I made this winter salad of radicchio, fennel and crimson grapes for lunch at the weekend. Evie offered me a head of radicchio when I picked up my weekly order of produce from https://farmerandson.com.au I do love going to the market to pick up fresh, local – and unpackaged – produce. I remember my first taste of this bitter leaf as a child. It’s definitely a salad leaf for a more mature palate! That’s why it’s often paired with sweet ingredients, as I did in this salad. It’s also delicious roasted, grilled, braised or sautéed. Add it to pasta, or cook it in a risotto for a more mellow flavour.
Radicchio has been cultivated since the fifteenth century in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The first written reference is in Naturalis Historia. Pliny the Elder documented its medicinal properties as a blood purifier and to ease insomnia. The deep red radicchio of today was developed in the nineteenth century by Belgian agronomist Franco Van den Borre. https://artsandculture.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/story/radicchio-rosso-di-treviso-ministero-delle-politiche-agricole-alimentari-e-forestali/VwXhwWetURAA8A?hl=en He used a technique known as imbianchimento (whitening) to create the distinctive dark red with white veined leaves. Plants are removed from the ground and placed in water or sand in a cool dark cellar. The lack of light inhibits chlorophyll production, which causes the plants to lose their green colour. Did you know that you can cover the radicchio head with a paper bag for a similar result? https://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/foodie-guide-radicchio
For this salad, I sautéed some crimson grapes in verjuice and scattered them on top of the leaves with fennel, goat’s cheese, walnuts and thyme. I can highly recommend some crumbled grilled pancetta for a salty crunch. Serve bread on the side to scoop up the cheese and dressing. I think this makes for a lovely light lunch, or as a side dish for roasted meat.
Here’s another salad with fennel and goat’s cheese: https://atamandastable.com.au/leafy-salad-with…-and-pomegranate/
PS: If you’d like to read more, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for stories, recipes and tips for simple, nutritious meals.
Winter Salad of Radicchio, Fennel and Crimson Grapes
- 1/2 head radicchio, leaves separated and washed
- 1 small bulb of fennel, washed and thinly sliced I use a mandoline
- 1 cup crimson grapes
- a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
- handful walnuts
- 1/3 cup goat's cheese
- 4 slices pancetta, diced
- 1/4 cup verjuice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- Preheat the grill to 200°C. Line a tray with aluminium foil. Cook the diced pancetta until it's dark brown and crispy.
- Saute the crimson grapes in a shallow pan with the verjuice for a a few minutes until the skins start to split. Drain the grapes and reserve the verjuice for the dressing.
- To make the dressing, whisk the verjuice with the olive oil and honey and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the radicchio leaves on a flat plate.
- Scatter the sliced fennel, grapes, goat's cheese, walnuts, thyme and crispy pancetta on top of the leaves, then drizzle with the dressing. Serve immediately with crunchy bread on the side.