I’m very visual when it comes to shopping. Bright pretty things can make me cross the street at a run, heedless of traffic. The same thing happens when I see a pretty vegetable. I am a sucker for pretty.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I’m buying shiny apples imported from Chile. I’m doing most of my shopping at the farmers’ market, where almost all the items on display have their fair share of dirt still attached.
But last week while I was up in Todi I stopped by my favorite fruttivendolo. Located just down the hill from town, on a farm tucked behind Ponte Rio, this small shop does sell their own produce in season. But off season the owner makes a twice weekly truck run to the Marche to stock up.
I had a good idea of what I would find when I got there: peas, fave, asparagus and delicious strawberries. But what I was not prepared for was the head of cream-colored, magenta-flecked radicchio di Castelfranco that looked like it had stepped right out of a 17th Century Dutch still life. I had to have it, even if I didn’t know what I would do with it.
After deciding I really couldn’t stick it in a frame, or even a vase, I decided to make up a salad that would be as gorgeous as my beautiful radicchio deserved. Keeping with the pink theme, I grabbed some strawberries and sweet red onions. (My friend Kristi told me she’d been putting strawberries in salads recently and I wanted to try it too) To add crunch, toasted pine nuts. Tiny raisins kept the whole sweet thing going, while big chunks of local goat cheese added the creaminess to pull it all together.
The dressing was simple, with just a bit of balsamic (which I usually avoid in salads) and honey to make it sweet and thick.
The salad was gorgeous and delicious, yet ephemeral. But at least now I have a big, beautiful radicchio as my screen saver.
Radicchio Salad with Strawberries
1 head of Castelfranco Variegated Radicchio *, cut into 1/2 ribbons
1 small head regular radicchio (the oblong variety), cut into 1/2 ribbons
1 red onion, sliced
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt & pepper
Combine all the salad ingredients.
Whisk together the dressing, and dress salad, tossing to coat.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
*This type of radicchio is not easy to find, I realize. It is a particularly sweet variety, not as bitter as the dark magenta varieties. So if you can’t find it I would suggest substituting it with Belgian Endive.