There are salads for a crowd, and salads that kids adore. There are colorful slaws, and playful mescluns, salads crunchy and light.
But then there are the distinctly grown-up salads, with heightened and complicated flavors. This is one of those. It has just five ingredients, but together they make a stunningly unusual composition of bitter, sweet and salty-savory.
Ready? This is fall salad, all dressed up and glamorous.
I can take no credit for devising this recipe. I ate a salad very much like it recently at Till Dynamic Fare, a biodynamically focused restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The owner/chef has a way with vegetables and a flair for unusual combinations that somehow work out just right. I was trying to decide on a salad, and when I mentioned this one – an odd combo of radicchio and olives – the server’s eyelids fluttered and she began breathing hard. I took the hint.
When the salad appeared, it was studded with green olives, smashed so that their edges echoed the ruffled curl of the radicchio. The leaves were draped in a sweet balsamic dressing that both heightened and balanced the radicchio’s bitterness. Manchego cheese and the meaty, mild olives added savor. It was the most glamorous grown-up salad I’ve ever eaten, and my husband and I tussled over the final bites.
Yet the salad itself is so simple – just a handful of ingredients. Here it is, for your own grown-up enjoyment. The olives should be Castelvetrano olives, which are lighter and not so pungent. Use the sweetest, richest balsamic you can for the dressing, as it should be rather sweet. If you don’t have great balsamic, no worries – add a drizzle of honey to boost the sweetness. As for cheese, any savory hard white cheese should work well. The restaurant used Manchego; I’ve made this with Parmesan.
For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link: