One of my favorite members of the lettuce family is arugula. Light, peppery, a touch bitter and has a freshness to it that livens up every salad.
I have spoken of my buddy (not really) Jamie Oliver a few times. One of his first cookbooks I had owned was Jamie’s Italy, a cookbook where he spent a few months cooking his way through that beautiful country. I think he has written a couple of others like it since, but this brown volume has been beaten up by the many recipes I have learned, made and remade with a lot of success.
One of the best recipes in the book was a grilled radicchio and arugula salad (insalata did radicchio e rughetta). It was memorable because on the opposite page, there was a picture of Jamie sitting on a bench with a Catholic priest. As a Catholic school kid, that of course caught my attention and I remember the parish priest at St. Pat’s fondly, Father Joe, and his commitment to us school kids, teaching us to ski and his general love for the old neighborhood (looking back, it matters more considering we didn’t know what was going on in some other parishes…we were fortunate and blessed!).
At the time I don’t think I had even heard of radicchio, nor did I realize that there were cabbages, lettuces and other greens with such distinct bitterness. I hadn’t heard of arugula either at the time, but now that I love it so much, we even are growing some on the new farm with great success!
So, all those years ago I was curious enough to give it a go, bought both arugula and radicchio for the first time and followed the simple instructions. And although I add the “grilled” part of the salad, this is a winner and has been on a consistent rotation ever since.
Grilled Radicchio and Arugula Salad
One head radicchio, cut in wedges (leave core attached)
Enough handfuls of arugula to feed everyone
1/4 cup (or less if you like) pine nuts
Large handful parmigiana reggiano
Sea Salt and pepper
Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle a little sea salt on the wedges of radicchio and grill until charred. Cut into thin strips.
Lightly toast pine nuts over low heat until you can smell the light nuttiness and are golden brown – about 10-12 minutes over low heat.
Assemble the arugula on a large plate, add the roasted radicchio and pine nuts. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil at a ratio of 1:3 vinegar to oil. Sprinkle parm and a little salt and pepper.