radicchio, apple and pear salad

A few people have asked me what I thought of the food on the cruise we took and I admit, I’ve been dodging the question. If there could be a tiny, unfortunate thing at making a craft of getting food to taste the exact way you wish it to in your own kitchen, it would definitely be that the food outside it never tastes as good as it once did — especially food at a week long all-you-can-eat-buffet. Given, understandably, that nobody wants to eat their spaghetti while you espouse on all of the techniques the kitchen could have employed to avoid gumminess, like I said, I mostly shut up.

two heads of radicchio
radicchio, leaves

I’ll tell you this, though — the salad bar delighted me. Seriously, guys, this is what counts as a good time these days: salad. I just love being able to plop this, that and the other on a bed of lettuce — real ones, like arugula and butter lettuce and freaking radicchio, people. They had it out every night.

torn radicchio leaves, piled

mayo, hand whisked

I also came to realize on the trip that as much as I love a light, delicate vinaigrette with an equally delicate pile of greens, the busier and crunchier my salad gets, the richer and creamier I want my dressing — and I don’t mean suspiciously creamy, like those bottled “ranch” variants. So when I got home with all of these salad thoughts on my mind and had about 15 minutes to prepare a Passover seder for 8.5 (the .5 really just licked the Hagaddah) I remembered (yes, another) glorious salad recipe from Sunday Suppers that seemed right up my alley.

the mess builds

It sounds simple — leafy things, sliced fruit and a creamy dressing — but it is so much more — bitter, bitter radicchio with slivers of fresh mint, tart sliced apples, sweet and crisp sliced pears, and a dressing that so ridiculously thick and rich — hand-whisked mayonnaise, buttermilk and crème fraîche will do that, you know? — it’s the perfect contrast to the rest of the salad, rich, indulgent and almost luxurious. These things, we like them.

radicchio apple and pear salad

One year ago: Artichoke Olive Crostini
Two years ago: Spring Panzanella
Three years ago: Arugula Cranberry Bean and Artichoke Salad

Radicchio, Apple and Pear Salad
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1 extra-large egg yolk (I used one large and a smidgen of another)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (suggested for its neutrality; I used half olive oil but suggest you do so sparingly as the olive flavor becomes very pronounced)
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1 to 2 lemons, for juicing
1/4 cup crème fraîche (did you know you can make your own?)
1/4 cup buttermilk (did you know you can make your own?)
2 apples, firm, crisp and juicy
2 pears, Asian or your favorite variety
2 heads radicchio
2 tablespoons sliced mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the egg yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Begin whisking in the grapeseed oli drop by drop, as slowly as you can bear. (I find having a second person dripping it in makes it easier.) Continue in this manner until the mixture begins to thicken.Once the mayo has emulsified, you can add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream (however, as a beginner, I still take it very slowly), whisking all the time. Arm getting tired? Try to murmur “jiggle-free upper arms… sleeveless sundresses…” to yourself. I find it helps.

Combine the shallot, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and buttermilk. Gently whisk this mixture into the mayonnaise, and taste for balance and seasoning.

Slice the apples and pears away from the core. Cut into 1/8-inch thick slices (I went even thinner, using a mandoline) and place them in a large salad bowl. Tear the radicchio into bite-sized pieces and add to the salad bowl. Toss salad with half of dressing (Goin suggests three-fourths but I found this to make an overly-creamy salad; you can always add more) and season with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more dressing if necessary.

Transfer to a platter (chilled, if you’re being fancy) and scatter the mint and parsley on top.

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90 comments on radicchio, apple and pear salad

  1. Danielle

    Salad looks lovely, but no picture of Jacob? I feel, somewhat cheated. I’m really not the kid friendly person, but he’s too cute. Sunday Suppers is a wonderful book. I wish she’d write another.

  2. Kathy in Madison

    I hear you, Deb; my boyfriend and I experienced an all-inclusive resort for the first time last fall, and the mere sight of all the rich, heavy food offered at every restaurant caused me to heap my plate high (some days, admittedly) with crunchy, raw, green things. Thanks for this good-lookin’ recipe and your honest opinion of the cruise food.

  3. I was just looking for some salad dressing inspiration, thank you :) (and I agree with you on cruise food, it’s only one of the reasons I’ll never do it again though!)

  4. Susan

    I’m with you, too, Deb! I usually enjoy the endless cut-up fresh fruit and multiple choices at the salad bar way more than the heavier entrees and sides at these types of places. There are days I wish I had the cut-up fruit fairy living in my kitchen so that I could get up every morning to a variety of fruits!

