A Platter of Bitter Delights with a Touch of Sweet Maple

Bitter just needs to be balanced, and since the sap is running, we know what to use!

The sap is running! Today, it is supposed to hit 55 with spring rains forecast! Warm days and cold nights in late winter and early spring in Vermont mean the precious gold of our region is flowing through the veins of the trees. Our first crop of the season never comes fast enough. This is the season of hope for green leaves and blooming flowers, while we enjoy sugar on snow and stacks of pancakes with syrup.

Start with bitter

So sweet, but do you enjoy bitter foods as well? I know some shy away, like my sister Jan, but when balanced with a little sweet or a little sour, the possibilities are amazing, and maple is perfect in the balancing act.

On my list of “delicious bitter” are coffee, broccoli rabe, darkest chocolate, grapefruit, marmalade, Campari, charred foods on the barbeque, bitter melon, and bitter greens, including dandelion, mustard, collards, kale, nettles, arugula, radicchio, and chicory, both the leaf and the forced sprouts we refer to as Belgium endive. There is more than one little bottle of bitters sitting with my condiments! I rarely drink any soda, but when I was a kid it was Moxie all the way.

Good for you in many ways

        Bitter foods are often thought of as therapeutic (consider the warm spices turmeric and ginger) and they offer a unique highlight to many a meal. They enhance appetite, and aid in digestion. Often, bitter elements are used to balance out foods that are really rich or fatty, that is why a creamy, cheesy omelet tastes so good with a salad of bitter greens dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.

A little balance please

It’s always a balancing act. Grilling the radicchio and endive adds some char, which can increase the bitterness, but the cooking process brings out the sweetness in the vegetables as well.

This salad, or side dish, is made with sweet onions, sherry vinegar, and sweet, dark maple syrup to mellow the bitter. Crushed red pepper flakes are optional, but add a bit of heat and interest. My sister is not a fan of the bitter, but she’ll eat this salad without too much grumbling!

You can make all the elements of this dish in advance and assemble just before your meal. Leftovers are great as well! Served warm or room temperature, there’s a little bitter, some sweet, a touch of salty and sour, and don’t forget the char. It’s all good!

A Platter of Bitter Delights with Maple Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dark maple syrup
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced
  • 3 heads of Belgium endive
  • 1 head of radicchio
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • Arugula or other greens of choice
  • Dressing:
  • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 4 tsp. dark amber maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. grainy mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • Toppings:
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, maple glazed if possible*
  • Parmesan or vegan Parmesan
Ready for the grill or roasting pan! Radicchio and endive are two of my favorite bitter additions to salads and side dishes.

Fire up the grill, or your grill pan over medium high heat. You can also do this in cast iron. Combine the olive oil and the maple syrup and whisk well.

Cut the endive heads in half, and the radicchio into 6 or 8 sections (depending on the size) taking care to keep the core end in tact so they don’t fall apart in the grilling process. Slice lemons as thin as possible, and the onions fairly thick. To hold them together, you can pierce with a long skewer you have. Brush the radicchio, endive, onions, and sliced lemons with the oil/syrup mixture. Season lightly with salt.

Place flattest sides of the radicchio and endive on the hot grill (indirect side) or in the heated pan and immediately reduce the heat to medium. Cook for a few minutes, until a peek under reveals brown marks and the heads start to soften. Turn and cook a few more minutes, turning of the heat. You don’t want to scorch too much and add too much bitterness, but a little char is desired.

Remove and set aside. Do the same with the onions and lemons; they will take a little longer.

Make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar and shaking like crazy. Add salt and pepper to your own liking. You can add a bit of hot sauce if the red pepper does not provide enough heat.

Assemble your salad any way you like! It’s all about your own preferences. You can place all the ingredients out on a platter and let folks choose what they want, or make it composed. It is great placed warm on a bed of lovely arugula and topped with the cherries, pecans, and either a nice salty Parmesan or vegan alternative, or creamy local goat cheese. For more maple flavor, a tiny drizzle of syrup at the last is perfect.

It’s a beauty to look at, and if you have any leftovers, this salad of bitter greens tastes great the next day, or even stuffed in a veggie sandwich wrap.

*Maple Glazed Pecans

Simple, quick to make, few ingredients, versatile, oh, and really tasty. I used to make my glazed nuts with brown sugar, on top of stove and then in the oven, in order to get a syrup. One day, I decided to skip all that and simply use a syrup. Since I’m from Vermont, that would be maple all the way. In under 10 minutes, from start to finish, you have glazed nuts cooling!

In a non-stick skillet over medium-high, combine 2 cups pecan halves and 1/2 cup dark amber maple syrup. Immediately reduce to medium, and cook for five or six minutes, hovering over it so it doesn’t burn. When thick and liquid reduced, remove to parchment paper. Don’t let this go too far, or it will burn or the syrup will crystalize. Ask me how I know this. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and let cool thoroughly. If the stick together, you can easily separate them.

Toss these on salads, side dishes, desserts, morning cereal, or eat them straight up! You can also add some fresh herbs, rosemary is particularly delicious!

