It’s that time in the CSA Season: Radicchio has shown up in the weekly share.
Radicchio has mixed popularity with our CSA members. Some love it, some hate it. There is always a bit of trepidation when it comes. As it comes off the truck I gaze at its beautiful purple and white stripes glistening with water, its firm and succulent flesh, and I wonder. Will they (the members) hate me for this? Are half of the members going to skip over the radicchio and give me pained looks? Or will they come next week and let me know that a dish they made with this alluring green made them practically gag? I always have a sense that this beautiful vegetable is more than meets the eye, especially when faced with the social consequences of trying to entice people to eat it. However, I always hope that I will be able to win some people over to the side of radicchio love. Or at least radicchio tolerance.
Hopefully that didn’t already scare you away. Why don’t I tell you a little about radicchio: It’s a leafy green that is part of the chicory family. From Red Fire Farm we get two varieties, a round bulb (radicchio di Chioggia) and a long narrow variety (shown above, radicchio di Treviso). What makes radicchio so controversial? Well, its flavor is really bitter and spicy. Some people just about choke on it. Others hold it in high culinary reverence.
When selecting a head of radicchio, if you are looking for a milder less bitter head- choose a smaller one with less thick green outer leaves (this indicates that it is more mature and generally more bitter). This isn’t a perfect science (for instance sometimes the thick green outer leaves were removed), but it usually works.
So, what do you do with it?
Well, you can put it raw in salads or slaws (I’d recommend mixing it with other greens). It goes really well with other strong flavors, like sharp cheeses, balsamic vinegar, you get the idea. You can also grill it, saute it, or roast it. Some people put it to things like risotto. Like I said, it goes well with good strong flavors. So, maybe some polenta with sautéed radicchio, with a good strong parmesan cheese. Maybe saute it with carmelized onion, and then sprinkle nuts, balsamic vinegar and a strong cheese on top.
How do you cook with it if you don’t like it that much, or (like me) you are cooking for someone who loathes radicchio? Theresa doesn’t like it very much, but perhaps loathe is too strong a word for her feelings on the veggie- maybe its is just appropriate for the time I fed her a salad consisting of mostly radicchio….
Well, one sure-fire way to help people find radicchio more palatable: Roast it wrapped in bacon! Strip some leaves off, or cut in half, coat them in olive oil, crushed garlic, some herbs, wrap in bacon and bake. (May I thank Julie, a CSA member, who recommended this last year).
Also, you can add a little bit here and there of the radicchio. That’s what we’ve done this week. We put a little on our pizza on Thursday:
A little bit in our Mediterranean salad on Sunday:
Here are a few other ways we’ve used it over the year:
- Baked with Bacon (at the end of this photo parade)
- Roasted Halves with Bacon and also mixed in a salad (in the middle and end of this photo parade)
- In Beans and Greens (a great replacement for escarole)
- Radicchio Slaw (inspired from a Red Fire Farm Recipe)
Here’s a few ways other people have eaten it:
- Radicchio and Cherry Tomato Saute
- On a grilled cheese sandwich
- In a Kale, Fennel, Chanterelle Salad
- Red Fire Farm’s Radicchio Slaw
Here’s what Sarah Voiland of Red Fire Farm likes to do with it:
Sautee the onions in olive oil until starting to carmelize, then add balsamic vinegar and radicchio, (outer leaves chopped large first, then tender inner leaves a little later), add a little salt and agave nectar or other sweetener. I cooked it to being pretty wilty, because I didn’t want it to be too chewy, and kind of tweaked the balance between bitter radicchio, balsamic, and sweet as we went. Chopped some extra-sharp cheddar and nestled it in after we plated it up. Not so fancy looking as the restaurant’s, but very yummy indeed.
Also done half-and-half with lettuce for a salad, with some warm rice, raisins, and cubes of cheese – really good.
I hope that this might help a few of those out there struggling to get a handle on how to use this veggie. If you have any favorite ways of using it, please share!