Grilled Apricot Salad
- 4 apricots
- 1 bunch radicchio, cored and sliced.
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp bleu cheese, crumbled
- 4 Tbsp pecans, toasted and crushed
- 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2+4 Tbsp olive oil
DirectionsCut apricots in half. Coat with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Place on a bbq at medium-high heat, turning halfway through until cooked through (about 4-5 minutes total). Remove from grill and set aside. Place radicchio and fennel on a plate. Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and 4 Tbsp oil until emulsified. Pour over the vegetables. Top with apricots. Sprinkle with mint, cheese and pecans, and serve.
And now for the details…
I have a radicculous love for radicchio (oh yes, I went that cheesy). As I get older, I have come to enjoy more and more the bitter element that many foods provide that I could not appreciate when I was younger. Coffee, strong tea, dark chocolate, grapefruit, red wine and, of course: radicchio. There is something about bringing the bitterness together with sweet, sour, and creamy that amps all those flavours up a notch and creates a taste explosion.
A favourite salad we had in France was incredibly simple: endive, crumbled bleu cheese and mustard dressing. This recipe is taking that super simple salad and giving it a tiny bump up. We are adding in the sweet and sour of the grilled apricots, not to mention the earthiness that comes out of those grill marks. We are pulling in the freshness and sweetness of the mint and fennel. And we are adding a bit of crunch with the toasted pecans. Plus, the slight bitter note of the pecan skins matches so wonderfully with the bitterness of the radicchio. And the creamy, salty bleu cheese? Yes, thank you.
So with that: let’s get to making this salad a reality.
Start by prepping your veggies. Wash and dry the radicchio. Cut it into halves, and core the hard centre out before slicing the rest of it into strips.
Next, wash and core your fennel, and slice it into very thin strips. Raw fennel is quite crunchy, so you want those nice thin pieces to bring forward the juiciness and sweetness of the fennel while not being the focus of the bite when you are trying to chew. Add the fennel to the radicchio in your plate and toss to mix the two.
Next, cut the apricots into halves and pull them off their pits. Add the olive oil and toss to coat the apricots lightly with some olive oil so they do not stick to the grill. Place them on a medium-high grill, allowing them to brown slightly on the one side before turning and browning on the other side. Remove them from the grill and set them to the side while you prep the rest of the salad.
Mix the vinegar and the mustard together. Slowly add the oil, whisking the entire time, so that the mixture emulsifies.
Emulsify: what does this mean? It is mixing liquids together (e.g. oil and vinegar), which normally separate, but mixing them with another ingredient so they mix together and stay fairly stable as a homogeneous mix, instead of separating the moment after you have swished them together. In other words, the emulsifier is your facilitator to make sure the vinegar and oil continue to get along. In this case, mustard is our emulsifier. We mix the mustard and vinegar together first, to allow the mustard and vinegar to get to know each other and build a relationship. Then, we add the oil while whisking, and the whole blend comes together beautifully, while remaining a stable mix. Y’see, mustard introduces itself to oil all slick-like, and mustard pulls in vinegar and makes sure oil and vinegar get to be best friends too, without wanting to be apart from each other the moment they come together. Oh wow. Mustard is basically the world’s best wing (wo)man. Yes this sounds hokey. And of course there is a scientific explanation. In fact this article speaks much more to the emulsifying qualities of mustard.
Finally, we can finish off our salad. Place the apricots over the radicchio and fennel. Sprinkle the mint overtop and crumble the bleu cheese over the salad. The easiest method for crumbling the bleu cheese? Fingies. Make sure you take the cheese out straight out of the fridge, which will make it a bit easier to crumble, then squish the sh*t out of it between your fingers as you sprinkle it over your salad. Finish the salad off with some toasted pecans and drizzle with your dressing, then serve.