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Fennel and Radicchio Salad with White Beans, Hazelnuts and Bacon

May 24, 2013 | By | Reply More

fennel and radicchio salad

A very pretty fennel and radicchio salad

What is it about Spring that makes me feel like suddenly it’s time to eat something with at least the illusion of being a little lighter?

All winter, I’ve been overdosing on comfort foods like hearty stews, grown-up homemade mac-n-cheese, and my husband’s famous brisket and homemade pizza.  Then, with my fuzzy slippers, I would shuffle contentedly into the other room where I’d park myself in front of the fireplace and cozy up with whichever one of our cats was feeling amorous, or at least didn’t bite me.

Winter is a wonderfully relaxing time for me.  All I need to do is keep the inside of the house clean and do laundry every so often.  There’s no garden to tend, fresh veggies to can and freeze, window boxes to plant, or hummingbirds to feed.

Now that I’m super busy with yard work, and this year, packing and moving to a new home, I feel the need for meals that aren’t on the stove all day and don’t involve root vegetables mashed with butter and heavy cream.  Not one to deprive myself of pleasure – I’m just as self-indulgent and hedonistic as always – deliciousness is my first requirement.

Last night, Rob and I enjoyed what’s becoming a rarity:  a free evening and most likely one of the last we’re going to enjoy on this patio at this house.

So, we had this substantial fennel and radicchio salad washed down with a couple of cold beers for a pleasant buzz that we probably shouldn’t have messed with.  Because we haven’t “learned our lesson” – that’s for old people – we finished with a glass of bourbon and a toast to handing our beloved home off to nice people who will create new memories.

This recipe is adapted from the Racho Gordo Heirloom Beans cookbook by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington.  It calls for mayacoba beans, but because this time I didn’t have them on hand, I substituted cannellini.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with White Beans, Hazelnuts and Bacon

Ingredients (Serves 4 as a main course):

3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/2 small shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

4 Tbsp of your best extra-virgin olive oil (or cut with half hazelnut oil, if you’d like!)

2 heads radicchio

1 1/2 cups cooked mayacoba or cannellini beans (preferably cooked from dry)

6 slices good quality bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler for serving

fennel and radicchio salad

Roasted Fennel

Step One:

3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cut each fennel bulb in half lengthwise and into thin slices.  Toss them with the olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper.  Place slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.  On another baking sheet, scatter the hazelnuts.  Put both sheets in the oven and bake for about ten minutes, but keep an eye on the hazelnuts so they don’t burn.  The fennel should be soft and a little brown.  Remove the nuts to a bowl to cool and set fennel aside.

Step Two:

fennel and radicchio salad

“Peeling” Hazelnuts

When the hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel and, using the palm of one hand, roll them gently back and forth on your counter to loosen and remove the brown, papery skins.  You can also just roll each nut between your fingers individually, but it’s OK if some skin persists.  Coarsely chop the nuts.

Step Three:

1/2 small shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

4 Tbsp of your best extra-virgin olive oil (or cut with half hazelnut oil, if you’d like!)

If I were you, I’d make a double batch of this delicious, basic dressing for fresh green salads later.  Besides, do you really want to throw away half of a shallot?

Now, make your dressing.  In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.  Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking continuously, until the dressing comes together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step Four:

2 heads radicchio

1 1/2 cups cooked mayacoba or cannellini beans (preferably cooked from dry)

6 slices good quality bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler for serving

fennel and radicchio saladSlice each head of radicchio in half lengthwise, and cut the core from each half.  Slice into 1/2-inch thick ribbons.  In a large bowl, toss together the radicchio and reserved fennel.  Add the beans, hazelnuts, and bacon.  Drizzle on the dressing, tossing gently, and season once more with salt and pepper to taste.  Scatter the Parmesan shavings over the top.

Serve immediately with extra Parmesan to pass around and good, crusty French bread.

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Category: Food, General, Main Dishes, Spring

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