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Chopped salad with radicchio, pear, bacon and walnuts is layered with fall flavors

This fall chopped salad with citrus dressing exemplifies autumn with radicchio, pear, bacon and walnuts.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
This fall chopped salad with citrus dressing exemplifies autumn with radicchio, pear, bacon and walnuts. (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Ann Maloney Washington Post

Sometimes spring produce feels like a shiny sports car that catches your eye as it whizzes by on a beautiful day. It’s bright with lovely detailing in its tender fronds, stems and leaves.

In fall and winter, generally, fruits and vegetables get heavier, more like a sturdy sedan that everyone can climb into to bump along comfortably down the highway. Think apples and pears and assertive greens such as kale, cabbage or collards.

This fall, after a trip to the farmers market, I leaned into the season to make this complex and colorful chopped salad with a sweet citrus dressing, luscious pear, bitter radicchio and salty bacon.

It’s no secret that at the end of a hectic day, a chopped salad is a great way to ease into dinner and use produce we may have on hand. But, as you build your salad, think about creating a variety of flavors and textures.

What makes this one work for me are the contrasts: The slightly bitter radicchio is softened by the orange dressing sweetened with maple syrup. The smoky, crunchy bacon and toasted walnuts are balanced by the luscious softness of the just-ripe pear and a handful of chewy, sweet, dried cherries.

Still, it is easy to make substitutions by selecting your favorite greens, such as ones mentioned above or maybe iceberg lettuce, chard or frisee. Slice an apple rather than a pear and toss in pecans or sunflower seeds rather than walnuts. Don’t like sweet dressing? Use lemons or grapefruit in place of oranges for a tart, bright finish. If you want to make the salad vegan, omit the bacon or make your own mushroom bacon instead.

This hearty salad can be a meal in itself, but it also makes a pretty accompaniment to roasted meats or that holiday turkey or ham. Want to make the salad ahead of time? Combine all the ingredients, except the dressing and the pear, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, chop the pear and toss it all with the dressing.

Fall Chopped Salad With Citrus Dressing

For the salad:

5 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 small head radicchio, chopped

4 ounces Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced or grated

2 ripe pears such as D’Anjou, Barlett or Bosc, cored and chopped

½ small red onion, chopped

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems

¼ cup toasted walnut pieces, plus more for serving (see note)

¼ cup dried cherries, plus more for serving

For the dressing:

½ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange (about 3 tablespoons of juice)

1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon fine sea or table salt, plus more to taste

Cook the bacon: Line a plate with a tea towel or paper towel and place it near the stove. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the prepared plate. Discard the bacon fat or save it for another use.

Make the dressing: While the bacon is cooking, in a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, orange zest and juice, maple syrup, mustard, pepper and salt until combined. Dip a leaf into the dressing and taste, adjusting the syrup, salt and/or pepper as needed.

In a large bowl, toss together half of the bacon, the radicchio, Brussels sprouts, pears, onion, parsley, walnuts and cherries. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again. Sprinkle the rest of the bacon over the salad and top with more walnuts and dried cherries, if desired.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Make ahead: The dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Storage notes: The salad is best eaten right away. If storing, mix the ingredients, except the pears and dressing, and refrigerate for up to three days. Add those just before serving.

Note: To toast the walnuts, place a small, dry skillet over medium heat, add the nuts and stir frequently until fragrant and slightly darker, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool; then chop.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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