Monday, June 2, 2008

Not-so-radical radicchio

As a lettuce snob, I've got to say that the only use for iceberg lettuce is that it can be cut into a wedge -- a shape that makes for an interesting salad.

According to the folks at Royal Rose radicchio, a Salinas, Calif., company that's the world's largest grower of radicchio, the classic iceberg wedge salad has been enjoying a resurgence of popularity as everything '50s returns for a second time around.

This recipe plays off the basic wedge concept and substitutes the more sophisticated taste of radicchio. The following salad features wedges of radicchio served on a bed of chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce and laced with a classic, creamy bleu cheese dressing. Use a slightly mild and creamy bleu cheese for this dressing, such as Maytag or Pt. Reyes. The acid, fat, sugar and salt in this dressing all conspire to soften the bitter edge of the radicchio.

Red, White & Blue Salad Radicchio Wedges with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
6 servings
1 12-oz. head radicchio, cored and cleaned
3 cups chopped or shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
4 scallions, chopped, with some green top
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
dash of hot pepper sauce, or to taste
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
In medium bowl, stir together all dressing ingredients except cheese; gently fold in cheese. (Dressing may be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate). Portion 1/2 cup lettuce onto each of 6 individual salad plates. Cut radicchio into 6 wedges, place wedges on lettuce beds. Ladle generous portions of dressing over each salad, garnish with scallion and parsley.

Radicchio Potato Salad with Mustard Dressing
6 servings
1 pound small yellow potatoes
1/4 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided
Salt and black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse-ground mustard
1 head radicchio, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Simmer potatoes covered in water until tender, about 15 minutes; drain, cut in halves or quarters and place in large bowl with onion.
In small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup vinegar, oil, mustard and salt and pepper to taste; pour over potatoes and toss. Fold in radicchio and remaining vinegar, to taste. Season with salt and pepper, fold in parsley. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 6 hours.