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Taleggio with Italian Salad and Hazelnuts

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

At Bistro Don Giovanni, a popular restaurant near my Napa Valley home, insalata tricolore is always on the menu. II ticolote is the Italian flag--red, white, and green--but it’s also a fitting name for the bistro’s colorful salad of radicchio, Belgian endive, and arugula. Chef Donna Scala serves it with shavings of grana Padano. I omit the grana, add toasted hazelnuts, and serve it with Italian Taleggio, an earthy, nutty cheese with a creamy texture. Don’t settle for an underripe or overripe Taleggio; ask to taste the cheese at the store. If it’s chalky (underripe) or ammoniated (overripe), leave it behind. Serve a substantial red wine with Taleggio--a French Burgundy or California Pinot Noir, perhaps, or, to reflect the cheese’s Northern Italian origins, an Italian Barbaresco or Barolo.

Serves6

CostSplurge

Easy

Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Mealbrunch, dinner, lunch

Taste and Texturecheesy, crisp, crunchy, nutty, savory, sharp

Type of Dishfirst course salad, salad

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts
  • 3 Belgian endives
  • ½ small head radicchio
  • 3 ounces young, small arugula (about 4 cups), stems removed
  • ¾ pound Taleggio cheese

Instructions

  1. To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallot, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand 30 minutes to allow shallot flavor to mellow. Taste and adjust the balance as needed.

  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until fragrant and lightly colored, about 15 minutes. Immediately wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously in the towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. (Don’t worry if a lot of skin adheres.) Chop the nuts coarsely.

  3. Halve each endive lengthwise and remove the core. Cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Core the radicchio and tear into bite-size pieces. In a serving bowl, combine endive, radicchio, arugula, and hazelnuts. Add enough of the dressing to coat the leaves lightly; you may not need it all. Toss well, then taste and adjust the seasoning.

  4. To serve, pass salad and cheese separately. Alternatively, divide both among 6 plates.

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