Francesco's Thanksgiving Salad
For us Europeans, after turkey and apple pie, nothing is more synonymous for Thanksgiving to us than cranberries. They can be found all-over here, but basically have no real place in our culinary traditions... which is great! Diversity is what it's all about and it is wonderful that they can be found absolutely everywhere here too!
The only thing is... other than in sauces, either sweet or savory, people don't really know what to do with them...
So what did I do? Combined them with my favorite Italian salad green and created this beautiful and delicious salad! It was an experiment... it was based mostly on intuition... and it was a great success!
To make my delicious salad all I needed was a small head of puntarelle, which is a Roman chicory, 1 orange, a handful of mint leaves and 2 handfuls of cranberries... that was all!
If you can not get puntarelle and want to make something that looks similar and has a similar flavor, you can substitute it with endives or something similar... the flavor is almost the same... but still! I was lucky enough to find my favorites at the market yesterday... and so use them I did!
The puntarelle, or any variety of chicory for that matter, are slightly bitter... and cranberries are rather sour... so you would maybe think the result may not really be something you would want to eat... but think again after orange, mint, honey and good olive oil become part of the equation! I am telling you YES- you will like this combination... a lot!
You can prepare this well in advance and simply add the fresh mint leaves just before serving- which is what I did- which makes it really convenient too!
Simply snap the "pods" of the puntarelle away from the main stem and then cut them into the thinnest slices you can manage.
Next, top, tail and peel your orange, cutting away all of the white pith and then carefully cut out the segments using a sharp knife. Wring out the remaining "carcass" of the orange into a bowl... that will be the basis of your dressing!
The next bit of the prep-work is the fiddly bit... but if I can do it, you can too! As you can see, those cranberries need to be thinly sliced... eeek! But fear not- it is not as tricky or maddening as you might imagine and did not take that long at all to do. Add them to the juice with a good splash of olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper and squash them down gently with the back of a spoon. Add more oil and orange juice, until you have enough liquid to cover the cranberries and then you are done!
Lay out your thinly-slice puntarelle and the orange segments decoratively and then spoon the cranberries and the dressing on top evenly. Leave them to soak in and macerate together for at least 10 minutes... or as I said earlier, even longer still- it will be fine for a couple of hours if you keep it chilled.
Just before serving, add a handful of mint leaves... leave them whole and sprinkle the whole salad again with salt and pepper, drizzle it with a little more olive oil... and now- also a light drizzle of honey on top to eliminate any residual bitterness... and serve with a broad smile!
Once you have set it out on the table and everyone has admired its prettiness, give it a gently toss before serving and lo-and-behold... it still looks gorgeous all the same!
This is refreshing and tasty- and fear not- you will not notice any bitterness... and neither will you have any problems digesting this whatsoever... I finished eating this whole dish all by myself a couple of hours ago and am still alive and well... and smiling! And I want to share some smiles with all of you too, which I am hoping you will have if you give this a try!
It really IS a thing of beauty!