Insalata Nostrana - Radicchio Caesar Salad

Tammy | Chez Nous
by Tammy | Chez Nous
1 large salad
30 min

You've likely had many Caesar Salads, but have you had one made with radicchio, homemade dressing, and croutons! Cathy Whims from the Portland, Oregon restaurant, Nostrana, offers this fabulous Radicchio Caesar Salad! Hence, its name … Insalata Nostrana.

And the name … NOSTRANA … means "yours, mine, ours" totally goes with my philosophy here at Chez Nous.

Cathy Whims has opened three Portland restaurants and is a six-time James Beard Award Finalist. In my opinion, all the choosing committee had to do to nominate her for the award would have been to eat her salad! She adapted it from Locanda Veneta Restaurant in Los Angeles and it is published in Diane Morgan's The Christmas Table Cookbook. It was also published in the Seattle Times, but I acquired the recipe directly from the restaurant! We ate there with friends who love food as much as we do and when we asked about the salad, they brought us a copy of the recipe!

What is radicchio and which variety do I use for Radicchio Caesar Salad?

Radicchio looks like a cabbage, but is part of the leaf chicory family. It is sometimes called Italian chicory because it was first cultivated in the Veneto region in the 15th century and is commonly used in Italian cuisine. There are several types of radicchio with two being most common in the US: Treviso and Veneto. Treviso is longer and elongated. Veneto is round like a head of lettuce and what you want to use for this Radicchio Caesar Salad.

Radicchio has purple leaves with white veins and is slightly spicy and bitter. Doesn't sound delicious, does it? But it is! You can tone down both the spicy and bitter by sauteeing or roasting the leaves or in wedges, but there's a little trick to use if you want to enjoy it raw. Tear the leaves apart, then into smaller pieces, and soak them in ice water for a couple of hours.

Another tip: Soaking the leaves make them grow! I swear it! So … even though this recipe calls for two large heads of radicchio, you might consider using less or you'll eat Radicchio Caesar Salad for days! Not a bad thing, to be sure!

The Salad Dressing

This is a play on a classic Caesar Salad Dressing. It has all the elements including raw garlic and anchovies. If you think you don't like anchovies, please understand that they might not look or smell desirable, but they lend such amazing flavor! The food world refers to it as UMAMI and the fifth taste. It just rounds out the flavor and you'd probably never know that anchovies are in any dish that you've had. Kind of like salt. Or citrus.

As for the croutons, they couldn't be more simple. I use my homemade sourdough bread cut into cubes, but you can use an crusty bread you can find. I put them into a cast iron skillet with some oil and let them toast. Then I add salt, pepper, and fresh chopped sage and rosemary.

How to serve Radicchio Caesar Salad

To serve it family style, I think it's most beautifully served on a platter rather than in a bowl. Toss it with the dressing in a large bowl, then pile it on a platter and top it with the fresh croutons. A little garnish of rosemary or sage is beautiful. You can do the exact same thing if you want to serve individual plates.

Insalata Nostrana - Radicchio Caesar Salad
Recipe details
  • 1  large salad
  • Prep time: 30 Minutes Cook time: 0 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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  • 2 heads radicchio the round Verona type
  • ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano freshly grated
For the Dressing
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise make your own or use a good quality prepared one
  • 4 anchovies in olive oil, finely chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cloves garlic
For the Croutons
  • 3 cups crusty bread, like foccacia or sourdough or baguette
  • 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage and rosemary chopped fine
For the Radicchio
Break apart the radicchio into about 2-inch pieces and soak in ice water for two hours.
Drain, spin well in salad spinner and place in large salad bowl to toss.
For the Dressing
Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
For the Croutons
Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Add the oil, and put the cubes of bread into the skillet. Toss around or stir with a wooden spoon till toasted. Add the herbs and cool.
Pile the dressed radicchio onto a platter, sprinkle generously with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, top with the croutons, and serve immediately.
  • Tips to save time:
  • Get the radicchio in to soak early.
  • Make the salad dressing and refrigerate.
  • Make the croutons.
  • Assemble last minute.
Tammy | Chez Nous
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