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53 Comments Add yours

  1. sunisanthosh says:

    So many delicious recipes.

    1. Thank you! Can’t stop cooking!

  2. Julie Knott says:

    Oh! This all looks just lovely!

    1. Thank you! A really good combination.

  3. What a beautiful way to enjoy these bitter delights! I love radicchio! 😋😋

    1. Thank you Ribana! Radicchio is one of my favorites too!

  4. CarolCooks2 says:

    How delightful a perfect pairing 🙂

    1. Thank you Carol! We really enjoy this one.

  5. You really should be a chef!

    1. Thanks so much! I’ve been there, did that. We had a restaurant way back in time for a short while, and I did not enjoy the grind. I did enjoy catering, but cooking breakfast and brunch at the inn was perfect for me.

  6. unitball says:

    👍👍

  7. I love maple! Pairing it with butter greens sounds delicious!

    1. Thank you Marilyn! It is a great combination.

  8. Suzassippi says:

    I love the idea of the veggie wrap with the leftovers!

    1. I will put just about any leftover in a wrap, which is how I know it is tasty. I think I would grill all these vegetables just to make the wrap!

      1. Suzassippi says:

        If my memory serves me correctly, I learned about grilled endive from you, and it is one of my favorite sides now.

      2. Isn’t it delicious! One of my favorites, and I’m getting some of the sweet lovers in the family to like a little bitter along the way!

  9. My kind of salad! Love the bitter greens of any kind. 🙂

    1. We have many similar likes Ronit!

      1. It seems so! 😀

  10. NativeNM says:

    I’m so ready to start up the grill! You’ve given me some interesting ideas for grilling and I can’t wait to try that dressing!

    1. I know! I can actually see my grill now, so we’re thinking this weekend we might clean the winter off and make something tasty!

  11. Bernadette says:

    Bitter foods are particular favorites of mine and I always enjoy a good Negroni. The salad looks very tempting and thanks for the glazed nuts recipe.

    1. Thank you! The nuts went quickly this time. They were on the counter in the bowl, and they disappeared one at a time…

  12. Ally Bean says:

    That’s the easiest glazed pecans recipe I’ve ever seen. Thanks.

    1. So simple, and irresistible! When you think about it, the maple syrup is already a reduced syrup, so it doesn’t take long to get it to the perfect place.

  13. Carolyn Page says:

    “Don’t let this go too far, or it will burn or the syrup will crystalize. Ask me how I know this.”
    Hahah… A cook’s knowledge comes from experience – trial and error! I know, ’cause that’s me all the way!
    Loving this salad, Dorothy. I do like bitter, and this mix sounds and looks fabulous.
    xoxoxo

    1. Thank you Carolyn! Bitter is high on my list too!
      Hope all is well with you and your beloved!

  14. Jovina Coughlin says:

    What a fun dish. It would make a great appetizer for a dinner party.

    1. Yes it would! So pretty!

  15. So interesting and tasty!

    1. Thank you! I love all these flavors!

  16. Gail says:

    There is NOTHING as tasty as fresh maple syrup, in my opinion. 🍁

    1. It’s pretty wonderful! I’ll get my spring delivery next week!

      1. Gail says:

        Soooo jelly! 😍🌿🍁

  17. What a delightful combo, it sounds amazing and looks beautiful! I make glazed pecans all the time, but never used maple syrup, I can’t wait to try that! Thanks Dorothy!
    Jenna

    1. Thank you Jenna! Using the maple is really quick and easy, I hope you enjoy them!

  18. terrie gura says:

    Yes, yes, the radicchio and endive and all that bitter jazz. But those MAPLE GLAZED PECANS!!! You really are good at pulling out all the stops, Dorothy. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed! Never do I leave well enough alone! Love those pecans!!!

  19. Christy B says:

    Glazed pecans, YUM. I’m in Canada, where we’re well known for maple syrup. I definitely have a sweet tooth 😀

    1. Then you will love these Christy!

  20. There is nothing better than Vermont maple syrup and I agree with Christy, those pecans look fabulous!

    1. Thank you Diane, they are also really easy!

  21. Sherry M says:

    i love savoury and bitter flavours. and of course maple syrup makes everything better:)

    1. Thanks Sherry! They all work together well.

  22. NH enjoyed their Maple weekend with much less fanfare due to the weather hoping Vermont bottles enough for all of us to enjoy REAL Maple Syrup. I have to try all of your delightful meals well the ones with the fewest calories 🙂

    1. From all accounts, it has been a good sugar season around these parts, so I’m looking forward to my dark amber delivery from my friend’s sugarhouse!

      1. Dark is the best! Yum

  23. nancyc says:

    Maple syrup makes everything better! 🙂

    1. It sure does Nancy! But I’m a Vermonter, so I’m completely prejudiced!

  24. This platter is so enticing! I love the benefits of bitter food, and enjoy eating them. Wonderful article!

    1. Thank you so much Sandra! There’s always some bitter on the menu around here, although I confess I love it a bit more than my husband!

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