This salad is a gem, and is excellent following Tuscan Bean soup, with a plate of fine Italian cheese such as Gorgonzola, Pecorino or some nicely ripened Taleggio.
I lived on chicory the year I spent studying at the Brussels Conservatoire. The local market in Ternat, where I stayed just outside the capital, had many stalls of locally grown chicory of all different sizes throughout the winter. My grandfather grew chicory and blanched it under the matrimonial bed; he was an avid vegetable grower as well as being a top scientist.
Winter is also the time for the spectacularly marked blood oranges from Spain and Sicily. They are slightly tarter than standard oranges and yet sweet at the same time, and make an excellent salad ingredient. (Freshly ripened standard oranges make a good substitute.) See that your walnuts are fresh and crunchy. Walnuts make a beautiful light oil, which is flavoursome in salads, but it oxidises fast and goes rancid so it’s best bought in small quantities. Renaissance artists favoured walnut oil for making paint. If you don’t have walnut oil to hand use best olive oil instead.
Serves 4 (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 152)
4 heads of chicory, about 450g in total
3 blood oranges
60g whole walnuts
3 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon artisan honey
1 teaspoon artisan vinegar
Trim the bases of the chicory heads, and cut out the cores with a sharp pointed knife. Place the leaves in a large salad bowl.
Peel the oranges and cut them in half and chop them roughly into half moons. Add them to the bowl with the chicory leaves. Scatter over the walnuts.
Make the dressing by mixing the walnut oil, lemon juice, honey and vinegar. When you are ready to serve, add the dressing and toss the salad.