Radicchio Slaw with Warm Honey Dressing

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The more I learn about the cooking of the southern United States, the more I see similarities with southern Italy. Both regions love sweet-and-sour flavors, for example. Southern Americans have their sweet-tart cabbage slaws and their vinegary barbecue sauces, while southern Italians have a whole repertoire of agrodolce (bittersweet) dishes based on vinegar and sugar. This agrodolce slaw is one I created to accompany barbecued ribs, but it would be great with just about anything off the grill, like sausages, pork chops, or chicken.

NotesSoaking the radicchio and cabbage in ice water crisps them both and removes any bitterness from the radicchio. It’s a technique I use whenever I’m putting radicchio in a salad.

Serves6 to 8


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, side dish

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecrisp, spiced, sweet, tart

Type of Dishvegetable


  • 1 medium head radicchio
  • ½ head Napa cabbage
  • Ice water
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut the radicchio into 4 wedges through the core, then remove the core. Slice the leaves into 1/8-inch-wide ribbons. Halve the cabbage through the core, remove the core, and slice like the radicchio. Put the radicchio and cabbage in a large bowl, cover with ice water, and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and repeat. Drain again, pat dry, and set aside. Trim the thick stems from the watercress and set aside.

  2. Make the dressing: Toast the fennel seed in a small skillet over moderately low heat until fragrant and lightly colored, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool, then crush the seed in a mortar or grind in a spice grinder.

  3. Combine the honey, vinegar, and ground fennel in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the honey dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Toss the radicchio, cabbage, and watercress in a large bowl. Add enough of the warm dressing to coat the salad; you may not need it all. Toss well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately.


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