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I'm making a salad that's quite bitter (endives, radicchio, arugula, with a lemon vinaigrette dressing). Normally this salad has peeled grana padano on top of it, which cuts the bitterness, but my co-diner can't have dairy (or gluten, sadly).

Any ideas for what I could add to a salad like this that would cut the bitterness similarly?


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6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The main things that Parmesan cheese can add to a salad are fattiness and salt. The first thing that comes to mind for me is bacon. You could probably also make a yummy main dish salad (or hearty first course) by adding duck or a cured meat such as salami.

If you're not interested in adding meat, how about olives? Those would serve similar purposes. Other options might be marinated artichoke hearts or mushrooms. Just make sure you choose ones that aren't too tart, as they might add to the effect of the lemon vinaigrette.

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I agree with Martha with the fat a salt being the required balancing element in a bitter salad but think with your delicate flavours bacon might over power. I think I'd add an air died ham like Serrano or Parma ham.

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ooh, or perhaps pancetta? – justkt Oct 18 '10 at 12:58
See, that's where personal experience comes in. I don't eat bacon, since I keep kosher. So I was guessing on the bacon based on my analysis of what Parmesan could add. I think that if I were doing this, I'd add either duck or olives. – Martha F. Oct 21 '10 at 13:12

My sister's dairy-free out of necessity (milk allergy, not lactose intolerance) and she swears by a mixture of baker's yeast, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, and salt for Parmesan replacement, though obviously it's more akin to grated cheese than sliced cheese and thus might not be the texture you want.

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Oops, I just re-read the question and realized that my answer won't work for the particular need mentioned in the questions, as bread crumbs are not okay for a gluten-free person. Sorry about that! (I'm going to leave the answer up for now in case others come to this q/a as a resources for more general parmesan substitutions.) – In the Booley House Oct 19 '10 at 19:17
+1; I found this page while looking for a parmesan substitute, so thank you! If you're ever back on SE, I'd appreciate any additional detail regarding her mix. – Jon of All Trades Feb 17 '13 at 18:16
@IntheBooleyHouse There are gluten-free breadcrumbs out there, so with careful shopping this could be eaten by a gluten-free person too :) – Erica Oct 29 at 10:50

On endive salad, I like to cut bitterness with sumak, a spice commonly used in Turkey as a replacement for lemon juice.

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As someone who is also dairy and gluten free, first off you can make gluten-free bread crumbs now, with some decent gluten free breads on the market (I've also found gf crumbs in high-end grocery stores). Second, I will often cut the bitterness with a high-quality olive oil (California Olive Ranch is sweeter), with a nice large-grain salt, and/or with balsamic vinegar which can add sweetness as well. Depending on the dish, mirin can also add sweetness. If you substitute with olives, try Graber olives or Castelveltrano (my favorite!). Or try avocado or a ripe heirloom tomato. Or both. Have fun and good luck!

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Try shredded coconut. If the bitterness is still palpable, try salted coconut shreds (or salt them yourself by soaking in saline water).

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