I have been playing around lately with grilling wedges of greens, with delicious results. When they meet the grill, varieties such as romaine lettuce, napa cabbage and endive retain their crisp, quenching essence, yet they yield to the heat just enough to gain a softer, more luxurious texture, more savory flavor and an appealing, smoky char.
Radicchio, although red, certainly qualifies as a grill-friendly "green," and both its royal color and pleasantly bitter flavor deepen beautifully during grilling.
Prep is minimal, and the technique applies across the board: Just quarter the head lengthwise, so each piece retains a bit of the core to hold it together on the grill. Then brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and grill for two to three minutes per side. You can serve it just like that or with your favorite salad dressing, as a first course or alongside whatever protein you might be firing up.
In the accompanying dish, I paired grilled radicchio with fresh, sweet cherries to counterbalance the vegetable's bitterness and match its dramatic, dark red hue. The fruit is the base of a vinaigrette made in the blender with balsamic vinegar (for additional sweetness and dark color), a little chopped shallot and extra-virgin olive oil.
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To get the most vivid effect, the dressing is poured onto serving plates or drizzled onto a platter, then topped with the char-grilled radicchio wedges, scattered with fresh cherries and showered with chopped chives. It is a salad that is as tasty and healthful as it is out of the ordinary.
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Watch "Ellie's Real Good Food" on WHUT Saturdays at 4 p.m. Krieger blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
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Grilled Radicchio With Cherry-Balsamic Dressing
MAKE AHEAD: The dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
From cookbook author and nutritionist Ellie Krieger.
20 sweet red cherries, pitted, each cut in half
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium heads radicchio (about 6 ounces each)
2 teaspoons finely chopped or cut chives
Combine 12 of the cherries (24 halves), 3 tablespoons of the oil, the balsamic vinegar, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a blender; puree until smooth. (Some flecks of cherry skin will be visible.) Transfer the dressing to a container or serving bowl.
Remove and discard any wilted or tough outer leaves from the heads of radicchio, then cut each head lengthwise into quarters, so each quarter retains a piece of the core to keep it together. Brush the radicchio lightly on all sides with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt.
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the radicchio wedges until softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes on each of the three sides.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry halves into quarters.
To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the dressing onto individual salad plates, or drizzle or spread it on a platter. Top each salad plate with two wedges of the grilled radicchio, or arrange them all on the platter. Scatter the quartered cherries on each plate or on the platter, then garnish with the chives.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition | Per serving: 170 calories, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar