Radicchio Salad with Melted Cheese Toasts

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As Mark Peel and I were walking around the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market one January day, we saw the most beautiful radicchio I have ever seen. Don’t get me wrong; I love the “rosso precoce” and its cousin, the shorter-leaved “rosso tanivo.” But for the bunched radicchio, instead of the “di Chioggia” we are so used to, Mark chose the “variegato di Castelfranco,” shaped like a Boston lettuce. With its light green, cream-colored leaves variegated with the red-purple of radicchio, it is spectacularly elegant.

Ingredients

  • 2 heads radicchio, preferably variegato di Castelfranco, washed, drained upside down
  • 2 clementines
  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 cipolline or other sweet onions, halved and cut crosswise into -inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
  • fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ pound melting cheese, such as Italian fontina
  • 8 to 12 slices bread, ¼ inch thick, diagonally cut from a baguette
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme flowers or leaves, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Separate the leaves of the radicchio and put them in a salad bowl.

Peel the clementines and lemons down to the flesh. Cut off the tops and bottoms and, holding the fruit over a bowl, cut out the sections between the membranes, saving any juices. Put the segments in the bowl. Squeeze all the trimmings and collect that juice as well. Add the cipolline to the citrus segments.

Make a dressing of the collected citrus juices, olive oil, nut oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cipolline and the citrus sections and toss together.

Slice the cheese and arrange on the slices of bread. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Pour the dressed citrus and onion over the radicchio and toss well. Sprinkle with the thyme flowers, salt, and pepper. Serve the salad with the hot cheese toasts.

Never be afraid to use your fingers; they are the most accurate tool.

Mark Peel

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