my new favourite salad

I love salads, especially during the warmer months when my standard meals are either something barbequed with a salady thing on the side or a salad as a main meal, like the classic nicoise or a watercress, blue cheese and walnut. As long as it’s fresh and tasty and doesn’t require too much washing up…I’m in…

For years now my favourite salad has been wild baby rocket (arugla) leaves dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sometimes I jazz it up with some dijon mustard in the dressing and a few slivers of parmesan shaved over the top or soak some finely sliced pears in the dressing before tossing through the leaves or even topping it with some toasted almonds. But generally if I’m looking for a side salad to serve with lasagne or risotto…it’s been the first thing I’ve turned to. Or if I feel like a light dinner for one I just add some capers and tinned tuna and it’s all good.

Over the last couple of years, however, I’ve been making a conscious effort to expand my salad repetoire.  Guided mainly by Karen Martini (once the chef at one of my fav sydney restaurants: icebergs at bondi beach and who now has her own restaurant in Melbourne: Mr Wolf and who also writes for the sun herald in their sunday life magazine) I have been branching out in the salad world. Here’s a list of my most recent salad dalliances:
*beetroot salad with feta and red onion (definitely a goer…I have a thing for beets)
*spinach & yoghut salad with green lentils
*panzanella
*curly endive with bacon and egg
*merguez sausage with lentil and cavolo nero
*cannellini bean, chorizo & squid salad
*iceberg lettuce, watercress & avocado salad (tried this one on christmas day… not a winner but my mum’s princesses (the chickens) really went for it and gave us huge eggs the next day)
*celleriac remoulade (delicious but with all that mayo not an everyday salad)
*tarragon green bean salad (bit of a score…I used to not be a bean fan but have found a new love for them…like most veg as long at the produce is good and they are cooked appropriately with care…they are delicious)
*insalata caprese (an oldie but a goodie)
*barley & almond tabouli (great take on the classic tabouli)
*shaved fennel, orange, red onion & olive
*smoky eggplant salad with walnuts (who can resist smoky eggplant!)
*grated zucchinini, basil, chilli & mint
*shaved fennel, artichoke & parmesan (probably my second favourite and a definite stayer…. great cause it can be made in advance…super crunchy…have substituted many different things for the artichoke: shaved radish, thinly sliced cabbage, shaved raw jerusulam artichokes, celery heart…endless possibilities)
*white cabbage, radish, mint & carraway seed salad
*winter tabouleh (gorgeous with roasted cauliflower and a pomegranate molasses dressing)

While I have found many new aquaintances and a few new friends in the salad world, nothing had really replaced my old wild rocket favourite. That was until Christmas Day when I was flicking though my shiny new Jamie Oliver book and chanced upon my latest love: insalata di radicchio e rughetta (or for us non italian speakers: radicchio & rocket salad). Now for some this may not seem a ground breaking change but believe me if you see the picture you’ll get it….. Radicchio is definintely up there as a favourite in the lettuce department…with that beautifu red colour and refreshing bitter flavour whats not to love….and I have tried a few rocket & radicchio salads before but the main reason why I never fell in love with these salads was that the radicchio just looked funny against the dainty wild rocket leaves. No matter how artfully I tore it into small bight size pieces, it always looked clunky against the dainty rocket. But Jamie has found a solution to the dilemma that I didn’t even know I had…. finely shredding the radicchio before combining it with the  rocket. The result is divine. Bitter rosy coloured radicchio balanced by the dainty peppery green rocket. Dressed with a slightly sweet punchy balsamic and olive oil dressing and rounded out with a handfull of grated parmesan tossed through…all good things!

radicchio & rocket salad
serves 4 as a side salad

Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s insalata di radicchio e rughetta from his latest book Jamie’s Italy. This is one of those great salads that can easily be converted to a main meal, just add your choice of toasted nuts, crispy grilled proscuitto, sourdough croutons, finely sliced pear, or even some intense crumbly blue cheese.

1 radicchio, leaves separated and finely shredded
2 large handfuls wild baby rocket (arugla)
2T good quality balsamic vinegar
4T extra virgin olive oil
1 large handful freshly grated parmesan cheese (or to taste)

Combine shredded radicchio and rocket in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk vinegar and oil and season to taste. Combine dressing and leaves and toss through most of the cheese. Transfer to a serving plate and top with remaining cheese.

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