Radicchio-usly Easy Salad (with Bleu Cheese and Dijon Dressing)

Radicchio-usly Easy Salad w/Bleu Cheese and Dijon Dressing

  • Servings: 1 meal, 2 sides
  • Difficulty: EASY
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 head radicchio, core removed and cut into small ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 oz. creamy bleu cheese, like Saint Agur
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Directions

Place the dijon and vinegar in the bottom of the salad’s serving bowl. Whisk with a fork until fully blended. Continue whisking as you pour the olive oil into the mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add radicchio to the bowl and toss with the dressing until coated. Pull the bleu cheese apart with finger into bite-sized pieced and sprinkle over salad. Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve.

And now for the details…

Oh MAN I love this salad. It comes together so quick and easy, I’m almost ashamed to share it. Almost. But it is also one of my favourite salads, so combine the ease of preparation with the satisfying tastiness of this salad, and it would be an absolute shame not to share it.

This salad was inspired by a similar salad we had in Paris at the Bouillon Chartier. Theirs uses endives, but… endives are expensive! The bitter flavour from the endives is mimicked here with the radicchio instead. Mix that bitterness with the salty, creaminess of the bleu cheese, the tang of the dijon dressing, and the crunch of the walnuts, and it is a match made in heaven.

Radicchio can be very bitter. It’s often roasted or grilled to soften the bitterness, or only added sparingly along with other greens for salads. In this case, though, we are embracing and celebrating that bitter flavour in it’s full glory, and pairing it with the other ingredients to provide nice contrasts of flavours and textures.

Without further ado, let’s make this salad! We are going to make everything in the same bowl out of which we will be serving/eating. This is the glorious part about this salad, it comes together so quickly and doesn’t dirty many dishes. It is one of my favourite lunches right now, since I can throw it together quickly, which is something important right now while I am working from home and need something in a hurry.

Start by placing the mustard and vinegar into the bowl, and whisking it with a fork (the same fork you plan on eating with? Why of course!) until the two are fully mixed together.

Next slowly pour the olive oil in with the vinegar and mustard, whisking as you pour, until the dressing is fully mixed and a homogeneous mix. Add salt and pepper to your preferred taste, and mix well.

Cut the core out of the radicchio and discard, then cut the radicchio into small bite-sized ribbons. Add the cut radicchio to the bowl, and toss with the dressing until the radicchio is evenly coated.

Tear the bleu cheese into bite-sized chunks and add them to the salad. This is not a place to be skimpy; use nice, big pieces, and make sure the salad is rife with cheese! Finally, loosely crumbled the toasted walnuts over the salad, and then it’s time to eat!

Happy eating.

Juicy Grilled Burger Recipe

Grilled Burger recipe

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 700g/1.5lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 4-6 burger buns
  • Burger fixings (e.g. burger in photo: caramelized onions, peanut butter, bleu cheese, spicy mayo, onion jam, tomatoes)

Directions

Mix the raw ground beef with the egg, Worcestershire, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper until fully mixed. Split the meat into 4-6 parts (6 will be 1/4lb burgers, 4 will be 3/8lb), forming into patties. Press a small indent into the middle of the patties with your thumb to avoid “puffing” of the middle. Place on a grill heated to ~400ºF/205ºC. Cook on each side for 7-9 minutes, flipping only once, until fully cooked in the middle. Serve immediately, with buns and fixings.

And now for the details…

I’m not sure what the weather it is like in the part of the world you are in right now, but for us here in Calgary, Canada, spring is in the air, which also means its time to get back to grilling. There are a few brave souls who grill in the winter, but needing to shovel snow to access our grill is not something I’m interested in…

And what better food to kick your grilling into high gear than the hamburger? A nice big, juicy burger, topped with your fixings of choice? Yum.

In this recipe, I am using all lean ground beef. I have heard/read about adding in some fatty ground beef to up the juiciness factor, but to be honest, I am too lazy to get that specific. If you want to give it a try, please feel free to give the suggested 80% lean / 20% fatty method a whirl and let me know if the effort fo measuring/mixing is worth it in taste 😛

We start everything off by mixing the meat with the egg, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, shallot and salt and pepper. I did not measure the S&P, that’s up to your preference. For ours, I used about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the same of pepper. Keep in mind when you’re adding your salt that the Worcestershire is already fairly salty and we are adding a full tablespoon of it to the meat. Best method to mix all these ingredients? By hand. You could use a mixer or wooden spoon if touching raw meat grosses you out (I have a few friends who are anti-touching raw meat), but by hand allows you to get a good mix in without overworking the meat. Yes, it is possible to overwork ground beef. If you mix too much, it will actually cause the meat to compress, giving the patty a tougher, rubbery-like texture.

Next is time to form up your patty. You can divide the meat up into four or six roughly-even parts, depending on how big you want your burger patties to be (and how many people you’re serving!) Six parts will give you six quarter pounders. When you are forming the patties, it is the same as when we were mixing, don’t squeeze the hell of out of the meat when you’re forming the patty. Just use a light squish to make sure they stick together; it’s not an attempt to beat the Hydraulic Press Channel… Use your thumb, and press a little dimple or divot into the middle of the patty. This will help to keep the patty from “puffing” in the middle while its cooking, and result in a more even burger.

Next is grill time. Preheat your grill to medium heat, somewhere around 400ºF/205ºC. Place your patties on the grill, close it up, and let them cook for 7-9 minutes. Avoid the temptation to press the patties with your spatula/flipper, which presses/pushes the fat and juices out of the meat, resulting in a drier burger. Once the first 7-9 minutes are done, flip the patties and let them cook for another 7-9 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers at 160ºF/70ºC. I know some people are fans of a pink inside to their burgers, but I like them well-done. Really, unless you are grinding your own beef and have full control over the handling of the meat and sanitizing of the equipment, I don’t know that I would go with a pink inside.

Finally, assembly time. Tons of options here, you could have all the fixings ready, and leave it up to the folks eating, like a burger buffet, or you could preassemble and serve. While the typical fixings are ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. might I suggest toppings a bit off-course? The toppings on ours were inspired from a burger I had in Ottawa, Canada a few years ago. They called it the “PB & J” burger, and I’ve been mildly obsessed with peanut butter on burgers ever since. In this burger, I used a caramelized onion jam for the “J”, and crumbled pieces of bleu cheese, but I’ve tried it with fig preserves, or with grape jelly, and both were also delicious. I would recommend adding the PB as soon as the burger comes off the grill. It get a little melty and oozy and is so good. I also used a little spicy aioli under the patty before placing it on the burger bun.

Top the burger off with some caramelized onions and tomatoes and you are ready to consume!

Happy eating.

Grilled Apricot Salad with Radicchio and Mint

Grilled Apricot Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

Cut 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.

Happy eating.