If you’re not already a radicchio fan, this salad will make you one. This recipe is inspired by a salad served at Toro Bravo restaurant in Portland that I discovered on Food52. In addition to a wonderful sweet-tart dressing (that begins as quick-pickled red onions), the brilliant trick here is soaking the radicchio in ice water to remove some of its bitterness. The result is a sweeter, crisper version of its former self, with just enough peppery bite. I add oil-cured olives, plenty of Parmesan, and a lightly grilled chicken breast to create the kind of simple— yet incredibly satisfying—meal that I could eat a couple of times a week. The dressing keeps for up to a week in the fridge, so consider prepping the components in advance.
Combine the vinegars, onion, and honey in a glass jar and macerate for 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour, at room temperature. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
Cut out the radicchio cores and discard, then chop the heads into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and place them in the basket of a salad spinner. Fill the base of the spinner with ice water, submerge the basket, and chill the radicchio for 15 minutes. Drain the water and spin the radicchio until dry. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, add your smoke source (chips, chunks, or log** SEE NOTE BELOW). Carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.
While the grill heats, use a meat pounder to pound the chicken breasts to an even 1⁄2-inch (1.3 cm) thickness. Place them in a glass baking dish, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the chopped herbs and red pepper flakes over the chicken and use your hands to distribute the seasonings over each piece.
When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the chicken breasts over direct heat and grill, flipping every minute or so, until lightly charred, 6 to 7 minutes total. Transfer the breasts to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Place the radicchio in a bowl, top with a generous drizzle of the dressing, half of the Parmesan, and the olives and toss well. Taste the salad and add additional salt, pepper, or dressing as desired. Divide the salad among four plates and top with the remaining Parmesan and a whole or sliced chicken breast.
**NOTE: Smoking is where the magic happens. Incorporating hardwood in any of the following forms creates a stream of aromatic smoke to infuse whatever you're cooking. If you're using a gas grill, your only option is to rey on wood chips (soaked in water beforehand so they'll slowly smolder) placed in a smoker box or foil packet that's placed directly on the grates over a flame. You can also use soaked chips in a charcoal grill, either wrapped in a foil packet or scattered directly on the coals. Chips burn much more quickly than wood chunks, so consider the latter for recipes that require longer cook times. I love wood chunks because I can place a couple directly on a bed of hot coals (no soaking required), where they'll light quickly and smolder steadily, and they're easy to move with tongs if I need to balance the heat. Wood chunks are a great way to build heat if your temperature begins to drop midway through cooking and you don't have hot coals at the ready. Once the chunks ignite, you can control the speed at which they burn by moving them around the fire and venting your grill to control the amount of air the fire is receiving.