Fall is all up on our asses in Los Angeles, with rain and mist and stormy skies bearing down. This weekend at our farmers market, some dramatic “El Greco” light seemed to shine down on the bountiful fall vegetables. We grabbed mountain yams, dirt-crusted fingerlings, Brussels sprouts, red-skin Bartlet pears, fennel tips and big, beautiful ribbed-for-our-pleasure heads of radicchio.
So, in the first of probably many installments of us playing with fall vegetables, we spent the last week roasting radicchio for salads — salad you can slurp — and discovering how to tease the most sweetness out of it.
First, know this: There will be bitter. Radiccio is a bitter lettuce. However, with the help of a marinade of fresh orange juice, oil and fennel seed and a secondary dressing of mustard, cider vinegar, wine and sugar, that bitterness is tempered. The two sauces merge in the pan with a sizzle. Cooked salads. Interestingly, the fennel, with the heat of red jalapenos lends this salad something akin to the taste of a rustic slice of pizza, something we still can’t explain but what are we, doctors?
Hot Radicchio Salad
1 large head radicchio
1 Tbs. tangerine oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 red jalapeno
1 small carrot
Half a white onion
6-8 oz. seitan
1 Tbs. cornmeal
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. whole ground mustard
1/8 cup red wine
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. white sugar
1. Quarter your radicchio, removing the core’s stem. Peel the leaves off one quarter at a time, and place leaves in a mixing bowl. Juice your orange and to the juice, add tangerine oil and fennel seeds. Dump this mixture onto the radicchio leaves and stir well with tongs.
2. Slice your onion and red jalapeno into half moons and matchsticks respectively. Mix together mustard, wine, sugar and vinegar. Add a tsp. of water and stir. Marinate the onion and pepper sticks in this dressing.
3. Slice the seitan into neat, right triangles about an inch long. Fill a large plate with cornmeal and pat the seitan with a cornmeal crust. Heat a large skillet on high heat, add canola oil, then toss in seitan. Cook evenly on both sides for several minutes and remove seitan from pan, resting on a plate.
4. Still on high heat, add the marinated radicchio to the skillet and stir, followed by the marinating onions and dressing. Stir every so often for 4-5 minutes, letting the radicchio cook down (it should wilt like cabbage leaves). Serve on a large plate by twisting the salad into a neat ball, as high as you can. Slice carrot matchsticks and add for garnish and color. Finally, place 4 or 5 seitan triangles along the salad.
Beverage: Pretty Things’ St. Botolph’s Town Rustic Dark Ale
Soundtrack: The XX’s “Hot Like Fire”