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Spring, sliced and straight from the bowl

I try to keep things exciting for you. Really, I do. So far, in the lifespan of a single food blog, I’ve baked savory flans à la Dr. Seuss and had night sweats. I’ve declared a national emergency in the name of Brussels sprouts. I’ve made—and consumed—an heirloom egg nog containing five pints of ½-and-½ and four types of alcohol. Hell, I even went and got engaged. It’s a lot of work, frankly, and after so much excitement, sometimes a girl just wants to sit on the floor, shout Jeopardy! answers at the television screen, and eat the same dinner, seven nights in a row, straight from the serving bowl.

Lucky for both of us, dear reader, said serving bowl contained a very special salad, the sort of thing that would be worthy of note whether or not I had eaten it every evening for the past week—which I have, of course, and happily. In all truth, I’ve been eating variations on this supper at least twice a week for the past two months. In a show of my sickness, I’ve even forced it—and an evening of America’s Next Top Model—upon Shauna, who gamely gave both her hearty endorsement. I also dragged this salad schema to New York, where I risked my life to cross the threshold of Fairway on a Saturday afternoon for a few heads of endive and a package of feta. I may be a creature of habit, and an aggressive one at that, but I could do a lot worse, I think, than this spring slaw of sorts.

A cousin of the chopped salad, this sliced version is built on a four-point foundation: endive, cilantro, radishes, and feta. Though not initially an intuitive combination, together their sum is much greater than its parts, especially when a good, kicky vinaigrette is involved. The bitter earthiness of endive is subdued under a smear of soft, salty feta, and the watery crunch of a wafer-thin radish borrows brightness and character from whole cilantro leaves. Anything else is unnecessary, really, but I like to add radicchio for its color and bracing bite, and avocado for its creamy, mellow quality, which smoothes, softens, and unites the separate components into a delicious, seamless whole. Elegant and yet easy to eat while watching television, it makes for an entire meal, satisfying to both jaw and belly. I’d take this mess of sliced stuff over a simple green salad any day—or, really, actually, every day.

Sliced Spring Salad with Endive, Cilantro, Radishes, and Feta

This salad is a study in small variations: I rarely make it the same way twice, but it never strays far from its core ingredients. Aside from the endive, cilantro, radishes, and feta, the list of ingredients below is a rough sketch. I’ve been known to substitute fennel for radicchio, and occasionally I add a few nuggets of Parmigiano Reggiano, some meaty flakes of smoked trout, or even just a few canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried. The key, in any case, is the quality of the ingredients. For salads like this one, I like a Hass avocado that’s on the firm side of ripe: not hard, but solid, with just a hint of give—the potential for softness, you could say. I buy my endive on the small-to-medium size—no larger than 3 ounces each—with no bruises, brown spots, or other blemishes, and I look for tight, compact heads of radicchio, each about the size of a large man’s fist, with smooth, shiny leaves. I serve this salad on its own, as the center of the meal, with a hunk of crusty bread or a few roasted sweet potato “fries” on the side.

1 medium Belgian endive, root end trimmed away, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch strips
¼ head radicchio, sliced as thinly as possible
2-3 red radishes, sliced into paper-thin rounds
A small handful of cilantro leaves, from about 6-8 sprigs
Red Wine-Mustard Vinaigrette, to taste
¼ medium avocado, sliced into ¼-inch strips
1 walnut-size nub of French feta (or more), crumbled

Optional additions or substitutions:
½ medium fennel bulb, sliced as thinly as possible
A small handful of smoked trout, torn into bite-size pieces
A small handful of chickpeas
Parmigiano Reggiano, broken into small nubs

In a medium bowl, combine the endive, radicchio, radishes, and cilantro leaves. Toss with vinaigrette to taste. [I find that endive salads take a bit more dressing than plain green ones.] Add the avocado and feta. Serve straight from the bowl.

Yield: 1 serving.


Blogger foodiechickie said...

