Charred radicchio with cherries, cured ham and blue cheese

Radicchio is a sturdy lettuce (a chicory) with a long shelf life, and can be found at markets and grocery stories year round. Wrapped loosely in a moist towel, it will keep two to three weeks in the refrigerator.  The lettuce appears in the farmers markets in mid-summer, and continues to be availalbe into the autumn months. Treviso, a milder cousin of radicchio, is shaped more like a head of romaine lettuce but can be tricky to locate. 

Though it has taken time, Americans have begun to embrace chicories and bitter lettuces for their unique characteristics. If you are attracted to radicchio's brilliant red color, but are less enthusiastic about the bitterness, soak the leaves in ice water for 10 minutes to mellow the flavor before drying them completely. Charring or grilling the lettuce can also have a mellowing affect.

After a cool, wet spring, the 2017 cherry crop has come late to the Pacific Northwest.  Rainiers and Queen Annes (the rosy-streaked yellow varieties) are appearing alongside red varieties including Black Pearls, Lamberts, Bings and Stellas. They're all good in this salad.

This salad excites the palette with loads of flavors and textures: bitter lettuces, sweet cherries, creamy, pungent blue cheese (or gorgonzola), salty cured ham and sharp vinegar. Grill or char the radicchio and red onions in advance; the idea is to soften and sweeten them prior to assembling the salad. (You can set them aside until you're ready to put the salad together as it doesn't have to be eaten warm.) 




2 small heads radicchio, or 1 head Treviso, cut in half lengthwise through the core (quarter the Treviso)

1 medium-size red onion (about four 1/4-inch thick slices)

Olive oil

Small wedge (about 4 ounces) creamy blue cheese

4 slices prosciutto or other cured ham, optional

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh Cherry Vinaigrette (recipe below)


Heat a cast iron skillet or grill until it is medium hot. Meanwhile, lightly brush the radicchio halves and onion slices with olive oil and season with salt.

Char or grill the lettuces and onions on both sides until soft and slightly caramelized. Remove to a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. 

Arrange one-half head of lettuce on each plate and scatter a few charred onions on top. Spoon the cherry vinaigrette over the lettuce and onions, crumble blue cheese over it, and drape a piece of prosciutto off to the side. 


fresh Cherry Vinaigrette

2 cups cherries, pitted and halved

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon coarsely ground toasted fennel seeds, optional

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and set aside to let the flavors develop for 30 minutes or more.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed before dressing the salad.