Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leaf it to the Grill

I had a grilled Caesar salad recently at Sonoma's El Dorado Kitchen restaurant. The warm grilled romaine reminded me of just how much I love grilled lettuces, and jogged in my brain a dish I like to make this time of year when endive and radicchio are abundant at the farmers market. Grilling these leafy bundles mellows out their bitterness, and makes for a delicious winter salad. The dish as I make it was something I learned when I first moved to the Bay Area and was on a date (with whom? I don't exactly remember....) at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach Italian neighborhood. The restaurant no longer exists, but thankfully, the execution of this dish is so simple that it was easy to recreate. The key to its tastiness is in the finish: a drizzle of balsamic reduction on top of the charred, wilted leaves - voila! Taste explosion.

Grilled Endive and Radicchio with Balsamic Reduction
  • Heads of Belgian endive, split lengthwise*
  • Heads of radicchio, quartered*
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar
*Note: When slicing the heads of the endive and radicchio, be sure to leave the stem end intact so that the leaves don't dismantle themselves.

Brush the sliced endive and radicchio with a light coat of olive oil; season with salt. Place face down on a very hot oiled grill (or grill pan on the stove top). Cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side, or until the face is properly charred and the leaves have started to wilt. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve while warm.

To make a balsamic reduction, slowly simmer balsamic vinegar in a sucepan until it has reduced by half, thickens and becomes a sweet syrup. For this recipe, you don't need much - start with perhaps 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and increase/decrease depending on the amount of endive and radicchio you are preparing.

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