Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Salad With Radicchio, Endive and Citrus

Today is my beautiful mom’s birthday, and I’m writing this post in her honor. Several years ago on this day I wrote one of my all-time favorite blog entries about our family’s Black Magic Cake.  I don’t know how I can top that, so today I’m posting a salad recipe instead.   Now before you yawn, please know that this fabulous Winter Salad With Radicchio, Endive and Citrus is definitely celebration-worthy.

It’s also appropriate for Mom's birthday because she is the queen of the beautifully composed salad. Ever since I was a kid, I always remember Mom presenting these artful-looking salads, incorporating as many colors and textures as she could.  It was a mini painting on a plate.

During these winter months, I shy away from typical leafy salads since most of the available greens these days are rather limp and uninspiring.  Instead, I turn to vegetables that are crisp and assertive right now.  Radicchio and endive are both members of the chicory family, and I can always rely on them to wake up my palate during the winter doldrums, as well as help combat those starchy/cheesy comfort food cravings.

I love the variety of textures and tastes in this winter salad. The tangle of bitter radicchio and endive leaves, shaved into paper-thin ribbons, is balanced by the crisp sweetness of the little celery crescents.  Juicy orange segments add citrusy brightness.  Slivered scallions pack a punch while cilantro mellows it out, and a zippy Dijon vinaigrette ties it all together.

I tend to throw all my veggies in a large bowl with the dressing, tossing it into a wild but well-integrated jumble.  I admit my salad may not look as pretty on the plate as some of my mom’s creations over the years.  But like hers, mine is also colorful and vibrant, and this winter salad will have you coming back for seconds.  And Mom would definitely approve of that!

Three Years Ago: Chocolate Malt Ice Cream
Four Years Ago:  Black Magic Cake

This salad is flexible, so think of these proportions as more of a guideline rather than a strict recipe to be followed to the letter. I’ve been known to throw in shaved fennel slices, or even some slivered hearts of romaine, which hold up well.  I used a pinkish Cara Cara orange when I photographed this, but you can use a regular navel orange or a few clementines—or even a pink grapefruit--whatever you have on hand. However, I strongly recommend cutting all the veggies as thinly as possible, or else the ingredients won't absorb the dressing well. Use a sharp knife and take your time to cut everything paper-thin. 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized Belgian endives, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, ends trimmed
2 scallions, both green and white parts cut into thin slivers
A large handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped (including stems)
1 large orange, peeled and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl till well combined.  Gradually pour in the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the dressing is thick and emulsified. 

Combine the sliced radicchio, endive, celery, scallions and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.  Add about half the vinaigrette and toss well.  Separate the orange slices into smaller segments and add to the salad bowl, tossing again.  Taste for balance—depending on how juicy your oranges are, you may want to add a little more vinaigrette, just enough so that all the ingredients are lightly coated with the dressing.  (You may have some vinaigrette leftover.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serves 4 as a light salad course, or 2 more substantial servings.