For years I have hated radicchio. I dismissed the odd red and white, bitter lettuce as filler and coloring for mediocre salads. It turns out I was horribly mistaken.
The years I had been eating it, it was being mishandled and abused. You see, radicchio needs coaxing. You have to draw out the subtle sweetness and earthiness and mute the bitter just a bit so it blends with the other great flavors.
This time of year, winter and early spring, some areas of Italy are overflowing with interesting and delicious radicchio varieties. Recently, some of these have become available here in Austin and I was eager to do some experimenting.
Four or five different types lined the vegetable shelves, but the most alluring of the bunch was Radicchio di Treviso Tardivo (Treviso is apparently renowned for its radicchio and the tardivo just means that it’s ready late in the season). It’s weird looking stuff. It has a large tap root off of which sprout long, somewhat thick, red and white fingery leaves. Cool huh?
So I bought myself a whole mess of it and brought it home. Turning to my trusty Silver Spoon I found literally dozens of great sounding radicchio recipes. However, one of them was for a simple radicchio risotto and in my opinion, if you’ve never eaten something before, you should damn sure try it in a risotto.
I did. It was amazing. Creamy, sweet, savory, with a pleasant nutty bitter finish. I think I ate for hours. Judging from the mmm’s and sighs, I think Mme. Pants enjoyed it as well. (The green is some scallion oil that I added, you know, to make it purdy).
Like most risotto’s it’s super easy to make. Basically, after you sweat some onions in some olive oil you add in about a half pound of radicchio leaves. Let that cook for another minute and then add in two-ish cups of rice and continue as usual. I think you’ll gain a whole new respect for the sadly misunderstood radicchio.
Oh, and if you find yourself unable to finish off all of the risotto, never fear. One of the all time best leftover dishes is fried risotto cakes. Just mix in a little egg to the cold risotto, form it into patties or balls and fry away. We had ours with spinach and some fresh yolk.