I am very particular about where I dine out, especially when it comes to Italian cuisine. I have to admit though, when you live in Italy six months every year like we do, you tend to become Italian cuisine snobs. Honestly, when you know what “real” Italian food tastes like, sometimes the dishes served at Italian-American restaurants stateside just do not compare with the “real” thing. One of my favorite Italian restaurants to frequent here in Florida is Osteria Tulia in downtown Naples, Fl. The restaurant also recently opened Bar Tulia next door, where they serve a wide variety of small plates. I love small plates as it allows you to try a number of dishes and enjoy different flavors rather than one regular sized entree. Chef Vincenzo Betulia does a great job of blending traditional Italian cuisine with a fresh, unique twist. A few months back, I ordered the cauliflower salad at Bar Tulia, and it was love at first bite. The cauliflower was raw, and mixed with currants, Marcona almonds, and chopped scallions. I have never served cauliflower raw before myself, so I was intrigued when I saw it on the menu, and in fact it ended up being one of my favorite dishes we enjoyed that evening.
I have always been a huge fan of cauliflower salad, particularly the southern Italian version called insalata rinforzata or reinforced salad. This traditional salad is popular in Naples and Sicily, particularly over the Christmas holidays. The salad is named “reinforced salad” because it can be prepared for the Christmas Eve dinner, and then “reinforced” adding more ingredients, even refrigerator leftovers to last until January. Typically, cauliflower is steamed or boiled for this salad but after tasting it raw at Bar Tulia, I decided to create my own raw version. I first checked out three different grocery stores and couldn’t find currants or Marcona almonds so I used golden raisins and chopped pistachios instead. I also added some chopped celery, along with thinly sliced radicchio lettuce. Radicchio is a red chicory variety of lettuce that has a subtle bitterness that I knew would contrast nicely with the raisins, and the pistachios added that extra crunch I wanted. The round variety of radicchio or Chioggia, is the type most often found here in the US, and the one I used in this recipe. I dressed my salad with a mustard vinaigrette similar to the one I tasted at Bar Tulia, and we thoroughly enjoyed the salad for dinner one night recently.
This salad has a lot of crunch, so it is a very hearty dish that is very satisfying. I prefer to keep the ingredients in this salad chopped fairly small, and you can easily play around with the ingredients to create your own personal version. If you find the radicchio too bitter, arugula would be a great option, and almonds can replace the pistachios if you prefer. I used just a little Dijon mustard in my dressing as I did not want it to overpower the ingredients, but feel free to add more mustard if you’d like a dressing with more bite.
Deborah Mele 2015
Raw Cauliflower Salad With Radicchio, Pistachios, & Golden Raisins
- 1 Head Cauliflower
- 1 Small Head Radicchio
- 3 Stalks Celery, Diced
- 5 Scallions, Diced
- 1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
- 1/2 Cup Shelled Pistachios
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Core the cauliflower, and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 to 1 inch in size, then place in a large bowl.
- Cut out the core from the radicchio, then thinly slice and place in bowl with the cauliflower.
- Add the celery, scallions, raisins, and pistachios, and toss.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Taste, and adjust ingredients as needed.
- Pour the design over the salad, and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately.