A Delectable Pairing of Bitter and Sweet Flavours on One Plate. This Grapefruit Salad Is Fuss-Free to Prepare, The Colours Are Stunning and Would Definitely Get Guests Talking Around the Table. Also Perfect for Any Spring or Summer Barbeques and Informal Catch Ups.
What Is Radicchio?
A striking purple-red leafy vegetable, I first discovered radicchio in mixed salad leaves. It definitely adds more crunch and colour to the usual green salad mixes. Being a part of the chicory family, radicchio is often called Italian chicory as it is commonly used in Italian cooking including radicchio salad, stews, pizza toppings and pasta.
I love its bold, peppery flavours and is fantastic raw or cooked (of course grilled is my favourite!) Generally available all year round but best found at the end of winter and through the spring/summer.
When picking radicchio, look for a compact head with firm leaves and little to no browning or wilting. It can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.
Is Radicchio The Same As Red Cabbage?
Although radicchio may resemble a red cabbage on the outside, they are quite different vegetables.
Radicchio is lighter with thinner leaves and more tender. Whilst red cabbage has a waxy finish with firmer compact leaves and a lot more heavy to hold. They are not vegetables that can be interchanged in recipes so don’t get them mixed up at the grocer’s!
If you can’t find radicchio and would like similar peppery tastes in salads, try white witloof chicory (also known as Belgian endive), green curly endive or watercress.
How Do You Make Radicchio Not Bitter?
I do have a soft spot for combining bittersweet vegetables with other flavours in my salads – often counterbalances any ingredient that is too sweet or tart. And I particularly love bites of bold and peppery flavours to the usual stock standard green salad. But for some, the bitter taste may be a bit too much. So how do you mellow out the bitterness of radicchio salad?
Soak in very cold water. Say what? Yes, for raw radicchio the best way to mellow the bitterness is to soak small cut leaves into chilled water. The longer you soak, the more bitter compounds are released. If you like to retain most of the bitter flavours, a quick rinse will do.
Another popular method to take out the bite in radicchio is to cook it. There are many ways you can do this. In this recipe we are grilling the radicchio but you can also roast or braise it. Whichever way, the bitterness becomes more mellow and even takes on a slightly sweeter taste.
What Is the Difference Between Yellow Grapefruit and Ruby Grapefruit?
In this radicchio and baby gem lettuce salad, I’ve chosen two citrus fruits, ruby grapefruit and oranges, to counterbalance the charred, smokey and bitter flavours.
Why ruby grapefruit you may ask? First of all is for it’s stunning colour. Yellow grapefruit has a more subdued pale yellow flesh and clear juice whilst ruby grapefruit has a deep reddish colour flesh and juice. The vibrant colour is so beautiful in any grapefruit salad recipe.
Secondly, for its delicious sweetness. Ruby grapefruit has a greater balance between sugar and acidity compared to the more common yellow grapefruit, which is definitely known for its tartness.
Why I Love Radicchio, Baby Gem, Orange and Ruby Grapefruit Salad
This appetising salad came about when we were having guests around for wood fire paella. I wanted something fresh to help cut through the richness of the smoky rice and seafood but also stunning in presentation so that the salad would hold its own next to the colourful paella. A green salad would have just disappeared into the background.
In this recipe I wanted every element to be showcased and have its own place. No more tiny pieces lost in the melody. Both grilled radicchio and baby gem lettuces are cut into sizable wedges with lots of nooks and crannies to capture the sweet citrus juices and vinaigrette.
Whilst fruit sliced into wheels and highlighted amongst the grilled leaves and then finally topped with maple glazed walnuts to add crunch. All ingredients with their special roles to play.
Combining the bitter and sweetness of radicchio with citrus fruits definitely complimented the paella. It was a beautiful harmony of flavours and I think my guests agreed when there was nothing left at the end of the night!
How to Make Radicchio, Baby Gem, Orange and Ruby Grapefruit Salad
Grilling Radicchio and Baby Gem Lettuce
Grilled salad leaves? Sounds a bit odd, hey? But for radicchio and baby gem lettuce, it’s not. Grilling them both changes the flavour, adding beautiful depth to the dish. As for the radicchio, it mellows the bitterness that it is known for and will impart a roasted sweetness that I love.
