Ahhh….grilling outdoors in the fall – crisp air, swirling leaves, football and bonfires. Our instincts are telling us to braise and slow cook and hunker down now, but a charcoal fire on a cool fall afternoon will heighten your experience of the change of seasons without abandoning summer entirely. A lovely thought, isn’t it?
The charcoal grill touches our most fundamental desires when it comes to food, I think. Smoke on our food bridges the history of mankind from hunter-gatherer to the backyard grills we know and love today. And while we are most often focused on meat over fire, magic happens when we expose deliciously seasonal vegetables and fruits to smoldering wood and smoke.
The art of the grill is in the temperature and cooking zones you create with the embers. If cooking meat, you want the sear of the fire at it’s hottest, yet when the bark and the crust begin to set up on the outside, you want to move to a more subtle flame for cooking the inside. This, of course, varies with the cut of meat, but the principles apply regardless.
Vegetables respond to a slower, more subtle area of the charcoal grill, allowing time for the soft caramelization to occur while cooking without burning and charring. The smoke has a chance to infuse the foods while cooking and maintaining the moisture and texture of the veggies.
Grilled apples – Sublime.
Grilled Fennel – Complex.
Grilled Radicchio – Smoky.
Brush the individual elements of the salad with olive oil as you shuffle and turn the vegetables to achieve the perfect intact softness. Then spritz with fresh orange juice and dust with salt and pepper as you remove from the grill to seal in the intense flavors from the cooking process. The salad can be prepared in advance up to this point well before serving.
When ready to serve, I layer the radicchio, fennel and the apple rings atop a simple bed of red leaf lettuce. If serving a group or buffet (it’s perfect for a fall harvest potluck!) – arrange on a platter. The salad makes beautiful individual plates for table setting as well. Either presentation, the smoky, crunchy intense elements come together perfectly accompanied by the salty-sweet orange champagne vinaigrette and light dusting of parmigiano reggiano.
As you transition from the season of grilling and enjoying light meals outdoors in the warm, summer evenings, take a baby step into fall with wood fired cooking. Don’t put that grill away just yet!
Grilled Autumn Salad – Rustic Radicchio, Apple and Fennel
- parmigiano reggiano
- 1 Radicchio (Cut in half)
- 1 Apple (Cored and Sliced in Rings)
- 1 Fennel (Halved, stems removed and cored, then sliced.)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Orange Slices to Squeeze On Grill
- 1/2 cup Walnut Oil
- 1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Orange Juice (fresh squeezed, if possible.)
- 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- salt and pepper
|Prepare the grill and assemble and cut the vegetables. for grilling. |
|Brush the vegetables with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill on medium to slow, turning and rotating as necessary. |
|As you turn the veggies, brush with additional olive oil, the before you remove them from the grill, spritz with a fresh orange wedge and season with salt and pepper. Hold until ready to assemble. |
|Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar or container and shake to combine. |
|Place a bed of red leaf lettuce on your platter or plate. Layer the radicchio, fennel, then apple. As you serve, drizzle with the dressing. Top the salad with shaved parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts. |