Gosh I love radishes and feta. I have a handful of cilantro at home I need to use up and I think this would be a lovely place for my cilantro to call home. I also adore Feta. I have not found French feta yet but I would love to. My favorite is Bulgarian. It is creamy and salty. Do you think pickled beets would go well in this? I must say again I do love your "love story". Such a happy story:)

1:25 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger tejal said...

It's a real relief for me to hear someone intelligent refer to an America's Next Top Model marathon. I've been terribly abashed about my enthusiasm for it...

2:01 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous ann said...

the more food blogs i read, the more i'm becoming jealous of you west coasters
spring sure does seem to, uh, spring forth earlier out there!
i'm still waiting for one simple sign of spring at the farmer's market that doesn't involve flowers
oh, and molly, i didn't say in the last thread, congrats!

6:27 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Nico said...

After you expressed your affection to those cute Brussels' sprouts, I'm glad to hear that you are expanding your love for Belgian greens :) Sounds like a refreshing salad. Even though I'm not very big on radishes, I plan to give this a try! (maybe replacing them by fennel ;)

8:31 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger kickpleat said...

wow, that sounds like the most perfect salad for these springy days! today was a horrible eating day and i think i'll make up for my lack of vegetables with this salad tommorrow! thanks for the inspiration to get with the weather :)

10:06 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Gourmetish said...

Sounds refreshing and innovative!

11:54 PM, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Jessie O. said...

Mmm. The salad looks delicious! So colourful and perhaps a kick of flavour! I shall try it.

6:37 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

I can vouch for this one -- just one serving of this crunchy endless wonder, with the slither of feta and bite of the radishes, left me wanting to eat it every day too. Molly, you are a wonder.

(The salad is far better than the Top Model thingy, but even reality tv seems more refined when you watch it with Molly.)

7:00 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Radishes and radicchio....I have to say, that's a bold combo. I find both to be a bit bitter and are nice compliments...but not 'stars' of a dish :) That said, it is a super pretty salad!

7:05 AM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous Nicolette said...

That looks gorgeous! Not only is cilantro my favorite herb, but now I have a real reason to take advantage of my parent's avocado tree!

7:29 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Leah said...

Oh, if only I liked cilantro! I'm one of the weird ones, who tries and tries to like it - when its mixed in well with other ingredients, I'm fine, but on its own or when it shines through too brightly, I can't do it. It overpowers everything, and not in a nice way! I'll give this a go anyway, perhaps toning down the cilantro a bit or finding a way to work around it.

BTW, Molly, I'm the Leah that Nicolette may have mentioned. She's the one who introduced me to your blog! I lent her my Cheeseboard Collective cookbook and watched her get some sourdough started this weekend. Can't wait to try!

10:00 AM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous caroline said...

That looks like a killer combination right there. Another good spring salad (which involves more work, but is worth it) is this asparagus, red potato, and salmon salad.

11:23 AM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous Grant said...

I just bought radishes at my local farmer's market this past Sunday and was wondering what to do with them. I love the idea of the feta and creamy mellow avocado counterbalancing the spicy kick of the radish.

11:33 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Dianka said...

I have to laugh because I do exactly the same thing you do- eat the same meal 7 nights in a row, give or take a couple ingredients. I love to cook and scheme up new things but nothing is more relaxing sometimes then making something you absolutely love the entire week! Your salad looks very refreshing.

Check out my new food blog!

11:40 AM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger tara said...

Okay I SHOULD be talking about this gorgeous salad. Instead, my mind is racing with wonder - does she like Jade? What are her thoughts on Mollie Sue getting sent home before the hapless Brooke? How is "looking like a trout" a good thing? Oh, AMNTM, what a guilty pleasure.

12:01 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Foodiechickie, I must admit that I'm pretty smitten with my love story too, as I am with the man who shares it with me. Thank you. But to get back to the food, as always, you are a woman of excellent taste! As for this Bulgarian feta business, I remember tasting some a while back, when my father bought a slab from one of his favorite spots in Oklahoma City, a small specialty shop called Mediterranean Imports. It was delicious. Those Bulgarians do know their feta! Today I tend to buy the French variety, though, because somewhere along the way I grew accustomed to its slight nuances in flavor. You would be fine, really, to use any feta you can find, as long as it is of good quality. And about those pickled beets, they're certainly worth a shot! There's only one way to find out...

