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.

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  1. Your radicchio sandwiches look beautiful! I love grilled radicchio -- the smoky flavor from the grill seems to make it taste a bit sweeter.

  2. well done for getting those high marks! The sandwiches look very appetising!

  3. SWee you learn something new everyday...I didn't know there were different types of radicchio. It looks very pretty in a sandwich!

  4. Contrasting the bitter taste with cheese and bread is a great idea. I love the bitter taste of radicchio. I particularly like to grill it or broil it much as you did, but then I sprinkle it with crisp bacon (or pancetta), olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. However, this is less popular with pickier eaters in my house. Your version with cheese (and maybe still bacon) could go over well, though.

    When you work your way through the alphabet... what's next?

  5. Raddichio is a very good friend of cured pork (bacon, speck, ham). In Italy I ate it a lot in tomato-based pasta sauce, with speck... that was soooooo yummy!

    Also quite nice torn into bits and tossed with boiled potatoes and a bit of salad dressing.

    I'm so jealous that you found a greengrocer with three kinds of raddichio! It's hard enough to get any kind round here, and I haven't ever seen the really fleshy kind they grill in Italy at all.

  6. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Here in Western Canada, radiccio has been available for some years but I've never heard of anyone grilling it! Sounds yummy. Here, it's mainly used as an addition to a basic mixed green or cabbage salad, mainly for colour and/or it's "bite" (as an "accent", as your posh lady suggested). JD :-)

  7. You and the children all did well - both to eat it and to treat the radicchio so it got such high marks. The sandwiches look fab, with great bread.

  8. That looks yummy with the brie! The excellent blog, mattbites has a great recipe that would probably help the cause, too - at I tried it, and it was creamy and delicious...

  9. This is another veg I have never had.

    Charlotte, I want to thank you for the mention on the BBC food board.


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