This is neither a fruit salad nor a vegetable salad. It’s a hybrid. Both fruit and veg. At first read, a Five-Spice, Peach, Raspberry, and Radicchio Salad may seem like a culinary survivor of the strange salad days of the last century. Waldorf comes to mind as well as its sickly-sweet cousin Ambrosia. Oh, and Jell‑O salad. I don’t know what Betty Crocker was smoking all through the Atomic Age, but gastronomically speaking, her recipes seem shockingly artificial today. How about Lime Jell‑O and Cheese Salad or the tuna and Jell‑O concoction from Betty Crocker’s Dinner in a Dish Cookbook (1965)? The spirited artifice of her combinations seem so foreign that we’re left to wonder: What on earth was going on?
Well, times have changed and so have our salads.
The key to updating a Betty Crocker recipe is to simply remove everything that’s lurid, Technicolor, and vulgar. What we’re left with is the idea that the partnering of unexpected ingredients – like peaches and radicchio – is worth exploring. I hope we’ve all come to a point that unusual combinations make us open our mouths before we raise our eyebrows.
Five-Spice, Peach, Raspberry, and Radicchio Salad with Calabrian Chiles
Besides, it’s not the peaches and radicchio that make this salad so unique – it’s the dressing. Which isn’t so much a vinaigrette in the traditional sense as it is a rustic, sweet-and-spicy coulis made with Chinese five-spice powder, Calabrian chiles, and mashed raspberries.
In case they’re new to you, Calabrian chile is a variety of red peperoncini from Southern Italy. It owes its name to the region of Calabria (Italy’s “toe”) where it’s been cultivated for hundreds of years.
In my neck of the woods very (very) good greengrocers or farmers markets may carry fresh Calabrian chiles. Pick them up if you see them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy their unique (though blazing hot) fruity flavor. However, I’ve forgone the fresh peppers in this recipe and chosen milder jarred Calabrian chiles packed in oil because our gal Betty would never use fresh if she could get her hands on something from a can or a bag or a box or a jar! GREG