To be clear, I’m not bitter. I am about as happy and optimistic as can be. The key greens in this salad, however, the radicchio and Belgian endive have bitterness in them. Pleasant bitterness to be sure, but bitterness nonetheless.
Bitter flavors have a bad rap. Sure, the bitterness of burnt garlic or sugar are particularly offensive to the palate, but some bitterness is delicious. The key is to offer it balance. I’ve seen advice ranging from adding acidity to using salt and fat. Conveniently, a vinaigrette provides all three. A bit of heat can be nice too, although we’ll save that for another dish, like sautéed kale or broccoli rabe.
So, just as we embrace sadness at the end of Disney’s Inside Out, let’s give bitterness a big hug this Valentine’s Day for its role in awakening our palate so that by the time we get to dessert everything tastes just a little bit sweeter.
Radicchio and Belgian Endive Salad
Bright, colorful with a beautiful balance of rich, toasted nuts and pleasantly bitter greens. This salad is as eye popping as it is delicious.
- 1 medium head radicchio
- 4-5 heads Belgian endive
- 1 head Boston or butter lettuce
- 1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup Champagne or other white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup toasted walnut oil
- 1/3 cup olive oil – the good stuff!
- Place garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with salt, about 1/2 tsp. Using the flat side of your knife, mash into a smooth paste. Place in a bowl with vinegar and mustard. Season with pepper and let rest for 20 minutes while flavors blend. Then, while whisking, drizzle in walnut and olive oils to form a creamy emulsion.
- Lightly dress salad greens and sprinkle with walnuts to serve.
TIP: Tear your lettuce and radicchio and soak them in water for 5 minutes to crisp them back up before giving them a couple of good turns in a salad spinner.
TIP: I use half olive oil and half toasted walnut oil because toasted nut and seed oils, like the toasted sesame oil you may use in stir-fries, are boldly flavored and can overpower a dish.