I love salads. They’re a blank canvas to delight your tastebuds with various textures and flavors, and are fresh and healthy. I know they get a bad rep, but salads don’t have to be, nor should they be, boring! This Castelfranco radicchio salad takes the best of winter produce to make a salad that’s delightfully refreshing, with a medley of flavors that’s far from uninteresting.
What’s Castelfranco radicchio?
Castelfranco radicchio is a type of chicory that falls under the umbrella of bitter greens. It resembles a leafy head of lettuce or small cabbage, and has beautifully colored leaves ranging from pink, to speckled green. Unlike it’s counterpart, the more commonly found red radicchio, Castelfranco radicchio has a much more mild flavor. This makes it an excellent choice as a salad base, as the bitterness is not overwhelming.
While I highly recommend you use Castelfranco radicchio for this recipe, you may sub it with red radicchio if you are unable to find it. In this case, I would suggest using a mix of little gems lettuce and red radicchio, so that the beautiful bitterness does not become overpowering.
How to build the perfect salad
Building a salad that’s both lovely to look at, and delightful to eat is simple, but it does take a little bit of planning. The most important part of building a refreshing salad is to take care when washing the greens. Use cold water, and wash the radicchio carefully to remove dirt and debris. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner, or carefully wrapped in a tea towel. No one likes a wilted, mushy salad, so it’s important to give your greens a little bit of TLC.
Layers make a salad more interesting to eat. This can be in the form of visual layers and contrasting colors, bright flavors, and crunchy textures. This salad plays with the zingy flavor of sumac, paired with the acidic sweetness of blood oranges, the sweet crunch of shaved fennel, and nutty flavor of pistachios to pack a flavorful (and colorful) punch. Mixed with the subtle bitterness of the radicchio, this medley of ingredients is absolutely divine on the palate, and is a feast for the eyes.
So what’s sumac?
Sumac is a spice characterized by it’s tart, almost lemony flavor and beautiful deep maroon color. It’s very popular in the Middle East, and the plant is identified by its bright red berries. In this recipe, the sumac in the dressing adds a different depth and dimension to the flavor of the salad, and helps to balance the sweet and bitter flavors.
I’m sure sumac will become one of your new favorite spices, but if you cannot find it, you may substitute with lemon juice. I do encourage you to find this incredible spice though, as it’s such a joy to have available in the kitchen!
Tools you’ll need for this salad
I recommend using a mandoline slicer to finely shave the fennel, but that is not strictly necessary. Personally, I like the fennel papery thin for this salad, but feel free to slice a bit thicker if you prefer more crunch.
I hope you give this Castelfranco Radicchio Salad a try! Be sure to tag me on instagram so I can see your bakes, and leave me a comment below! Your feedback helps other bakers and home cooks who are giving this recipe a try, and I love hearing about your creations!