In 1988, I moved to Napa Valley with dreams of launching a catering career. I had no job and no local industry contacts to help me get one. But, I had my college friend Heidi. A native of the Valley, Heidi introduced me to Jamie, the executive chef for Inglenook winery. It was a good start.
According to Jamie, two of Wolfgang Puck’s protegés, Hiroyoshi Sone and Lissa Doumani were opening their first joint venture,Terra. As the newest restaurant in the Valley, Terra might be off the job search radar of the recent California Culinary Institute graduates. While restaurant work wasn’t my first choice, this was a lead I knew I must see through.
The century-old stone foundry had no signage. But a peak inside the rustic building revealed what appeared to be the chef. ‘Hiro’ as he was called, moved and spoke with mechanical efficiency and precision. After a cursory interview, the soft-spoken Hiro informed me that I was hired and was to start the next day.
I was rattled in the first five minutes on the job. Hiro pointed to a linen closet and directed me to ‘get ready’. I stared inside at all the various options of white, a hierarchy in fabric. I wondered – was I a chef’s jacket hire? -an apron hire? I clearly did not know my status. If I guessed wrong, would the rest of the staff quietly snicker -or laugh out loud? Which would be worse?
I put on a chef’s jacket, feigned confidence and walked into the kitchen pretending I knew the drill. But, you can’t fake the rhythm of restaurant kitchen work, the protocols for moving about, the brisk pace, the french culinary terms and the economy of speech. During my charade, heat, momentum and noise built up with each passing hour and plateaued with all 80 tables seated. Then, slowly, calm finally reappeared.
Exhausted at the end of the evening, Hiro crushed me with his calm, but militant expectation to clean every microscopic surface of the kitchen. Or so it seemed. Upon arriving home, I literally collapsed on the floor exclaiming “It was SO hard”. It was a very hard job. But, I loved it. Despite being new to restaurant work, I was very aware how fortunate I was to have such a calm and accomplished chef, but also an excellent teacher in culinary skills as well as presentation.
During that first year, Terra was on the list of both Bon Appétit and Esquire magazines’ lists of best new restaurants. Terra was on the culinary map of Napa Valley and I was thankful for my timing. Had I arrived in 1989, I would have never been hired. I may have worked somewhere else. But, working for Hiro and Lissa was no doubt a uniquely special Napa Valley experience.
This radicchio salad recipe is from their cookbook, Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley. This salad is my favorite way to consume nutrient-rich radicchio, and not just for nostalgia sake. While simple to prepare, it has an impressive presentation. With its strong color and lofty structure, this salad will be a bold addition to any dinner party!
Terra Restaurant’s Radicchio Salad with Parmesan Balsamico Vinaigrette
- 2 radicchio heads, halved and cored
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- croutons (optional)
Terra Tip: Taste a leaf of radicchio before making the salad. If it is bitter, soak the leaves for 10 to 30 minutes in cold water. After draining and drying, wrap in a damp towel and refrigerate until ready to use.
- 1/4 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
- salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the garlic, mustard and vinegars. Whisk the corn oil and olive oil together, then slowly whisk it into the vinegar mixture.
- Place the dry radicchio leaves in a bowl with the vinaigrette, croutons (if using) and half the parmesan cheese. Toss the ingredients together, making sure the vinaigrette evenly coats the leaves.
- Divide the salad among four plates and sprinkle the top of each with the remaining 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.
My Revisions: I make the recipe gluten-free, substituting roasted garbanzo beans for crouton. I also substitute grapeseed oil for the corn oil, simply because that is what I keep in my pantry. Alternately, another light, neutral oil or more olive oil could be used. Otherwise, this is exactly the same recipe you will find in their gorgeous cookbook.
Radiccio. The Other ‘Green’ – Nutritional Information