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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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5 Answers 5

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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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Are they lactose intolerant? Because old hard cheeses like parmesan (and grana padano) have very little lactose in them. Lactose is consumed and converted into lactic acid by the cheese-making bacteria...Generally after 3 months or so, there is very little left.

Some people are much more lactose intolerant than others, but many people who are otherwise intolerant can eat hard long-aged cheeses. Here's a link to an article about low lactose cheeses. It's geared toward people suffering from Galactosaemia, but it goes into detail about lactose content. Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano were both mentioned as cheeses with "undetectable" levels of lactose (under 2.8mg per 100g).

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It's likely a casein allergy, considering the gluten involvement too. –  ceejayoz Oct 16 '10 at 13:46

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

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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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

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