Tejal, be not ashamed. As far as reality TV goes, it could be much worse - or so I've heard. Ahem.

Ann, we West Coasters do seem to have the market cornered on temperate weather - no doubt about that! But chin up: you have the Union Square Greenmarket, and year-round! Something tells me that they'll be trotting out springtime stuff there very, very soon, if not right this minute.

Nico, I have been showing a distinctly Belgian bias around here, haven't I? Too bad I don't have a waffle iron, or there would be gaufres - or a deep-fryer, for frites! I'd better get to work on that. In the meantime, yes, do try substituting fennel for the radishes. You can't go wrong, I promise.

Kickpleat, my dear neighbor to the north, you are very welcome. I know - there's something about a good, hearty salad that feels so virtuous. Plus, I have conveniently trained myself to look at avocados and instantly think, "Good fat, good fat!"

Thank you, Gourmetish!

Jessie O., I hope you find this as tasty as I do. Bon appétit!

Ah no, Shauna, YOU are a wonder. I was kicking myself all the way home for not having snatched a doggie bag of your roasted potatoes. Talk about endless wonder. Sigh.

Whereismymind, you're right - radicchio is a powerful flavor, especially if used in too great a quantity, and radishes, depending on the time of year, growing conditions, and color, can be quite peppery. If you're wary, try using fennel instead of radicchio, and look for organic red radishes that are on the small side. I have bought at least a dozen bunches in the past month or so, and they have all been very mild, maybe due to the cool weather. Good luck, if you do choose to give it a go...

Nicolette, you are one lucky woman! An avocado tree within reach? Oh my.

Leah, it's lovely to (formally) meet you! Nicolette has indeed told me about you, and that cookbook by the Cheese Board Collective sounds fantastic. In fact, I saw photographs of some awfully pretty boules inspired by its pages. But about your cilantro aversion, it's so strange - people who dislike the stuff feel so strongly about it that it must, I think, be a genetic thing. Don't fight it, I say. Maybe this just isn't your salad?

Caroline, asparagus, red potatoes, and salmon sound like a dreamy trio! Thank you for the tip.

Grant, I must have read your mind. When it comes to radish recipes, I deliver!

Dianka, when I love a dish, it takes a lot to get me tired of it, especially when it is this sort of thing - light in the belly, fresh, and crunchy. Glad to know that I'm not the only one!

Tara, I should have known that you would cut straight to the chase - and to Top Model! Alright, here's what I think: Jade is a little snot, and of the worst kind - manipulative, narcissistic, and flat-out mean. And she looks less and less attractive to me as the weeks go by - so hard and angular. Send her home already! Clearly, they have kept her on for ratings, period. As for Mollie Sue, now, that girl was my style. She had the looks, the aesthetic sense, and the intelligence to go farther than she did. But eh, she didn't really step up to the plate, so eh. And about this Trout Girl, I see glimmers of potential every now and then, but she can't seem to figure out what to do with herself. Oh Tara, my dear, you clearly know how to get me talking. xo

1:25 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger A Novelist said...

I wanted to say that I LOVE your blog. I too enjoy cooking and your blog makes me deliciously happy. I look forward to reading more. :)

1:42 PM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous nico said...

Molly, just add a Belgian (style) Golden Ale (something like Duvel), and you're set for a night of divine (or devilish?) pleasure. :)

7:19 PM, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Leah said...

I just have to add... it's so nice to know I'm not alone out here with my ANTM obsession. Although I must admit this is the first cycle I haven't watched since #2!

10:12 PM, April 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anna said...

