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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Amazing late summer and fall salad...and we're back!

I will spare you an excuse re: why I haven't posted in almost a year, because let's face it if you are reading this you know me and love me and have an idea about what an absolutely crazy year it has been for me.  Phew.  Let's hope it's coming to an end.

Anyways, after nearly a year of mental blog entries that never materialized (except as material-like mounds of guilt) I finally developed a recipe that made me gasp, stop, and run over to my laptop.  Actually, I first tested it on a few folks, for you and good measure.  The reviews are unanimous.  It's delicious.

About the star of this salad.  Radicchio is a great source of vitamin K, which is essential for the formation and regeneration of muscle and bone tissue.  A diet healthy in vitamin K may also prevent Alzheimer's disease by limiting neural damage (for Mark Bittman's great recent article on Alzheimer's and sugar, see here).

Finally, radicchio also contains age and skin cancer fighting antioxidants, eye-friendly beta-carotene, and a host of B vitamins to aid in metabolism and fight stress.  Of course, you're most likely to reap these health benefits from raw radicchio (as opposed to roasting in on the barbecue...though also delicious) so this salad is a great way to get lots of raw radicchio in.

Vegans, I apologize, this salad is not for you.  It relies on the crispness of pancetta and tang of feta to offset the bitterness of radicchio.  I've tried this dressed with both lime and balsamic, and I can't remember which I prefer, so use what you've got on hand (or both).  I also imagine that it would be quite good with blood orange, though I think I've only ever seen one in Montréal, ages ago, and it was $ 25.  So do what you can...and eat joyfully!

Thanks for having me back, all!



PS.  I am working on my food photography....which is humbling.

Radicchio salad

2 handfuls raw pecan halves
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp maple syrup

10-12 slices pancetta
1 large radicchio (or 2 small)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (a.k.a. Italian parsley)
2-3 ripe pears

1/2 pound feta
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lime juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
Olive oil, to taste

- In serving bowl, mix red pepper flakes with balsamic or lime juice.  Grate in garlic.  Set aside.

- In a shallow pan, toast pecans in butter and cayenne pepper over low heat for approximatively 4 mins, stirring often to avoid burning.  Add maple syrup and continue to cook until bubbly and thick, about 30 seconds.  Turn out onto parchment paper (or a plate) and cool.

- Chop pancetta grossly and saute until crispy.  Set aside in pan.

- To chiffonade radicchio, peel back leaves (discarding tough bottoms) then stack them on on top of the other and cut into think slivers (like cabbage in a coleslaw).  Add to serving bowl.

- Grossly chop parsley and add to bowl.  Quarter and core pears, then slice them and add to bowl.

- Grossly chop candied pecans and add to salad.  Add pancetta and toss, scraping the pan and using the fat to dress.  Taste and add olive oil if desired.

-  Crumble feta into salad and give it a final toss.  Serve with crusty bread and good olive oil.  Enjoy!