Radicchio is such a beautiful vegetable on the table, but those vibrant purple leaves are so bitter that it can be tricky to figure out how to work them into a recipe.
Here's one idea: a light, but satisfying salad full of buttery green olives, nutty chickpeas, salty Parmesan cheese, and a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.
All these flavors and textures balance the radicchio, making a colorful, elegant – and quick! – seasonal salad for your dinner table.
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family along with endive, escarole, and puntarelle. It looks similar to a small head of purple cabbage and can range from fist-sized to soft-ball-sized. Look for it near the cabbages and leafy greens at the grocery store.
Buy heads of radicchio that feel very firm and tight when gently squeezed and that feel heavy for their size. Avoid heads that look like they've been battered about or that feel soft or wilted -- this is a sign that the radicchio is old or has been poorly handled during transit.
Back home, store your radicchio in the crisper drawer. Individual heads will keep well for several weeks.
The green olives are a key player in this salad. Not only do they look oh-so-lovely against the purple of the radicchio, but they add a sweet, buttery flavor that makes a counterpoint to the lightly bitter leaves. Plus, they come already pitted, which makes prepping them for this salad a breeze.
When it comes time to grate your Parmesan cheese, use a Microplane grater or the finest holes on your cheese grater. This creates thin, airy strands of cheese that melt into the salad and help flavor every bite.
Radicchio Salad with Green Olives, Chickpeas, and Parmesan
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 large or 2 small heads radicchio (10 to 12 ounces)
- 1 16-ounce can green olives (look for California ripe green olives), drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped (6 ounces or 1 1/3 cup dry olives)
- 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Toast the sunflower seeds: Add the sunflowers seeds to a small, dry skillet. Toast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the seeds look toasted around the edges and smell fragrant.
Transfer the seeds to a bowl to cool. (Sunflower seeds can be toasted several days in advance and kept in an airtight container at room temperature until needed.)
Prepare the radicchio: Peel away and discard a layer or two of the outer leaves if they are looking wilted or battered. Cut the head of radicchio into quarters through the root. Trim away the root.
Cut each quarter cross-wise into strips 1- to 1/2-inch thick. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the chopped green olives, chickpeas, and 3/4 cup of the cheese to the bowl with the radicchio
Make the dressing and toss the salad
Whisk together the vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss gently until the ingredients are evenly coated. If the cheese clumps together, break it apart with a spatula and stir in.
Let the salad stand at least 10 minutes or up to an hour. This gives the flavors time to combine and mellow.
Serve the salad: Taste a forkful of the salad and add additional salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the salad on individual plates or one shared platter. Top with the remaining cheese and the toasted sunflower seeds.
This salad is best served within an hour of preparation, but leftovers are quite good for several days and make a great lunch salad. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.