    This salad looks scrumptious. I hope you and your family are enjoying the glorious warm (dry) weather on the East Coast this weekend!

  5. Looks delicious! I might just have to try both that AND the warm mushroom salad this week. With the beautiful weather hitting our area lately, I’m on a salad bender. 10 years ago I would’ve been on a real bender, but these days I’ve relegated myself to gourmet lettuces instead of gourmet liquor:)

  6. We have been going back to them same All-Inclusive for years. Yes, and it is because of the food. It isn’t perfect, but better than any other resort we have ever tried. Would have never dreamed to vacation like this before kids. And I agree with you that the salad bar is always a wonderful option (homemade is the best!).

  7. I’m so in love with radicchio, it’s radicculous (bad pun alert – groan). I started a new job recently, and there’s a cafe nearby with the most amazing salad bar. It makes me very happy.

  8. David L. just posted this on his FB page, and I have to say Deb, photo #2 looks like the work a Dutch Master. Are you sure you aren’t Deb Vermeer? It’s just gorgeous. The color… the light! And I don’t even like radicchio.
    ;) Beautiful as always

  9. tj

    …Oh, this looks delish Miss Smitten! :o)

    …Thank you for sharing, as always! And here’s wishing you and yours a joyous and blessed Easter Sunday!

  10. I agree that not all cruise food is particularly inviting and buffets in general always make me reach for a salad plate before anything else but have you ever tried Royal Caribbean? It’s the only cruise line my family will sail on and the food at sit-down dinner is mouth-watering good. My mom and I got into the unfortunate-for-our-hips-but-great-for-our-stomachs habit of getting multiple desserts each night just so we could taste everything. If you’re ever looking to cruise again, I highly recommend them. (I am not associated with them in any way whatsoever.) I’ve never made my own dressing but your pictures and description make me want to make this tonight! We’ll see what happens!

  11. Hey Deb, I wondered if you were somehow able to read my mind because recently, I’ve been completely addicted to radicchio and longing for a great salad recipe for it so a big thank you on my part. Also Michaela is right, your photos really are works of art. Happy Easter!

  12. tj

    …I apologize Deb, I didn’t think before posting that you don’t acknowledge the Easter holiday. I came back to delete my comment but couldn’t…so sorry. :o/

    1. deb

      tj — I acknowledge! I even had a Peep this weekend. :) Thank you, and hope you had a nice holiday too.

      Half assed — I try to contrast it. Apple, pear and a creamy dressing do a lot to cancel out the bitterness. But it’s still a bitter salad and if radicchio is not for you, it may not be the cure.

  13. I just came back from Turin and the thing that impressed me most, foodwise, were the Italian salads. Radicchio, endive, raw fennel – in each and every restaurant the salads were fabulous. My mother and I both swore that as soon as we got home we would start adding fennel to salads!

  14. Who would’ve thought a cruise ship could inspire (in a way) such a delicious-looking and fresh salad as this?! Times must be a-changing (says someone who’s never been on a cruise, but still, I’ve heard stories…)

  15. Let me say it for you, Deb. There’s always a picture of Jacob, sometimes you just have to click for it.

    I always feel so accomplished after making my own mayonnaise. When it’s hand whipped that means it’s calorie free, right?

  16. Deb, this salad looks scrumptious….

    I wanted to mention, though – years ago I made a radicchio salad from the book Secrets of Success, that was unbelievably tasty: the “secret” in this case was to prepare the salad over a warm pan, on the stove top. You use just enough heat to barely warm the radicchio, which changes its texture ever so slightly. I made it again and again later.

    If you don’t have the book and by any change would like to see the recipe, I can type it and send to you by email – just let me know….

  17. Sally

    You have excellent timing – I had an AMAZING radicchio salad last night at Ten Tables in JP (Boston). It wasa citrus panna cotta on the side with a salad of radicchio, marcona almonds, big coarse chunks of parigiano reggiano, and a very tiny bit of lemon vinaigrette. It was DELICOUS.

  18. Karen

    Completely agree with you about cruise food after a recent cruise. It wasn’t horrible, some of it was okay, but for me it’s boring eating pretty much the same stuff day after day. And I was grateful for a week of not doing dishes. But I absolutely do not get how people rave about cruise food.

  19. Christina

    I get very excited about lettuce-free, crunchy salads with interesting dressings. I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for another inspiring recipe. Love you and your adorable boy!

  20. My husband and i jut went away over night for my birthday and we had the same problem with the food. For example spinach salad with bacon dressing sounded so intriguing until it arrived. While I applaud their frugalness using rendered bacon fat as the oil in a dressing it not a great idea. Your salad looks perfect.


