Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roasted Apples and Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese


Last March Leo and I took a mini-vacation in Portsmouth. I heartily recommend a visit to this pretty little city off-season, when, even though the crowds are nonexistent, hordes of people seem to descend on the restaurants in the evenings, and thus the restaurants exist and the food is fine, the walks are bracing and full of sea-air, and the oysters are wonderful. We ate one night at Jumpin’ Jays, whose claim to fame is really fresh fish and wonderfully prepared. I recommend the Buck a Shuck oysters, and order the Malpeques, if you can. The fish was wonderful, but so was a roasted pear and radicchio salad with blue cheese.

Roasted Apple & Radicchio Salad with Blue Cheese

When it arrived, it didn’t look like a salad in the dim light, but I dug in, and that baseball sized thing turned out to be the radicchio packed with pan roasted pumpkin seeds, blue cheese, dried cranberries, with rosemary in a balsamic and port reduction, nestled against the pears, which were candy, so sweet, and somehow, peculiarly, dry, as though they had been made from dried pears, but not quite – too tasty for that, with some juice and bulk.


When we returned from the little trip, I called Jumpin’ Jays and talked to Jason, the chef, who very kindly told me how these were made: A caramel is made, by melting brown sugar and butter in a heavy pan, and the pears – halved and cored – are pan roasted in this caramel. This is a very hot operation, and you have to keep moving the pan and moving the pears “Move, move, move,” exhorted Jason. For the radicchio part, the radicchio is shredded very fine, then mixed with the pepitos – pumpkin seeds that are pan roasted with a little peanut oil, then seasoned with salt and pepper and a little cayenne – and some softened blue cheese, and dried cranberries. “Mash this mixture together with your hands, and form them into mounds the size of hardballs,” said Jason. Then you arrange each on an individual plate with two pear halves, and drizzle with a port and balsamic reduction.

Now I filed this recipe away to try in late summer when pears and radicchio were in season. Of course I forgot it until now, but I think it would be a really nice, and festive Thanksgiving salad. Pears have gone by, but I could use apples instead of pears, and maple syrup instead of brown sugar. Pumpkin seeds could conceivably be local, and definitely local are blue cheese and cranberries – did you know we have Vermont cranberries, even dried and sweetened ones? Port and balsamic? You can get balsamic vinegar that is locally aged by Shrewsbury’s Gordon Pond at the Co-op. And the localvore challenge allows you to include 3 wildcards of non-local ingredients and the Marco Polo exceptions of salt, pepper, and spices. I could almost consider those Marco Polos. By a stretch. And I already have them in-house.

1 comment:

Geri said...

When examined solely for its antioxidant capabilities, radiccio is an antioxidant powerhouse compared to other fruits and vegetables.