A Taste of Italian Spring
This post is by Full Circle’s resident Farm Foodie – Debra Dubief
Castelfranco. I only needed to read the word to know I wanted some. Even though I couldn’t recall exactly what it was, the name evoked some food memory that I couldn’t put my finger on but knew was a pleasant one. A quick search reminded me that what this lovely, tender heirloom radicchio was but did nothing to jog my memory.
It also led me to a recipe that I likely would never have stumbled on otherwise, for a salad that sounded like Caesar’s sophisticated Italian cousin. At first, covering this beautiful rose of a chicory in an anchovy-laced dressing seemed a little wrong, but I adore anchovies and this dressing called for enough to really let their taste shine through so I had to give it a whirl.
Turns out that radicchio di Castelfranco is by no means a delicate flower. Even though its texture and bite are softer than many of its relatives, it still has a lively kick that welcomed those briny little fish swimming in a zesty pool of vinegar, lemon juice and red wine. Not an easy feat, but the Castelfranco handled it deliciously well — the trick is using good quality anchovies. If you can find them, this salad is the perfect excuse to buy a jar of the salt-packed variety. If not, I know a good quality oil-packed anchovy will work very nicely since that was all I found in the store I happened to be in.
This dressing is a snap to make and is not just fantastic with radicchio. We had enough leftover to try it on grilled asparagus – which was wonderful — and just small drizzle immensely perked up a rather simple cous cous. I still don’t know exactly where I first ran across Castelfranco, and have been inventing a memory that gets better every time I eat it. Involving al fresco dining, a sun-drenched stone village on the Italian coastline and the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea, I’m sure it’s more fantasy than reality. But who cares? A salad that conjures up that kind of imagery is worth making again and again…..especially on a beautiful, but chilly, spring evening.
Castelfranco Radicchio Salad with Anchovy and Parmigiano
Adapted from NY Magazine
2 heads radicchio di Castelfranco washed, spun dry and torn into palm-sized pieces
1 large clove garlic, or 2 small cloves
4 anchovy fillets, in salt, rinsed well, or 4 oil-packed fillets with excess oil removed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red- wine vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and anchovy fillets until they reach a smooth, paste-like consistency. Whisking continuously, begin slowly adding the liquid ingredients until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to whisk. Toss the radicchio with the dressing and taste for additional seasoning, top with shaved Parmigiano and serve.