Sedano e Mela Insalate (Celery & Apple Salad)
It probably seems pretentious to use the Italian translation in the title of this post, especially considering that we don’t speak Italian. “Vino bianco” or “vino rosso” (depending on the time of day and/or season), is about as bilingual as we get. But the title of this post is the name of a beautiful salad that we found at one of our favorite local Italian restaurants. So let’s just say we’re being “authentic” rather than pretentious. Speaking of authentic, one of the things we love about this Italian place is how they pride themselves on their authenticity. They even incorporate this aspect into their name, “Trattoria D.O.C.” According to their website, “D.O.C. is an acronym for ‘Denominazione di origine controllata,’ a wine appellation which requires that a product be produced following strict guidelines to ensure quality standards. Our attention to detail and time honored recipes, along with our dedication for fresh ingredients, is the reason we call ourselves ‘D.O.C.'” (“Appellation” refers to a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where grapes for wine—or other foods—are grown. Yes, I had to look it up. Who’s pretentious now?) We love Trattoria D.O.C. so much that we once ate both lunch and dinner there in the same day: blinded by an intense pizza craving (SUCH good pizza there) during a bike ride break one afternoon, we completely forgot we had dinner reservations with friends there in just a few hours, but we kept the reservations and enjoyed some delicious pasta that night. They have amazing, authentic Italian food there, is what I’m saying. The Sedano e Mela salad is my go-to (in addition and as a precursor to pretty much any of their pizzas), so much so that it became necessary to recreate it at home. Aside from the taste, the best thing about this salad is how easy it is to make—so easy that it doesn’t even warrant an actual recipe. Celery, apple, radicchio, pecorino cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper. That’s it. An authentic, simple, fresh—and decidedly unpretentious—flavor explosion. Buon appetito!
Cut up the celery. Be sure to include some of the celery leaves because they pack a solid punch of celery flavor.
Slice the radicchio. If you’ve never had it, radicchio has a slightly bitter and spicy flavor. I think the white portions are more bitter, so I usually slice up the purple parts and avoid the thicker white core area.
Cut up a granny smith apple. If I make this salad for myself for lunch (as I often do), I only use half an apple because I don’t want the sour apple flavor to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. I also peel the apple because I prefer the texture of peeled apple in this particular dish. But the beauty of this salad is that you can adapt it to whatever flavors and textures you prefer. Sometimes I add some chopped walnuts for a little protein/flavor/texture boost.
Trattoria D.O.C.’s salad has Pecorino Romano cheese. You could use Parmesan instead, but Pecorino has a stronger, more tangy flavor that works really well in this salad. The easiest way to grate thin strips of this (or any) hard cheese is to use a vegetable peeler.
Combine the celery, apple, radicchio and pecorino in a bowl, then add lemon juice…
…and good-quality olive oil. Toss, taste and add more lemon juice and olive oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who has been to Italy, you’ve likely been told that you really must go there, at least once in your lifetime (and, depending on who is speaking, this advice might occasionally be given in a “you-can-alsways-tell-a-Harvard-man-but-you-can’t-tell-him-much” pretentious, chin-thrusted accent). We’ve only been lucky enough to visit Italy one time (so far!), but we concur. In terms of food, wine, scenery, lifestyle, people, shopping, lemon trees, olive trees, beautiful blue seas. etc., etc.—we’ve never been any other place quite like Italy. Likewise, in terms of flavor—tart green apple, bright celery, bitter radicchio, sour lemon, buttery olive oil, and tangy/nutty Pecorino cheese—this is a salad that you really must try.