  21. JanetP

    This sounds delicious! I may wait until fall, when apples and pears are in season. Kudos to you for whisking mayo by hand, encourages me to give it a try.

    Am I wrong for wanting to see Jacob’s head next to those 2 heads of radicchio? You have only yourself to blame — think of it as Giant Tub o’Crisco, Take 2.

  22. We loved our cruise, and the food, and it was even on c*rn*v*l. We *never* ate at the buffet. Why bother with troughing when the dining room made gorgeous fish and vegetable dishes for us every night. I actually lost weight on my cruise, simply because I wasn’t gorged on carbs all the time, and basically ate fresh fruit, salad, veggies and fish. I never understand why anyone even bothers with the troughing – great way to get dystenary on a ship, and the food on a buffet line will always always always be sub-par.

  23. I totally agree with you about the dressing needing to be thicker with crunchier ingredients. Thankfully I just discovered I love Asian pears (I like the flavor of other pears, but not the texture) and I have 2 half eaten pears (not my fault) sitting in my fridge. After all the gluttony of today, I know what’s for lunch tomorrow.

    OH and I made you’re butterscotch yesterday and it was AMAZING. Like I had to fight people off with a spoon to make sure there was any left.

  24. Kate

    Looks amazing… I hate, hate, hate to say this, but the Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP is basically my favorite salad dressing/vegetable dip ever. I cannot stand Goopy Paltrow and her snooty pretensions, but if Smitten ever wants to make an all-vegetable salad dressing that is surprisingly creamy, I’d highly reccomend this one.

    1. deb

      Kate — You’re funny. I’ll check it out. I think I watched her take the backbone out of a chicken once for a “quick weeknight meal”. She’s something else!

  25. I feel you on that whole eating out, buffet-all-week thing. My husband gets tired of my never-ending critique of restaurant food too – I try to tone it down, but sometimes, those thoughts (this dish is over-salted, if only they’d seared the meat at a higher temp, if they would ever pay attention to the side dishes enough, maybe we’d get fresh, flavorful, not over-cooked vegetables…etc, etc etc) just exit my mouth before I realize what’s happened! To be fair, I do the same to my own cooking when I find it less-than-ideal. About this salad, though? Yum. It sounds deliciously crisp, bitter, creamy, I could so go for something like this.

  26. bunne

    I just had to let you know. We had a real “smitten” kind of weekend here. I made the Potatoes Romesco and the St. Louis (Ooey) Gooey Butter Cake. I am addicted to the romesco sauce and have you to blame. I could not find anchos, so I subbed the chilis that I’d grown and dried myself. It was probably much spicier than yours, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. The whole toasted nut, fried bread thing..oh my…and then you add olive oil. Girl, you have changed my world. And the cake. Well, anything called butter cake can’t be bad, but this was sublime. Thanks. This salad is getting saved. I’m presently addicted to my apple cider vinaigrette with tahini. It’s filling my creamy salad dressing needs for the moment. Now, next week, we’ll just have to wait and see. I want to know how someone could take a pic of gnawed on fruit rinds and make it look attractive. It’s truly a gift.

  27. This salad looks divine. I’m a huge fan of sweet ‘n savory dishes, and this one seems like it’d hit the mark! Many thanks for also linking to your Make Your Own Buttermilk post…it drives me nuts to buy the full carton of buttermilk to only use a cup…then I rack my brain trying to come up with more recipes for which to use it! Great articles!

  28. I’ve got to say, my favorite way to make mayo is to throw the egg yolks in a mini food processor, slowly drizzle the oil in and let the machine do all the work. I know, lazy, but superb results every time. Sleeveless sundresses be damned! =)

    one of my favorite things to eat.
    The possibilities with salad are endless, and it annoys me when people just absolutely DESTROY a salad by slopping it in Ranch dressing!
    Come on people, Get a little bit of creative, and step out of your little comfort zone:]
    Salads are so soooo much more than just green leafy-ness!
    They are SO sooo gorgeous and colorful!

    Your photos are perfection!

    love love

  30. I have tried mayo a few times with little success. I will have to try again, because this salad is right up my alley! I love apples and pears in salads in general, but I have never had them with radicchio and I feel I must.

  31. a brilliant myriad of textures and flavors! the dressing looks satiny with the cremem fraiche. I’ve done a bit of research into creme fraiche. outside of the states, it is just fermented raw creme (aka old creme). Here in the states, there is so little raw creme. :( But it still taste dang good!

