Warm Chicory Salad with Pears and Hazelnuts
Traditional medicine practitioners have always advocated a spring tonic of bitter greens as a way to detoxify the body and banish the winter doldrums. Here is a delicious way to get your spring greens on the plate and maybe just earn some accolades in the process. This salad balances the bitterness of the greens with sweetness and texture from the pears and the nutty flavor and crunch of hazelnuts.
Yield: 4 portions
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, or to taste
- 2/3 cup + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- salt/fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 Tbs fresh chervil, dill and/or parsley, minced
- 1 large head leafy chicory, like Castel Franco
- 1 large, firm but ripe pear (should give a little at the stem, but not be soft)
- 1/4 cup toasted, blanched hazelnuts (instructions below)
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Make the dressing and set it aside. I like a mixture of herbs, but you can choose just one. Fresh chervil is my favorite winter/spring finishing herb for the way its light freshness perks everything up.
Put the blanched hazelnuts onto a baking sheet or the tray of your toaster oven. Toast at 325° until they are lightly browned and smell very fragrant. This can take as little as 4 - 5 minutes. Roll them around on the sheet to brown them evenly.
Cut the chicory head into 4 quarters, but keep them intact. Wash each quarter carefully and shake off excess water. Heat a heavy sauté pan or cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a tiny coating of olive oil to prevent sticking. While the pan is heating, cut the pear into thin slices and place them flat in the hot pan. Let them brown slightly on each side. This will bring out their sweetness and soften them gently. Lift the pears out and set them aside. Add the thinly sliced red onions and wilt them gently with a tiny bit more oil. (You do not want them oily). Remove the onions.
Add a tiny bit more olive oil to the pan. Lay each of the chicory quarters on one of its cut sides and let it sear slightly. Then turn it over and lightly toast the other side.
Dress the plate with a small amount of the dressing. Lay the chicory quarter on the plate. Surround with pear slices and garnish with the onions. Drizzle a small amount of dressing over the chicory. Top all with the hazelnuts. Serve warm.
This salad also works well with apples and almonds. You can vary the dressing by using all rice vinegar in place of the orange juice. The dressing needs to be a little sweet to balance the bold chicory flavor.