Gail Simmons' Lentil, Grilled Radicchio & Sweet Onion Salad-Famous Fridays
Gail Simmons' Lentil, Grilled Radicchio & Sweet Onion Salad

So...after yesterday's biscotti break, we're back to salad and at once you're thinking (yawn) this is worthy of Famous Fridays status? Let's just say there are salads and then there are SALADS and this one definitely falls into the second camp. In no way could anyone dare and call it boring, not in color, flavor or texture. Adventurous is more like it which is not surprising given that it comes from the pages of Bringing It Home:  Favorite Recipes From a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons .Toss out your preconceived notions of what salad should be and instead focus on what's in here:  grilled onions and radicchio, tender lentils, crunchy fennel and peppery arugula all covered in a zesty lemon shallot vinaigrette. Ho hum, you say? This is a bowl of goodness worthy of the gold medal in the Salad Olympics (just go with me on it, I've got Olympics on the mind). Let's get ready to Famous Fridays!!

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Before I get to more details about this salad, let's talk a little bit about its creator, Gail. Are you a big fan of Top Chef? If so, then you probably recognize Gail as one of the very popular and long time judges of the show. I have to admit that I don't think I've ever watched it (I'm always a little late to the party) but I am a huge fan of Gail's new cookbook, Bringing It Home.  It's filled with so many great breakfast, lunch dinner, snacks, drinks and dessert ideas that take traditional recipes and put a  little spin on them, like Not Your Mama's Horseradish Brisket, Bloody Mary Eggs, Bumbleberry Buckwheat Pancakes and Smashed Salt and Vinegar Potatoes (more on those soon). Plus there are great color photos and fun anecdotes and culinary helpful hints. Whether you're a beginner in the kitchen or a pro, I really think you'll like all the variety and well explained recipes.

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Like this truly stellar salad. Not sure why since I always love them when I order a salad at my favorite local spot, but I've never grilled onions to put on my salads at home. Here, Gail has you grill not only sweet onions but radicchio too and they both add a wonderful charred flavor to the finished product.

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Then, there are the lentils which not only add healthy plant-based protein to the salad (you really can eat this as a meal with maybe a side of bread) but also a chewy texture and earthiness that can't be beat!

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The crunchiness and zing of the fennel and pepperiness of the arugula nicely balance things out.

And the vinaigrette is lemony and delicious and easy to make.

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It's a salad you could serve for an ordinary weeknight dinner but would also be a great addition at a party or to bring to a potluck. I haven't tried it yet, but I know it's the sort of thing that people would go ga-ga over. Just think, you could be the person who redefines salad for them. You just have to make it. So get to it and while you're at it, have a safe, happy and delicious weekend!! And pick up a copy of Bringing It Home. I just know you're going to love it!!

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Gail Simmons' Lentil, Grilled Radicchio & Sweet Onion Salad-Famous Fridays

Makes 4-5 generous servings
Prep Time:  30 minutes


For the salad

  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and slightly smashed
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup small brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed (the French du Puy are the ones I used)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing grill
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1 large head radicchio, quartered lengthwise but leaving the root ends together so that you have 4 wedges
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped roughly
  • 3 cups baby arugula (about 2 ounces)

For the vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The Recipe

1.  For the salad:  Place the bay leaves, garlic and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and lower heat to bring mixture to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for about 18-22 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and spread on a plate to cool. Discard bay leaves.

2.  While lentils are cooking, heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Lightly brush the grill with the oil. Season both sides of the onion slices and radicchio quarters with salt and pepper. Grill veggies in a single layer until slightly charred and tender, about 10-12 minutes. Radicchio will start to wilt. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool a bit, then separate onion rings and coarsely chop radicchio.

3.  To make the vinaigrette:  Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, shallot and salt. Then whisk in the oil and let sit for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. You can make this ahead if you like and keep it covered and chilled in fridge for up to 1 week.

4.  In a large salad bowl, place the arugula, cooled lentils, onion, radicchio, fennel and basil and toss gently. Add the vinaigrette and toss again. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Bringing It Home by Gail Simmons.

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