Fine Cooking (December 2011/January 2012)
January is a cruel month for salads. Just when you're trying to eat better and more healthfully, good lettuce becomes hardest to find. The rest of the produce can be wan and unexciting, and you valiantly abstain from all the good stuff ("Oh, no blue cheese for me, thanks!", "Could I get that dressing on the side?").
Every bite of a January salad can feel like choking down a resolution.
But there's good news.
This Radicchio and Cauliflower Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs is a welcome break from the sad iceberg lettuce of January. It's just the sort of New Year's salad we can get behind.
While salad greens may not be at their best this time of year, cauliflower is plentiful and fantastic.
We're always a bit gun shy about using radicchio because it can be so bitter. But this recipe balances that bitterness with the near-sweetness of cauliflower and the crunch of toasted breadcrumbs. Those three main components play off each other nicely, and are complimented by a zingy, mustardy vinaigrette.
One note on the breadcrumbs: Do yourself a favor and make fresh breadcrumbs for this salad, rather than using store-bought breadcrumbs. Yours will be exponentially better. If you don't want to buy an entire loaf of bread just for breadcrumbs, consider buying a few hard rolls from a bakery. It'll be cheap and will give you plenty of breadcrumbs for this salad. If you do buy a country loaf to make breadcrumbs, but have no other need for the rest of the loaf, you can wrap it up tight and freeze it for a later use. Or hey, make a sandwich!
This salad would make for an elegant start to a meal, but we also think it would work just as well as an entree on its own.
Perhaps salads in January aren't all bad.
TIPS FROM ZACH AND CLAY:
- Do yourself a favor and make fresh breadcrumbs for this salad, rather than buying breadcrumbs. It will be exponentially better. If you don't want to buy a large loaf of bread just for breadcrumbs, consider buying a few hard rolls from a bakery.
- If you do buy a country loaf to make breadcrumbs, but have no other need for the rest of the loaf, you can wrap it up tight and freeze it for a later use.
- This salad dressing calls for a raw egg, so use good quality eggs. Fine Cooking suggests buying pasteurized eggs if you're concerned. We used fresh eggs we purchased from a farmers market.
1 medium head radicchio (about 1/2 lb.)
1-1/2 cups coarse, fresh breadcrumbs (from a country-style French or Italian loaf)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cauliflower (about 1-1/4 lb.), cored and cut into 1-inch florets
1 medium clove garlic
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar; more as needed
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Remove any damaged outer leaves from the radicchio, quarter it, remove the core, and cut each quarter crosswise into 1-inch widths.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Put the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet and toss lightly with 2 Tbs. of olive oil to coat evenly. Spread in a thin, even layer and season lightly with salt. Bake, stirring every few minutes, until crisp and light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool on the pan.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the cauliflower in the boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, spread on a baking sheet, and set aside at room temperature.
Put the garlic in a mortar, add a pinch of salt, and pound to a paste with a pestle. Or mince and then mash to a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. Combine the garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg yolk, and then slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil until emulsified. Taste with a piece of cauliflower and season with more vinegar or salt if necessary.
Put the cauliflower in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Add the radicchio and parsley, season with salt and pepper, and toss again with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Taste and add more salt or vinaigrette if necessary. Gently transfer the salad to a platter or individual serving plates; it’s best if it’s arranged somewhat flat. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette on the salad (you may not need it all), scatter the breadcrumbs on top, and serve.
For a tasty variation, try adding black olives or finely chopped hard-cooked egg. To make the salad a meal, serve thinly sliced, seared skirt steak alongside.