The novel Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson1 is our current Cook the Books Club selection, hosted by yours truly. I chose the book from a list of food-rich ones because the title intrigued me. Fernet-Branca is a popular digestivo (digestive liqueur) in Italy, not a cooking ingredient. A splash of it can be added to an espresso to make a version of caffè corretto. A Fernet caldo (warm) is meant to help digestion.
While I don't know what Fernet-Branca tastes like, I remember well how much I liked its TV ads when I was a kid. The ads2 featured ever-shifting shapes made with modeling clay.
"An opera buffa with recipes" is how the NY Times review1 describes the novel, and I agree. The story and the events are somewhat outlandish and hilarious. The protagonists, Gerald and Marta, whose voice and perspective we hear in turn, keep the reader's attention and so does their turf war — fought in a corner of Tuscany, which for both of them is a foreign country.
Gerald, a British ghost writer, is also a creative cook. His recipes, like the book's plot, are — shall we say — unusual and often enriched with Fernet-Branca (to which Marta introduced him). The inspiration for my salad came not from Gerald's creations, but from a connection I made between bitter liqueur (amaro) and its digestive properties, and bitter greens, like beloved radicchio.
Last month, I spent a few days in Venice (Venezia) and ate radicchio every day, raw or cooked. All the varieties were available at the store where I usually shop for vegetables, which made me happy. In recent years, I have been able to obtain radicchio from some vendors at farmers' markets in California,3 and when that happens I always make a point of thanking the farmer for growing a beloved vegetable.
While the round, wine-red radicchio di Chioggia is the most common salad variety, I sometimes find the burgundy-flecked variegato di Castelfranco.
With their delicate sweetness, Fuyu persimmons, now in season, and great in salads, provide a lovely contrast to radicchio. The other ingredients contribute to the salad's flavor and texture profile.
Print-friendly version of briciole's recipe for Radicchio and leaf lettuce salad with carrot, microgreens and persimmon
- 2 ounces / 56 grams radicchio (variegato di Castelfranco or radicchio di Chioggia)
- 2 ounces / 56 grams leaf lettuce
- 1 ounce / 28 grams carrot (1 small carrot), clean weight
- 1 ounce / 28 grams microgreens4 of choice (sunflower, kohlrabi, arugula)
- 1 ounce / 28 grams Fuyu persimmon (about 1/2 of a medium persimmon)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- A splash of sherry vinegar + 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, possibly homemade OR 2 tablespoons vinaigrette
- 1/2 ounce sweet blue cheese, crumbled
Chop the clean radicchio and leaf lettuce and place into a bowl.
Scrub the carrot and scrape its surface to remove a thin layer of skin. Grate the carrot using the extra-coarse side of a hand grater. Add the grated carrot and the microgreens to the bowl.
Core and thinly slice the persimmon, then add to the bowl.
Sprinkle the salt on the salad then distribute the mayonnaise or vinaigrette on the surface. Toss gently and thoroughly.
Sprinkle the blue cheese, toss again, plate and serve.
1 The book on the publisher's website and a review of the book on the NY Times.
2 Fernet-Branca website, one ad and another one
3 From briciole's archive: Savoy cabbage and radicchio and radicchio and sweet corn
4 This page explains the differences between sprouts and microgreens.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
insalata di radicchio e lattughino con carota, micro verdure e cachi mela
or launch the insalata di radicchio e lattughino con carota, micro verdure e cachi mela audio file [mp3].
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This is my contribution to the current selection of our Cook the Books hosted by Simona of briciole. (You can find the guidelines for participating in the event on this page.)
FTC disclosure: I have received the table linen free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.
salad,leaf- lettuce, carrot, radicchio, mayonnaise, microgreens, persimmon
Love this salad. Wish I could have loved the book. :( As always, though, thanks for hosting. Emailed you about my late post.
Posted by: Debra Eliotseats | November 29, 2022 at 06:45 PM
Simona, what a delightful combination of ingredients in a perfectly beautiful salad! I have determined to get some radicchio growing this winter! Just got the book, Bitter, from which the Washington Post got the recipe I mentioned in my post for chicken livers with Fernet-Branca. Excellent book!
Posted by: Claudia | December 02, 2022 at 10:51 AM
No worries, Debra: it was an interesting read. I love making a good salad, even in winter :)
I hope you get to grow radicchio, Claudia. I love it: finding it at the farmers market makes me day. And please, tell me how you like that book. Now that you mention it, I remember reading about it when it first came out. I hope it's interesting :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | December 02, 2022 at 08:46 PM
I'm a big fan of radicchio but am often disappointed when I buy it at the grocery. Alas, it's not that easy to find here in farmer markets. This salad sounds so refreshing. I'm already tired of winter food and would love to have some of this. Thanks for making this selection and for organizing the roundup!
Posted by: Delaware Girl Eats | December 04, 2022 at 11:58 AM
You are welcome, Cathy :) I understand being disappointed by store-bought radicchio. Farm-fresh radicchio is ideal, but as you said, it is hard to come by. I am wondering whether asking farmers about it may convince them to grow it. Worth a try :)
Posted by: Simona Carini | January 14, 2023 at 09:11 PM