Radicchio and Pear Salad

A sweet and savory Winter salad.

Winter’s Radicchio leaves and firm Bosc pears create a jewel of a salad lovingly enjoyed during the last few weeks of winter. Spring Equinox is about a month away. Piles of snow are melting, but let’s not rejoice too early. After a few years of living in New York, I’m not convinced the last of the snowstorms are finally in the past. It’s a bittersweet time of year full of warm anticipation, but snow flurries appear in April, too.

Most red and purple hued vegetables are honestly sweet. Au contraire for the reddish- purple and white leaves of radicchio, for it has a fresh bitter bite. Good looks fool most people. On occasion, I take advantage of radicchio’s bitter taste to fill it with generous spoonfuls of pungent blue cheese and toast walnuts. It’s an addictive snack. The strong flavors combined mellow into an honest, sweet taste.

Radicchio Pear Salad

Why not turn an addictive snack into one of my favorite salads? The first version of this salad was enjoyed when a co-worker many years ago, highly recommended it for lunch. Since then, it has become an addictive salad. In my version, bitter radicchio leaves are tossed with a few sweet ingredients, such as red leaf lettuce, firm Bosc pears, and dried cranberries to create harmony. Diced fennel heightens the flavor.

The sweet fruit, pungent cheese, licorice fennel, and bittersweet mixed greens create a fresh and crisp salad. I love switching the ingredients to reflect the seasons. Strawberries or blueberries can replace the pears in the Spring. Use fresh figs late in the Summer. Although, radicchio is a Winter green in New York, substitute it with baby bitter greens such spinach, arugula or dandelion in the Summer. Is Gorgonzola or blue cheese too strong? I recommend using crumbled goat cheese in its place.

As part of a meal, savor this salad with a hearty lasagna dish, or serve it alone with a large piece of wheat bread. This hearty salad stands up to the final cold winds of Winter. It’s also a crisp hello to Spring.

Winter Salad: Red Leaf Lettuce and Radicchio with Pear Salad

Radicchio Pear Salad
1 small head of red leaf lettuce; discard core, clean and torn
1 radicchio; discard core, separate the leaves
2 to 4 bosc pears; peeled, discard core, sliced
1 fennel bulb; diced
1/2 cup walnuts; toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup cranberries
6 to 8 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 small red onion; thinly sliced
Salt and fresh black pepper
1 lemon; quartered into wedges
Olive oil
Fig or red balsamic vinegar

Serving Option 1:
1. Gently toss first nine ingredients together.
2. Allow guests to squeeze fresh lemon juice and drizzle olive oil and vinegar onto their salads.
3. Enjoy

Serving Option 2:
1. Lightly toss red leaf lettuce and radicchio with a little salt and fresh black pepper in a bowl.
2. Place a handful of salad greens onto a plate. Top with slice pears.
3. Sprinkle fennel, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese on top. Add salt and fresh black pepper.
4. Garnish plate with a quarter lemon wedge.
5. Allow guests to squeeze fresh lemon juice and drizzle olive oil and vinegar onto their salads.
6. Enjoy.

Radicchio Pear Salad

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2 thoughts on “Radicchio and Pear Salad

  • February 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I absolutely adore radicchio! The bitter and sweet combo is to die for. Lovely photos and post! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  • February 18, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    I love radicchio as well as pears. The blue cheese just made this salad my new best friend. I bet it is as delicious as it is gorgeous!!

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