First we prepare the radicchio by cutting the head in half lengthwise and then into thirds, leaving the cores intact. Generously brush the cut sides with extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Heat a griddle pan (or barbeque) to high heat and grill cut-side down, turn occasionally over 5-7 minutes, or until charred. Remove from the pan and place on a platter.
For baby gem lettuce, cut them in half lengthwise and lightly brush cut side with extra virgin olive oil. With the heated griddle pan, grill for 2-3 mins or until charred but still holding shape. Remove from the pan and place on a platter.
Cutting Oranges and Ruby Grapefruit
For this salad, I like to cut the fruit into wheels. This is the same process for oranges and grapefruit.
Make sure you have a very sharp knife otherwise you will squish the fruit and release too much juice.
First slice both ends of the fruit and then hold the fruit on its base. Cutting a downward motion, remove all the peel. Then turn the fruit on its side and cut into 0.5 cm thick rounds. Place aside ready for assembly.
Thinly slice half a red onion in half moons. Place aside ready for assembly.
How to Make Maple Glazed Walnuts
I found this a very quick and easy way to glaze walnuts.
Over medium-high heat, add walnuts, maple syrup and a pinch of salt in a flat pan and roast. Stir frequently until syrup is caramelized and walnuts have gained a golden colour. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and spread over tray lined with baking paper. Let them to fully cool before using in the salad.
You can definitely make the walnuts in advance and store in an airtight container. Just try not to eat them all before serving! (That is always my problem so I normally double the quantity in the recipe and made a larger batch for snacking. No one misses out this way!)
How to Make the Citrus Vinaigrette
A light vinaigrette using orange and lemon juice to create a balance between all the flavours. Mix all ingredients well – olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
How to Assemble the Salad
Very simple layering would be perfect to showcase all the elements. Using a large round serving platter, layer grilled radicchio and baby gem lettuce first then add the wheels of ruby grapefruit and oranges in between the grilled salad leaves. Scatter thinly sliced red onions and maple glazed walnuts on top. To serve, drizzle citrus vinaigrette across the salad.
I really did fall in love with this radicchio salad with oranges and grapefruit for the delightful flavours and colours. I feel it will pair well with not only paella but other delicious grilled meats and fish as the citrus flavours helps add zing and sweetness to the meal. Fuss-free and not overly complicated salad to prepare yet striking to serve. Love to hear your thoughts after you have tried it!
More Summer Salad Recipes:
Radicchio, Baby Gem, Orange and Ruby Grapefruit Salad
- Cut the radicchio in half lengthwise and then into thirds, leaving the cores intact. With a basting brush, brush the cut sides with extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper. On a grill pan on medium heat, place the radicchio cut-side down, turn occasionally over 5-7 minutes, or until charred. Remove from the pan and place on a platter.
- Repeat similar with baby gem lettuce. Cut into quarters and grill for 2-3 minutes.
- Slice both ruby grapefruit and oranges at both ends of the fruit and then hold the fruit on its base. Using a downward motion with knife remove the peel.
- Then turn the fruit on its side and cut into 0.5 cm thick rounds.
- Thinly slice half a red onion.
- Add walnuts, maple syrup and a pinch of salt in a small fry pan and fry over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until syrup is caramelized and walnuts have gained a golden colour. Approximately will take about 2-3 minutes. Remove from fry pan and spread over a sheet pan lined with baking paper. Let them to fully cool before assembly.
- Mix all ingredients well - olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Layer grilled radicchio and baby gem lettuce first on a large serving platter.
- Then add ruby grapefruit and oranges in between the salad leaves.
- Scatter red onion and maple glazed walnuts.
- To serve, drizzle citrus vinaigrette.
- Pairs well with paella, grilled meats and fish as the citrus flavours helps add zing and sweetness to the meal.
- If you can’t find ruby grapefruit, you can substitute for yellow grapefruit. The overall taste will be slightly more tart than sweet.
- Remove walnuts if prefer nut-free salad.