I’ve been married for 23 years. And for 23 years my mother-in-law has been asking me the same question after almost every dinner I’ve ever shared with her. “Non mangi frutta?” “You don’t eat fruit?” And for the last 23 years I explain to her that yes, I do eat fruit, but usually I don’t feel like having an orange or an apple after dinner. I’m usually already full, and really, the last thing I feel like eating is a piece of fruit.
For her though, no meal is complete without fruit. Of course, like so much else when it comes to rules surrounding meals in Italy, it all has to do with digestion. Evidently a piece of fruit at the end of a heavy meal helps the whole digestive process proceed regularly. If you get my meaning.
In any case I always have to explain that I do indeed eat fruit, and lots of it. At breakfast for example, and usually in the middle of the morning or the afternoon, as a snack. And, if I really feel like shocking her, I reveal my other fruity obsession: adding fruit to salads.
I’ve never been a fan of adding tomatoes to leafy green salads. There’s something that becomes kind of gloopy about the whole thing that I don’t like. If I have a tomato salad I like them sliced on a plate, where they can retain their firmness and not get bruised and battered while being tossed about in a big bowl.
But fruit is a whole other story. I love slicing an apple into a bowl of escarole or a pear into a platter of raw kale. But my all time favorite is to pair leafy early radicchio with the first strawberries of the season. The combination of bitter leaves with sweet berries is my definition of the onset of spring.
My latest version of this salad involves toasted hazelnuts to add a bit of crunch. And since I usually add acidity in the form of a squeeze of orange, I decided to try using the orange oil from Marina Colonna, which was perfect. And a drizzle of balsamic added a sweet tart tang that brought it all together.
I’m sure you can already guess my mother in law’s newest question. “What? You put fruit in salad?”
Well, at least she’s now convinced I eat fruit and am not going to keel over from digestive failure.
- 4 cups chopped radicchio leaves
- 10 large strawberries
- balsamic vinegar
- Orange olive oil (or else extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice)
- ¼ cup chopped, toasted, hazelnuts
- Salt, pepper
- Try to find loose leaved radicchio if possible. Using a knife, slice it into half inch ribbons and let it soak for 15 minutes in cold water. A good soak makes the radicchio slightly less bitter.
- Drain and dry the leaves and lay them on a platter.
- Quarter or slice the strawberries and mix them with the radicchio.
- Scatter the roughly chopped hazelnuts on top.
- Dress the salad with the balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Toss and serve immediately.