Grilled Radicchio and Smoked Eel Salad

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This salad may seem esoteric, but it only follows the tradition of serving smoked meats (like duck) with the bitter greens of the endive family. Here, the bitter “edge” of the radicchio balances and complements the richness and smokiness of the eel. Smoked trout, sturgeon, or whitefish can be substituted, and if you don’t have radicchio, use Belgian endive, or a combination of endives. I have used cucumber flowers as a garnish, but you can use any herb flowers.

Ingredients

  • 4 heads radicchio
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 smoked eels or 12 to 16 small fillets of smoked eel
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup walnut or hazelnut oil
  • 4 tablespoons golden or whitefish caviar
  • 8 cucumber flowers

Method

Remove any blackened leaves from the outside of the radicchio. Cut the heads through the cores into sixths. Rub them with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and let marinate for 15 minutes.

Start a charcoal fire or heat the broiler.

Peel and grate the horseradish. Mix with the sour cream and set aside.

Skin the eels and cut 4-inch-long fillets from the bones. Pick over the parsley and trim off the stems. Rinse, spin dry, and set aside.

Mix the lemon juice with salt and pepper, and whisk in the nut oil. Grill or broil the radicchio for 2 minutes on each side and coat each piece very lightly with some of the dressing.

Put the radicchio pieces around the edge of a large platter. Crisscross the eel fillets on the center of the platter. Dress the parsley with the remaining dressing and put it around the eel. Spoon the horseradish sauce over the eel and place the caviar in teaspoon-size mounds on the cream. Put the cucumber flowers around the salad and serve.

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