Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, the couple behind New York’s acclaimed Don Angie restaurant, welcome every Christmas Eve with a classic Italian feast of the seven fishes. Since few dishes complement a traditional Italian menu better than a salad of crisp bitter greens and crunchy nuts, this brightly flavored recipe is a frequent addition to the menu. The recipe, from their Italian American cookbook, is equally at home on the holiday table alongside a feast as it is as part of a weeknight menu. They write:
Growing up, our families almost always finished their meals with a bitter tricolor salad—a combination of radicchio, fennel, and other greens, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. Our modern day version is a loose interpretation: as if that bowl of bitter greens had run into a Waldorf salad somewhere in Southeast Asia. The dressing was inspired by our favorite Thai spicy peanut sauce, but we swapped peanuts in favor of the more Italian hazelnut, which pairs well with radicchio. Cilantro is a unique addition that ties into the flavor profile of the dressing and adds another zip of color. Take the time to soak the radicchio in the ice bath, which helps crisp the leaves while drawing out some of their bitter flavor.
Radicchio Salad with Apple, Cilantro & Hazelnut Dressing
- ½ cup blanched roasted unsalted hazelnuts
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons sriracha sauce
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
- 2 sprigs cilantro, leaves picked
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
- 1 small head radicchio (about 9 ounces)
- 1 apple, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
- 1 small or ½ large fennel bulb
- Grated zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces robiola bosina cheese (see page 19), cut into ½-inch cubes (or the same amount of triple cream Brie, after the rind has been cut off)
- ¼ cup roughly chopped blanched roasted unsalted hazelnuts
- 5 sprigs cilantro, leaves picked
Make the dressing: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Spread the hazelnuts on the sheet pan, transfer to the oven, and toast until golden brown, glistening, and aromatic, 10 to 12 minutes. Carefully transfer the hot hazelnuts to a food processor and add the neutral oil. Process briefly until the nuts begin to form a puree (though small chunks should still remain, about the size of gravel), about 15 seconds. Add the honey, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, sriracha, salt, garlic, and cilantro leaves. Process again until well combined, about 30 seconds. You should have about 1 cup of dressing. Set the dressing aside until ready to use.
To assemble: Prepare an ice bath using a salad spinner: Place 2 cups of ice and 8 to 10 cups water in the bottom of the spinner along with ¼ cup of lemon juice and place the basket on top of the ice, submerged in the water. Set the lid aside for now. (Alternatively, if you don’t have a salad spinner, you can use a sieve set in a bowl to create the ice bath.)
Clean the radicchio by removing any limp or discolored outer leaves. Cut the radicchio into quarters, then remove the core. Pull apart the individual leaves and place them into the ice bath, tearing any large outer leaves in half before adding.
Cut the apple into quarters and trim away the core. Slice each apple wedge on the mandoline into halfmoons about ⅛ inch thick, then place immediately into the ice bath with the radicchio.
Cut the fennel in half, remove the core, then carefully slice the cut side on the mandoline, into pieces about ⅛ inch thick. Add the sliced fennel to the ice bath as well, then allow the mixture to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
Pull the basket with the radicchio, apple, and fennel from the spinner, discard the ice and water, then spin the salad dry. Spread the salad ingredients on a work surface lined with paper towels and blot the top with more paper towels. It is very important to dry the mixture as much as possible so as to not dilute the dressing.
Place the radicchio, apple, and fennel in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice, the olive oil, and salt. Using your hands or tongs, toss well to evenly coat.
Assemble the salad on a large platter or in individual plates. Scatter the cheese evenly across the top of the salad (or divide evenly among the plates). Drizzle the dressing across the top of the salad, deliberately and slowly, ensuring even coverage of the dressing across the salad. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top and garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serve immediately. This salad is best made and served day-of. Serves 4 to 6.
“Reprinted with permission from Italian American. Copyright © 2021 by Angie Rito & Scott Tacinelli with Jamie Feldmar. Photography © 2021 Copyright by Christopher Testani. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”