Friday, January 27, 2012

A Sentimental Salad: Radicchio Caesar with Herbed Croutons

When we first moved to Portland, we began to drool over articles featuring Nostrana.  We celebrated my first week of work with a fabulous dinner there and we STILL talk about the salad.  Nostrana was one of my first reviews when I started this blog.

Then I met a lovely friend and cookbook author Diane Morgan.  As a new foodie to Portland, I was excited to hear her acquaintance with Cathy Whims from Nostrana.  Even more of a surprise was to see Cathy's shared recipe for her radicchio Caesar salad in Diane's book The Christmas Table.  I couldn't wait to remind our palate of that memory.

This salad has three components (it's basic math): leaf + crouton + dressing.

Radicchio Ceasar Salad:

2-3 heads radicchio
6 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 tbls red wine vinegar 
1 tbls mayonnaise
1 large egg yoke
2 tsp anchovy paste
1 large clove garlic (I added a bit more)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 cups fresh bread cubes from artisanal loaf
2 tbls unsealed butter
1 tbls chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbls chopped parsley (subbed for sage, go for it if you have it on hand!)

Finish with freshly grated parm and fresh ground black pepper

Begin by halving and coring your radicchio.  What a lovely "red cabbage family" lettuce.  Just gorgeous.  It's the new pink in the salad world.

When I told Diane I was making this salad, the first thing she said was "Did you soak the radicchio in ice water?!" Of course I did!

If you read any of Diane's books, you can be assured the recipes have been tried and tried again to perfection.  The detail is impeccable.  So follow it.  No skimping.  No short cuts.  Do it and see why it pays off. 

Take the time to soak the radicchio.  The crispness is fabulous.  It's like they took a little trip to the ice age and came back just to grace your plate.

While it's soaking, work on your crouts.  Size matters, people.  No one wants a two bite crouton makes for an unladylike mess.  But I like to know they are there, and no mincing either.  Reasonable silver dollar size.  Use an artisan bread such as ciabatta.

Toast your pieces at 400 for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Melt your butter and add your herbs.  Lovely herbs.  Fresh flowers are nice, but fresh herbs are true love to me.  Ha, and I buy them for myself all the time.  A little self-love I guess.

Pour melted herb butter (it smells fantastic) over the croutons while they are still hot.  Toss and set aside.

Okay, now for the dressing.

Combine vinegar, egg yolk, anchovy paste (what a secret must-have ingredient!) olive oil, mayo, garlic, sugar and pepper in a food processor.  Blend until its starts to emulsify.

Spin your radicchio or get it perfectly dry with big towel.  Dress.  Add croutons.  Toss.  Top with grated parm.

It seriously doesn't get any better than that for a crisp refreshing Ceasar!
So you can either head to Nostrana or I can bring a little Portland to your kitchen thanks to Diane!


  1. I've never had a radicchio salad, but the flavors look intriguing. Looks mighty fancy schmancy to me!

  2. Replies
    1. Unsealed? You mean unsalted? Yes. The anchovy paste adds a the saltiness and the parm in the salad does too.