Hey there, Molly. I was reading your cute engagment story when you mentioned Di Fara Pizza. As someone who might soon be moving to Brooklyn and is always on the lookout for neighhorhood food, i clicked on the link the check it out, which of course then found me examining the comments, which led to your young man's discussion of the best way to bake a pizza at a high temp without a pizza oven. ya'll may have already heard of this but a friend of my family ALSO obsessed with all thing pizza cookage has come up with a cool system. keep in mind, he's a scientist at duke so he was able to gank the neccesary equipment pretty easily. he has rigged his kettle style charcole grill up with a fan and temp. censor and some sort of regulator that i can't begin to understand. he sets the regulator at his desired temp (it goes really high). the censor keeps track of the actual temp inside the "oven", and the fan switches on and off to bring the temp up (and keep it there) by blowing just the right amound of air onto the hot coals. that way the "oven" reaches and maintains a consistantly high temp-- all in a basic kettle grill. his pizzas are great! anyway-- thought you two might be interested.
love, anna

8:35 AM, April 12, 2006  
Anonymous Aylin said...

so good...so good, so good, so good! i'm getting married in 10 days... and this salad is quick and delicious and i just might eat it VERY regularly until the big day! My fiance and I are in love with food and cooking almost as much as we are with eachother. But out of the two of us, I am admittedly the one with the major addiction to your blog (I don't mean to scare you here, I promise, I just love your recipes!). oh, and I must also confess, you know the granola/yogurt/etc., breakfast out of the crimson bowl...mine gets eaten out of a green bowl, and it's everyday, my friend, everyday. so all i can say is: thank you! - Aylin

11:23 AM, April 12, 2006  
Blogger violet said...

i love simple food. what inspires me to cook the most is the abundance of fresh produce in spring and summer. the green, the warmth. how people WANT to be together, outside. simple dishes where you taste pure ingredients. dishes like this!

however, beets and pierogis have been my dinner of choice lately.

i tagged you for a meme. i really hope you don't mind.

11:25 AM, April 12, 2006  
Blogger michelle said...

This sounds like the perfect salad to me - especially to shoo the rain away! And congrats to you and Brandon, Molly, what a wonderful, fantastic story! Best to you both for the future!! May there be many more meals and posts!

2:29 PM, April 12, 2006  
Anonymous lindy said...

I am also one to eat the same thing over and over again, and when it comes to that, if it can be put in one bowl, all the better. Just a word on cilantro hating and genetics. It may well be true, but I, for one, believe it is worth fighting.

When I first tasted it, sprinkled on some hummous at a friend's party, I nearly choked. "What is this poisonous vileness?"
I looked around furtively, hoping I hadn't said it aloud. But as there is little edible which I cannot enjoy, well-prepared, I was surprised at myself.

So I kept sampling it when offered in other foods. I don't know when it happened, but I went from hate, to toleration, to it's one of my most favorite flavors...and I have to keep myself from adding it to too many things. Truly. And with lime, it is near divine.

It might be worth fighting, in a mild and slow paced way!

9:04 AM, April 14, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, A Novelist! That makes me so happy.

Now that's the idea, Nico. I love Duvel. Now, if only that 8.5% alcohol content didn't hit me quite so hard...

Oh, Leah, you are most definitely not alone. In fact, my friend Gigi keeps a blog about ANTM - and other, more literary things too - at America's Next Top Novel.

Anna, something tells me that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, there will be a tricked-out kettle grill / pizza oven in my backyard. Brandon thanks you, and so does my stomach!

Aylin, my dear, so good to hear from you! And an enormous congratulations on your rapidly approaching wedding! Hot damn! Jen keeps me up to speed on your comings and goings, and I'm so happy for you two. All the best. xo

Yes, hooray for all that inspiration, Violet - and for beets and pierogis, too! I just had some golden beets myself, actually. And as for the meme, harumph! I'll consider it. How's that?

Michelle, I wish I could say that this little spring-y salad was helping to keep the rain away from Seattle, but alas, no. It is awfully tasty, though! And thank you, thank you, thank you for your very sweet congrats.

