Easy, fresh, and gorgeous chopped radicchio salad–without the bittterness! The secret is soaking the leaves in ice water. Made with minimal ingredients, the salad is vegan, paleo, and keto friendly.
I love bitter foods. My husband does not.
This works to my advantage on some occasions. For example, when dining out, he picks out olives, capers, and frisee and passes them my way, when he can.
But it also puts a damper on some of our shared meals, especially green salads. I could happily limit my salads to bitter greens, such as watercress, endive and arugula; he pleads for romaine and butter lettuce.
But I have an option that satisfies us both: radicchio. It’s typically bitter, but I have a simple trick that makes it sweet, extra-crisp, and perfect for a starring role in my Easy Chopped Radicchio Salad.
Whole heads of radicchio (also known as Italian chicory) look similar to purple cabbage, but smaller, lighter, and more red than purple. It is packed–PACKED!-with nutrition. It is abundant in vitamins B, C and K, as well as mineral such as copper, iron and zinc.
Radicchio leaves are tender and can be used in salads, grilled whole, roasted, sautéed, added to soups, and even juiced (I have added a few leaves to smoothies, but I have yet to try radicchio juice myself; I have my limits).
When radicchio is cooked, its natural bitterness subsides, replaced by an distinct sweetness. Once the weather warms up, try grilling it sometime, dressed with nothing more than salt and pepper, plus drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s mind-blowing!
But there is also good news for those of us who love their greens raw: radicchio’s sweetness can be coaxed out, and it’s bitterness almost eliminated, without cooking!
The trick is simple: soak the leaves in ice cold water for at least two hours before using. That’s it! This also renders the leaves especially
crisp and crunchy, perfect for chopped salads such as the one I am sharing today.
So, let’s make some salad! Remove any outer leaves that look wilted from two smallish heads of radicchio. Next, halve halve lengthwise, and cut out the hard cores.
Roughly chop the radicchio into small, bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl.
Fill the bowl with very cold water. My water was cold from the refrigerator, but I threw in a few ice cubes anyway, to ensure that the water was super-cold.
Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Before draining, remove any remaining ice cubes, if using.
The next step is easy, but essential: spin the heck out of the leaves until they are dry. Any excess water will dilute the dressing (added next) and cause the leaves to wilt. So use some elbow grease to pump the leaves super-dry with your spinner.
A minimalist salad deserves a minimalist dressing, and this one fits the bill. Olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. I have ingredient options, including a keto substitute for the maple syrup, in the recipe notes.
The proportions for the dressing are scaled small, because they can be: radicchio shines brightest with a slick, as opposed to a bath, of vinaigrette.
Add a few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsely to the radicchio for a grassy-citrusy complement, and then toss all with the dressing until coated. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper to suit your tastes. Done and delicious!
Here’s to springtime salads!
- 2 small heads of radicchio (about 10-12 oz/280-340 g total)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (see notes for Keto option)
- 2 and ¼ teaspoons white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Halve the radicchio lengthwise, cut out the cores. Coarsely chop the leaves into small bite-size pieces.
- Place the leaves in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with ice water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
- Drain the leaves and place in a salad spinner to remove all of the excess water. Transfer the dried leaves and the parsely to a large, dry bowl.
- In a small covered jar, shake together the dressing ingredients until completley blended.
- Drizzle dressing over salad and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Keto Macros (replacing maple syrup with keto sweetener) per serving: Calories: 48, Total Carbs: 3.5 g, Total Sugars: 0.5 g. The remaining macros remain the same.
Radicchio Tip: Though less common in US grocery stores, radicchio heads can also have a more elongated, cylindrical shape. Use any variety!
Oil Options: An equal amount of the oil of your choice can be used in place of the olive oil. Avoid oils that are solid at room temperature.
Tip: For maximum crispness, do not toss the salad with the dressing until just before serving. The soaked, dried radicchio leaves will remain crisp in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
Vinegar Options: Other vinegars, such as champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, or balsamic vinegar can be used in place of the white wine vinegar.