Ippolito Cavalcantiduke of Bonvicino, already in 1800 in the book Theoretical-practical cuisineside dish which however at the time the Neapolitan scholar and cook called caponata.

How to prepare

The preparation of the Neapolitan reinforcement salad is very simple. The first step is boil the cauliflower florets in salted water for 10 minutes to keep them firm. Once cooled in a bowl, the florets are seasoned with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Then, add the anchovy fillets in salt cut into small pieces, the papaccelle in wedges, the black olives, the pickles and the desalted capers. Before bringing it to the table, it is advisable let it rest for at least a couple of hours in the fridge to give the cauliflower time to season.

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