Tardivo for the Party
Tardivo is the king of radicchio. Heads of it resemble curly purple witch fingers. It is expensive and nearly impossible to find in America. But if you chance upon it, don’t be intimidated by its vaguely pernicious looks. Generally when you buy radicchio in America it is a slightly browned ball (which we call Radicchio Rosso or Radicchio di Verona in Italy) that has inexpertly traveled from the Veneto (or the Salinas Valley) to your local supermarket.
Even more frequently, it comes shredded in dreadful bags of mesclun greens (a name even more ridiculous than the product), which I will now bombastically state, you should never purchase. Radicchio does not play nicely with other greens and if you want to serve it in a salad, I would suggest you serve by itself with a simple vinaigrette. Modena produced balsamic works well with the more astringent varieties of radicchio you will find in the US.
The treasured Tardivo Radicchio is more delicate and sweeter than its more pedestrian chicory counterparts. It is in peak season from late November through February. Thusly, when I spotted it on sale off the Rialto this week, I quickly went bananas. Many travel to Venice to admire its canals and piazzas. I, being of the slightly more food-obsessed variety, enjoy Venice (and the Veneto in general) for its radicchio and Prosecco (oh, and the grappa in Bassano isn’t half bad either).
Tardivo Radicchio, being thoroughly of Veneto extraction is one of the best ways to explore this region’s cuisine. If you are unable to locate Tardivo, you can substitute the more common heads of radicchio known as Radicchio Rosso. In the winter, I enjoy simple braised radicchio with a crusty loaf of bread. Below are five ways to prepare radicchio and finally, a simple recipe for braised radicchio.
These recipes are all best prepared in winter when radicchio is in season and not overly bitter. If you can't find radicchio, period, then enjoy this fine food porn and go have a burger!!
5 Radicchio Ideas
1) GRILLED RADICCHIO
Light your grill or pre-heat your grill pan over medium heat. Quarter radicchio and toss with olive oil and sea salt. Grill radicchio on each side for three minutes. Drizzle with another touch of olive oil. Serve warm with grilled bread or at room temperature for a picnic.
2) RISOTTO OF RADICCHIO AND SAUSAGE
Crumble two links of fresh pork sausage and sauté until cooked through. Set sausage aside on paper towel lined plate. Julienne cut two heads of radicchio. Using a master recipe for risotto, add radicchio to sautéed onions and sauté for an additional minute (before adding rice). Proceeding with risotto recipe as usual, add sausage when rice is half way cooked through. Finish recipe as usual, garnish risotto with Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil and serve warm.
3) RAW RADICCHIO SALAD
Shred radicchio and toss with shaved Piave (a local, aged Veneto cheese), olive oil red wine vinegar. Top with a touch of sea salt.
4) RADICCHIO AND BORLOTTI BEAN SALAD
Cook 2 cups of Bortlotti Beans and set aside. Sauté 3 oz diced pancetta in skillet until crispy. Remove all but 1 tablespoon pancetta fat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 finely diced garlic clove and 2 heads of radicchio rosso leaves and sauté until cooked through. Toss the radicchio mixture with beans, sea salt, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Can be served warm, room temperature or cold.
5) SAUTEED RADICCHIO WITH POLENTA
Sauté 2 heads of quartered radicchio over medium heat in olive oil. Add ½ cup of white wine and reduce by one half to deglaze the pan. Serve radicchio and its juices with warm polenta or grits.
Serves 6 as contorni
- 1 Tablespoon, extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Vidalia onion sliced in ¼ inch strips
- 1 Clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 3 heads radicchio, quartered
- 1 Tablespoon finely diced flat leaf parsley
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- Ground Pepper
- 1/3 Cup dry white wine
- 1 Cup chicken stock (home made or low sodium store bought)
- 4 Grape tomatoes, quartered
- 4 Pitted black olives, quartered
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven.
- Add onions and sauté until translucent and slightly yellow (about 7 minutes).
- Add garlic, radicchio, and parsley and sauté for an additional minute.
- Deglaze with white wine and reduce wine by one half.
- Add chicken stock or water and bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour.
- Place radicchio in shallow serving bowl, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, parsley and if you wish, tomato and olives.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Braised radicchio leftovers can be incorporated into Risotto or even a Frittata.