Saturday, January 26, 2008
R is for Radicchio
Radicchio, said Fred must be the radish’s Italian cousin. In fact they aren’t related. Radicchio is a red-leaved chicory. There are different types, named after the regions of Italy from where they originate. I found them in a grocers’ shop. There were three red-headed Divas on offer: the Chiogga, the Treviso and the Castelfranco. We chose the Chiogga, which was round and the leaves are compact.
“It tastes quite bitter,” warned the grocer. “Try grilling it with some olive oil.”
“Use it as an ‘accent’,” barked a rather grand lady who was buying fancy mushrooms. I didn’t want to reveal my ignorance.
“Oh yes, of course, an accent vegetable,” I muttered knowingly.
When it comes to vegetables, what exactly is an ‘accent’?
There are some vegetables that feel too grand for our family mealtimes and this had to be one of them. The Chiogga Radicchio came home with us in a brown paper bag, no doubt complaining bitterly that it had to travel on the bus.
I figured that the posh lady’s use of the word ‘accent’ was more akin to interior decoration. The radicchio needed to be given a decorative role. I quartered it once and then again, coated it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little salt and grilled it. The bright red pigment rapidly ages in the heat and turns a rather distinguished mottled brown. I don’t know many children that like bitter tastes. Radiccio isn’t in the same bitterness league as the kerala or bitter gourd but it is still challenging. The grilled Chiogga was arranged on oven-warmed Foccacia bread with a slice of ripe Brie cheese. The grand lady would have been proud of me. I warned Freddie and Alex about the bitterness. Bolstered by the Brie, it scored 7 out of 10.