I adore chicories. The often-speckled, red, purple and green lettuces couldn't be more beautiful. Or more delicious. Radicchio and Belgian endive are the most common chicory leaf varieties, widely available in most grocery stores. But if you happen upon something Italian-sounding that looks slightly less familiar (treviso, tardivo, bel fiore, fiero, puntarelle, castelfranco) at the farmer's market or specialty grocer's, give it a try!
Sautéed, stewed, roasted and grilled- the hardy texture of the chicory leaf allows for a variety of cooking methods, and the bitterness of the greens (or reds...) make a nice foil for rich salad ingredients when served raw. Try pairing the greens with egg, walnuts or bacon, or in this case, creamy white beans and Pecorino cheese. And not only do the flavors create balance, but radicchio's crunch also makes a nice textural juxtaposition to the beans in this salad.
I've included canned tuna as an option in this recipe. Including the tuna turns this salad into a super-fast, full meal. If you do decide to go the route of the canned tuna, here are some additional thoughts on the stuff since it came up... All canned tuna is not the same!
First, what's it packed in? Oil or water? I prefer canned tuna packed in olive oil (olive not vegetable oil!) because it stays nice and moist, and I'm not a fan of dry tuna. I find that using the olive oil-packed variety allows me to use significantly less oil overall, as I'm not having to make up for the dried out tuna.
Secondly, chunk or solid? Chunk tuna has flakier pieces of varying sizes, and solid has larger, firmer pieces with less flakes. You many have a preference... Go with it.
Next, there are two varieties- canned white tuna, and canned light. Canned white tuna is always albacore, a larger fish with lightly colored flesh that is mild in flavor and has more omega-3 fats. Canned light is a mix of smaller tuna species- mainly skipjack, but it can also include the slightly larger yellowfin, and big-eye. Light tuna is slightly lower in fat, with pinkish flesh that is stronger in flavor.
Why all the tuna talk? Familiar with that hot button issue of mercury content in canned tuna? While the olive oil and chunk size are strictly preference, the white vs. light debate is important when it comes to the mercury conversation. Because mercury builds up in fish over time, the larger albacore (white tuna) has a higher mercury content than the smaller fish in the light variety. So what's the mercury takeaway? According to the Environmental Defense Fund, one serving a week of light tuna is perfectly safe for adults. And up to three servings a month of white tuna should also be fine.
I love this salad- it's quick and simple for a weeknight, keeps well, and transports easily. Plus, it's the Man's favorite. So sometimes I make it with the tuna, and sometimes without! It's delicious either way.
RADICCHIO WHITE BEAN SALAD
- 1 head radicchio, chopped
- 1 (15 oz) can of white beans, rinsed and drained (larger Cannellinis or smaller Great Northern beans, whichever you prefer)
- 2 cans tuna (optional)
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves, very roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
- 3 anchovy filets, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Whisk together the anchovy, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Combine the radicchio, beans, tuna (if using) and parsley in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top, and thoroughly combine. Add the cheese to the salad and toss to coat.