November 25, 2013

Radicchio: Garden Series Part X

This will likely wrap up my 2013 garden series, which I'm happy to report was ten posts in total.

I finally made it out to the garden to clean it up a couple weeks ago, before the real winter weather rolled in. Under the mass of dried and dead tomato vines and the pole bean hedge, I found that I still had plenty of Swiss chard, sage, parsley, and thyme (no rosemary).  And radicchio!  What a beauty!

In standard store-bought salad mixes, I am not a huge fan of the thick, bitter leaves.  And although Italian eat radicchio regularly (hence its Italian name- and those are hard Cs there), I totally grew this one for its looks and it didn't disappoint.  It starts out as a hardy green that forms a head.  At one point, I tried saut√©ing these green leaves with salt and olive oil, but the dish was too bitter to eat - so much so, I started to wonder if the plant is actually poisonous at this stage.

Then I left the plants to themselves and they started turning their famous deep purple at the veins and edges. Quite beautiful, really.  I decided that once they turned full purple, I would try grilling or braising them... something to get some char on the cut side and to be served with vinaigrette.  It worked.

  • 1 small head radicchio (or endive or romaine hearts)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t. dijon mustard
  • More salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
  • Polenta-No Burns, No Mess (optional serving suggestion)

Peel outer leaves off of the radicchio until you reach the clean, tight inner leaves.  Trim stem end and slice lengthwise in half.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet (this skillet should have a lid that fits it for later) over medium-high heat.  Once hot, place the radicchio in the skillet, cut sides down.  Allow to sizzle for a minute, reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes and turn off heat. The radicchio will release a lot of moisture, so to avoid oil splatter, you can leave the skillet covered until sizzling subsides.

Meanwhile, put 1/4 cup olive oil and vinegar into a Mason jar or similar container. Add mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.  Seal jar and shake well.

Remove the radicchio from skillet using tongs and place on top of polenta (or by itself on a plate). Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with vinaigrette (you'll have plenty leftover for future salads), and top with parmesan. The radicchio will still be slightly bitter, but should be balanced with the vinaigrette and have some nice, crispy edges from the browning.  Enjoy!

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