Radicchio Salad with Beets, Pear, Walnuts and Blue Cheese: “serious autumn salad” that sticks to your ribs

Oct 20, 2009 by

CMreceiptsaladscanThe benchmark for an “affordable” dinner for four at home is $10, according to Campbell Soup. I think it’s pretty hard to make a high quality meal for that little. But I take it as a challenge to find meals that really feed you—unprocessed, natural, fresh, packed with nutrients and satisfying—for that price.  I also insist that it be delicious (by my standards). If it’s easy and quick, which this one is, all the better.

The original recipe I adapted this salad from is in a Food & Wine cookbook, which called it “a serious autumn salad.”  It was indeed so serious that none of us even felt like eating the grilled salmon or carrot, potato and leek soup I’d made to follow it that evening.  Full of contrasting and complementary flavors and textures, it was all we needed.

I spent $9.74 on the ingredients, and it fed two adults and an active teen plus leftovers for two smaller servings later (though we had to eat the leftovers without the scrumptious blue cheese because we’d eaten that with bread for an afternoon snack before we got to the rest of the salad).

I admit, though, that said, that I remind myself just a little of our wealthy acquaintances who were said to claim they lived on just $30,000 a year, while, when pressed, admitting that “some things” were “paid for,” as in, one could suppose, their fabulous house, their several new vehicles, their private school tuitions and who knows what else.

Even so, my own paid-for items, found in my kitchen, were relatively modest: a bit of balsamic vinegar, a little brown sugar, a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice, olive oil, walnuts I’d previously bought in bulk at Costco, and a generous handful of leftover cooked beets. I did buy three nice big beets with their leafy tops for $2, intending to use them, before realizing I could make do with my leftovers. So those will be for another day.

I can also tell you I saved money by passing up the $18 a pound Roquefort the original recipe called for and finding instead Fourme D’Ambert, one of the most venerable of French cheeses. It’s a close relative of Roquefort—produced with the same penicillium roqueforti spores—and sweetened with white wine, for “just” $12 a pound. If Central Market had offered anything cheaper I would have gotten it. I’m sure Gorgonzola would be great in it.

One caution: if your kids (and maybe you) are conditioned to Campbell Soup-style $10 “home-cooked” meals, this one will certainly be seen as high adventure.

Radicchio Salad with Beets, Pear, Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

  • ¾ C walnuts
  • 2-3 medium red onions, each cut into 6 wedges
  • ¼ C olive oil
  • 2 to 4 medium beets
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 large firm pear such as Bosc (quartered, cored, sliced lengthwise into 16 slices)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 head of radicchio (a bitter red-purple salad that comes in small, tight heads), torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 or 2 Belgian endives, cut into slices
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 5 oz or so Forme D’Ambert, Roquefort or any other bleu cheese, crumbled or cut or presented in wedges on the salad
  1. Lightly toast the walnuts for a few minutes in the oven at 350°. Be careful not to leave them too long.
  2. Turn up the oven to 450°. Wrap each beet up in aluminum foil and put them in the oven on a cooking sheet.  They need about an hour, depending on size and firmness desired. Toss the onion wedges with 1 T olive oil and roast them at the same time, but for about 20 minutes.  Then take them out and allow both beets and onions to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, gently toss the sliced pear with 1 T lemon juice.
  4. In a serving bowl, toss the radicchio and endives with the remaining 2 T of olive oil and 1 T lemon juice.
  5. Peel the beets and cut them into pieces. Transfer them to a small baking dish and toss them with 1 T olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Roast them for about 10 minutes, turning once. Let them cool.
  6. Mound the salad on plates, and top it with the walnuts, onions, beets, pear and cheese.

For problems with neophobic kids, see “Is your child neophobic? Give her more new, not less”

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 20 October 2009 / All rights reserved