Lindy, I'm so glad to hear of your making peace with cilantro! Your perseverance is to be applauded - clearly, you are a woman who knows a good thing when she sees it, even if it takes a few tastes to be totally convinced.

3:36 PM, April 14, 2006  
Blogger Kevin A Ashton said...

Dear Mooly love the look of your food blog..its top notch.



9:07 PM, April 14, 2006  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

I am a newbie to your food blog but I intend to try this salad the second I get home from my Easter weekend trip. It sounds divine!

I, too, am guilty of eating the same salad straight from the bowl every night for a week, and mine is romaine, feta, chickpeas, pitted kalamata olives, cucumbers, marinated artichoke hearts, a big spoonful of prepared sundried tomato pesto, a squeeze of lemon, and a handful of shelled pistachios. Every once in a while I'll throw in a variable like salmon or tuna... but I just never get tired of it.

I just started a food blog-- no where near as fancy as yours but feel free to stop by.

3:46 PM, April 15, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Kevin!

And Jamie, your standby salad sounds wonderful! It's a funky little riff on a Greek salad, sort of. And I love the idea of a handful of pistachios! Yum.

1:21 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Emmeya said...

I am chewing a bite of this salad right this very second and it is terrific! Bitter and creamy and salty and vinegary, it is heavenly. I don't think I've ever had endive before at home, and radishes don't really do it for me, but right now I love it all! Thank you for the recipe.

7:14 PM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Emmeya, I'm thrilled to hear it! Thank you.

2:59 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Gabriella True said...

Looks delicious. I adore radishes and do not use them enough.

1:18 PM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger Miz Hatbox said...

I have, of late, become enamored with this salad. Good stuff. I already liked endive, but you are turning me into a lover of radishes. (and you have turned my 6-year-old into a lover of lima beans, which is an impressive feat indeed!)

11:56 AM, June 16, 2006  
Blogger dc365 said...

Boy am I coming to this party late, but I prepared this salad last night for friends, and it was a big hit. And easy enough to eat it, well, every night for a week!

4:37 AM, May 03, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

dc365, spring is definitely in the air, because I made this salad for friends last night too!

So glad you - and yours - enjoyed it as much as we do!

10:07 AM, May 03, 2007  
Blogger dc365 said...

I had to pipe in again. I'm obsessed. So many beautiful radishes available at market, and such delicious local feta, it's become my go to salad. Although my incarnation of this salad subs out the endive and radiccio (which we don't have at our local farmers' market) for butter lettuce and arugula. Also, if on hand, slice a little prociutto in the bowl...

5:43 PM, June 03, 2007  
Blogger AnticiPlate said...

I tried this last night for a dinner party! I was so impressed by all of the interesting flavors. I have to admit, I was a little hesitant at first, but I am glad that I tried it. I posted a version of the salad on my blog, I hope you don't mind:) Thanks for a great recipe.

7:29 AM, May 30, 2008  
Anonymous ann said...

So many years after the post... I just wanted to let you know that I have been making this salad every week since February. Now it's June and there is no end to my devotion in sight. It's pretty much always the same. Sometimes I add a poached egg, sometimes I substitute shaved parmesan. It never ever ever gets old. Thank you thank you thank you.

10:01 AM, June 23, 2010  
Anonymous Bobo said...

i am of the same ilk- if you like it, eat it every day til you can't any more!! and, i've been making this a lot lately. i am barbara of barbara and victoria of the umeboshi and varied vinegars!! i dream of delancy a lot. it was so wonderful. i can't wait to come back. i'm also making caramelized cauliflower tonight, july or no....because i can't get enough of that either...in all of its different incarnations...with chick peas, curry, shallots...red onions...you are the best, molly!!

3:39 PM, July 13, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keeping the thread alive! After many iterations of this salad, may I recommend people try it with lentils or farro; toasted pumpkin seeds or pistachios; pink or red grapefruit; and/or rye croutons. It's the grapefruit, though, that really sends it over the moon. A real table-pounder. Thanks, Molly! - chloe

4:26 PM, January 09, 2015  

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