Beautiful garden rose? No! It's Radicchio!
Radicchio, the bitter beauty of greens, is now available at farmer's markets and likely through your local CSA (community supported agriculture) across the country for culinary enjoyment!
A proud member of the chicory family, this bitter beauty performs well in salads and slaws, but also holds up to cooking as well with a subtle smoky sweetness mellowing the typical bitterness. If you have seen radicchio but never been properly introduced, consider this an excellent chance to get better acquainted.
Radicchio is not a single shade, shape or form. Pictured above is Castelfranco Radicchio best known for tender ivory leaves speckled with deep ruby red that offer a more gentle taste of bitter than the more ubiquitous garnet orb, Chioggia (pictured below on the right) available year-round at most groceries, Treviso (in the image to the left) that looks like the red-leaved sister of endive with long pointed ruby leaves, and the harder-to-find Treviso Tardivo, a Treviso radicchio that has gone through an additional period of growth with it's finger-like rose-hued leaves that are intense with flavor, and very firm in texture.
Radicchio can last 7-10 days in your veggie drawer though it's texture is optimal as fresh as possible, particularly for cold preparations. Carefully picked heads of radicchio that show no signs of browning, and are intense in color and contrast. Firm, dense heads are best.
How best to enjoy this ruby gem this season? Option 1 - COLD. Thinly sliced into ribbons, or shaved for a slaw, radicchio is a colorful upgrade to your salad routine. A favorite salad in our home for this bitter beauty is to balance it’s crunch (preferably chopped) with sweet carmelized carrots, onion (which I prefer to carmelise as well), orange sections, herbal parsley and toasted pepitas. Toss in roasted chicken and shaved cheese (we like Manchego or Gouda) if that’s your thing. Be sure to add citrus to your vinaigrette and BAM!! Welcome to delicious! Recipe follows below.
Option 2 - WARM - Chopped in half, or into quarter sections, roasting (or grilling) or sautéing radicchio adds a smoky tone that smooths out the bitter edges. It couldn't be simpler to grab Chioggia or Treviso Tardivo (if you are lucky to find it) and to toss it lightly in olive oil and a favorite herb, and add it to your next grill session or roast it in your oven. A delicious pairing with almost any meat course from simple sausage to seared steak or scattered across a pizza. Recipe follows at the end.
Next time you see this red beauty at the market, be sure to introduce yourself and make a plan to get better acquainted. It's unlikely you'll be disappointed!
Carmelized Carrots, Shallots, & Radicchio Salad with Toasted Pepitas
Total time: 45-60 min, including roasting | Serves: 8-10
Note: Adapted from Epicurious (November 2016)
1 large or 2 small heads radicchio (about 11 ounces)
1/2 cup pepitas, toasted
10-12 medium carrots, cut evenly into sticks 4-5" long (for roasting)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 3 TB divided
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon crushed Aleppo red pepper flakes
2 medium sweet onions, quartered wedges
2 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh citrus juice - lemon, orange, lime (even yuzu)
1 tablespoon honey
4 oranges, peeled, sliced into 1/2" half moons
2 cups Italian (flat) parsley leaves
OPTIONAL - add roasted chicken and/or shaved Manchego or aged Gouda
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss onions and carrots with 3 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, fresh thyme and 2 TB olive oil. Separate onions and carrots on either end of a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or heavy-duty aluminum foil to avoid sticking). Set aside.
In a skillet set on medium-low flame, add 1 TB olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and toast pepitas until they turn lightly brown, likely 4-5 minutes. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY - they burn very quickly! Remove from heat and empty into a side bowl. (Do not let pepitas remain in skillet as they will continue to brown!).
When oven is preheated, roast onions and carrots on a rack in the upper half of the oven.Turn onions and carrots every 10-12 minutes, until charred slightly around edges and softened throughout, likely 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
While carrots and onions are roasting, wash radicchio and trim the end (depending on type of radicchio). Dry thoroughly. Roughly chop radicchio into medium bite size pieces. If Chioggia, core and cut head in half, and then roughly slice larger ribbons.
Whisk garlic, vinegar, citrus juice, honey, and remaining 1/2 cup oil and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Roughly chopped roasted onions, and add to a salad bowl with roasted carrots. Toss in radicchio, orange slices, and parsley and toss to coat. Top with pepitas and serve.
Roasted (or Grilled) Radicchio
Total time: 30 min, including roasting | Serves: 4
2 large heads radicchio (preferably Treviso), halved lenthwise (if Chioggia, cut into quarters)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is great)
Balsamic vinegar (for drizzling before serving)
OPTIONAL - shaved parmigiana or grana
PREPARATION - OVEN
Preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse radicchio in ice water; gently shake dry (leave damp) and add to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper.
Arrange radicchio on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast until slightly browned and wilted, 12-15 minutes. Turn and continue roasted until fork tender, likely 8-10 minutes longer. Remove from oven.
Arrange roasted wedges on a serving plate and drizzle very lightly with balsamic. Add light dusting of cheese (optional) and serve.
PREPARATION - GRILL
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Rinse radicchio in ice water; gently shake dry (leave damp) and add to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper.
Grill radicchio until lightly charred, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from grill.
Arrange grilled wedges on a serving plate and drizzle very lightly with balsamic. Add light dusting of cheese (optional) and serve.