  32. Susan

    I haven’t used radicchio much, mostly to finely shredd it as an addition to a salad or slaw; I think it’s less bitter than the red cabbage that’s usually used. I’ve not tried making my own mayo, but I have successfully whipped a vinegarette into a cohesive dressing, so I’m sure I can do this! I can imagine that olive oil might be a bit of an overpowering flavor in mayo. I love fruit in salads. When it’s not tomato season, they are the perfect substitute in salads. Thanks for this, Deb.

    I like Paltro. I saw her do a recipe with Mario Battali on TV once and I think she just seemed awkward in his presence. I hate to see her given the Sandra Lee/Rachael Ray treatment (which so vicious and petty). I just concentrate on the recipe, not the personality.

  33. I did the cruise thing last fall and I don’t remember the salad bar much. I found that the food was often a little ho hum, though obviously plentiful. (And saved myself for the uber-chocolate day, whoops).

    I haven’t had mayo in years. Do you think this would work as well with a rich whole milk yogurt as the base?

  34. Asian pears and radichhio, what an amzing combo! I am always looking for something fun to do with Asian pears – I love the crispness.

    I have never been on a cruise, but your description totally made me giggle and brought me back to safari camp. For a week we were served an incredible buffet three times a day (plus tea) that I was tired of by day two, but I never got sick of the salad. We did joke, though, that being continually fed as we were, the camp was like a zoo of humans with animal spectators come to visit and point.

  35. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve thought to create a simple salad like this, but with such great flavours. I love that there is no cheese or nuts or anything to distract from the items used and the thick and creamy dressing seems like the perfect finish. Awesome!

  36. Where is Jacob? I know you didn’t toss him overboard… although I think those cute little chubby thighs might float. Did I somehow miss the picture?

  37. stacey

    When you first posted this it looked horrible to me and now it looks like the single thing I’d most like to eat in the entire freaking world. Goes to show what birth control pills do, going from your body being pumped with hormones mimicking pregnancy, to the next day being dropped on your butt with no hormones whatsoever… I swear it effects food cravings and metabolism more than anything else.

    1. deb

      Emily — Mine has been in for, uh, a week but I’m not sure I’d use it past today. Sniff test time!

      Sweets by Vicky — The trick is lots of apple and pear, for a sweet contrast. Radicchio is still very bitter, though, but balanced.

  38. emma

    I just have to say that EVERYTHING that comes out of that book is AMAZING, I’m so glad I bought it, and every time you make something from it you remind me to get back to it for the next recipe! thanks! can’t wait to try this one.

  39. Tracy

    Hi — I just made this salad…..and i LOVED the flavor of the dressing! However, the radicchio I had was too overpoweringly bitter for my tastes, even when mixed with the dressing. So I swapped it for some fresh arugula I had – which was great. My question — though the flavor of my dressing was amazing, I did not get a thick creamy mayo consistency….more a thin creamy dressing. What did I do wrong??? Not going slowly enough when adding the oil to the yolk???

  40. Goodness! This website, with it’s scrumptious food and recipes are screaming “make me!” Congrads on such magnificent work. Now, I have to get myself to making some of it! Fine, fine work Deb.


  41. Did I mention how devoted I was to you? This was awesome, and enough for maybe 10 people as a side dish with dinner! Hate to rub it in but radicchio is 79 cents a lb at my beloved SUPER KING market here in Los Angeles!

  42. Ada

    This was awesome! I was stuck with 2 giant heads of radicchio from my CSA box and I had a vague recollection that you’d done some sort of salad with radicchio… Anyway, this was the first time I ever made mayonnaise and it worked out wonderfully. I substituted 1/4 cup greek yogurt whisked with 1/4 water for the buttermilk/creme fraiche since I lacked both and was too lazy to go to the store, but the dressing is so good I’m tempted to drink it. I added pecan halves and I’m seriously considering adding chickpeas too. Thanks for another great salad!

  43. Maggie

    Wow! I too would drink this dressing if I had an ounce less dignity. I served this alongside your pumpkin and black bean soup. The contrast of the bright, sweet, bitter salad and the warm, rich, earthy soup was incredible. I’ve been eating it for lunch and dinner for days now. I also made your red wine chocolate cake for dessert. Whoa. Amazing.

  44. catherine

    Made this as a salad course for a dinner party. As clearly said in recipe- this is a bitter salad. Delicious if that’s your thing. In hindsight, I think it’s a better side than a salad on it’s own. that dressing though: amazing. I used immersion blender instead of whisking with success