Imaginative salad arrives just in time for hot weather

Entertaining: A variety of textures and tastes can enliven this summer meal.

June 06, 1999|By BETTY ROSBOTTOM | BETTY ROSBOTTOM,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Recently I attended the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, a group of cooking teachers, food writers, chefs and others involved in the world of food. This year the meeting was held in Phoenix, and I, like others, couldn't wait to try some of the town's well-known restaurants. Although I dined in several of the myriad Southwestern establishments there, it was a small Italian spot that I liked most.

At Pizzeria Bianco, in downtown Phoenix, I watched the chef work in front of a wood-fired oven and pull out paper-thin pizzas with all manner of inventive toppings. However, of the dishes I sampled there, it was a delectable salad of thinly sliced fennel, julienne radicchio, Italian parsley sprigs and pink grapefruit segments, all tossed in lemon juice, that I remember best.

What impressed me about this salad was the imaginative combination of flavors and textures and its satisfying yet ethereally light taste. The assertive fennel and radicchio seemed perfectly paired with crisp Italian parsley and refreshing bites of grapefruit. The colors were enticing as well; the celadon-green fennel, the rich wine-colored radicchio, the emerald-green parsley and the deep pink grapefruit made an appealing sight.

At home, I couldn't wait to try this creation and prepared it for lunch for two of my culinary assistants, both of whom ate the dish with gusto. I served the salad along with artichokes and a warm crispy baguette. Since then, I've made it as a side dish for grilled salmon and used it as an accompaniment to watercress soup.

With warm weather here, this light salad would be ideal to serve when entertaining during the summer months. It can be assembled an hour ahead and needs only to be tossed with lemon juice and a touch of olive oil before serving. You could serve the salad as a first course, offer it as a side dish or make it the main course along with a light pizza. And the following recipe, which serves four, can easily be doubled or tripled for large groups.

Fennel, Radicchio and Pink Grapefruit Salad

Makes 4 servings as side salad

2 medium fennel bulbs

1 small head radicchio

1 large pink grapefruit

1/2 cup Italian (flat-leaf) parsley sprigs, loosely packed, cleaned and patted dry

2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Cut off and discard stalks and lacy leaves from fennel bulbs. Cut bulbs in half lengthwise and then cut out and discard tough triangular cores from each half. Cut each half, crosswise, into thin slices. Slice enough fennel to make 2 cups. (Save extra fennel for another use.)

Bring 1 quart water to boil in saucepan. Add fennel and cook only 45 seconds. Drain into sieve or colander and pat dry. (This quick blanching will soften fennel.) Place fennel in salad bowl and set aside.

Halve radicchio and slice into thin julienne strips. Slice enough to make 3/4 cup packed and add to bowl with fennel.

With sharp knife, remove all skin and membranes from outside of grapefruit. Slice segments from grapefruit, cutting between membranes. Cut each segment in half crosswise and add to salad bowl along with parsley sprigs. (Salad can be prepared 1 hour ahead to this point. Leave at cool room temperature or cover and refrigerate and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

When ready to serve, toss salad with lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed. Mound salad on each of four salad plates.

Pub Date: 06/06/99

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