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Lisetta’s Erbe Rifatte, Sauteed wild Greens

Wild greens are curious beasts and cover a range of plants. Lisetta picked dandelions and served them at a delightful meal in the hinterland of Verona. When I asked how she did them she shrugged and said, “Wash them well, boil them, squeeze them into a ball, removing most of the liquid, coarsely chop them, and sauté them in a skillet with butter, a little garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. That’s it.”

The rest of the meal this was served in.

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Grilled Radicchio Rosso di Treviso, Radicchio Rosso di Treviso alla Griglia

Grilled Radicchio: Enjoy!

Grilled Radicchio: Enjoy!

One wouldn’t necessarily think to grill a leafy vegetable, but Radicchio Rosso has the texture and body necessary to stand up to the dry heat of a charcoal or stove top grill, and also a pleasing bitterness that will contrast nicely with the olive oil used to keep it from sticking and burning. Grilled radicchio rosso di Treviso also benefits from the slightly smoky flavor it acquires during cooking.

To serve 6:

  • 6 nice bunches of Radicchio Rosso di Treviso that are well closed, firm, and about 6 inches (15 cm) long
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • If you are cooking over the stove, a cast-iron griddle with a ridged bottom of the sort shown in the picture.

Though one can use Radicchio Rosso Precoce in a pinch, the Tardivo variety, which has more pronounced ribs and thinner leaves, will work best. The round headed radicchio such as Chioggia will not work.

Wash the radicchio, trim the tips of the leaves and the tap roots, and quarter each bunch in lengthwise. Season the radicchio with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and let it rest a few minutes.

If you are cooking it over the coals, cook it  gently (the coals shouldn’t be too hot), using a folding wire-mesh grill of the kind that allows you to turn the food without disturbing it if you have it, brushing the leaves with a little more oil every now and again, lest they blacken or char. They’re done when they’re thoroughly wilted and have lost the bright red color, but still display some crunch.

As a variation, some cooks add a few drops of vinegar to the oil.

If you are instead cooking your radicchio on a griddle, lay them out on the griddle and cook, turning them often, until they look like the radicchio in the picture above.

In addition to being a tasty vegetable that will nicely accompany other grilled meats, including flavorful fare such as sausages, grilled radicchio works nicely as a bed upon which to place other foods, and can go into other dishes.

Yield: 6 servings grilled radicchio rosso di Treviso.

This recipe, with photos to illustrate the steps

About Radicchio Rosso di Treviso

How to Grill Radicchio, Illustrated

Grilled Radicchio: Enjoy!

Grilled Radicchio: Enjoy!

Radicchio is a leafy vegetable, and as such one wouldn’t think it suited to grilling. However, it is flavorful, the leaves have considerable body, and its texture is such that if properly oiled it can easily withstand the dry heat of a charcoal fire or stovetop griddle. Therefore, it is a tasty if unusual (for non-North Italians) addition to a winter grigliata mista.

The griddle in question is Judy Francini’s; as she justly points out few modern cooks have access to hearths of the sort traditionally used to grill radicchio, but most everyone has a stovetop griddle that can give equally good results.

Though one can grill either radicchio tardivo or radicchio precoce, I prefer radicchio precoce of the sort shown here because it holds its shape better.

How to proceed?

Set Your Radicchio On Your Grill

Set Your Radicchio On Your Grill

Wash the radicchio, trim the tips of the leaves and the tap roots, and quarter each bunch lengthwise. If you want you can season the radicchio with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and let it rest a few minutes.

Or simply lay the quarters on the griddle, like Judy did. Cast iron will work best, and a bistecchiera of this kind is ideal.

Drizzle Your Radicchio with Olive Oil

Drizzle Your Radicchio with Olive Oil

Without oil the radicchio will simply dry out and burn. After turning on the flame Judy gave our radicchio a healthy drizzle of Extravirgin olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Turning the Radicchio

Turning the Radicchio

After 3-4 minutes at a moderately brisk flame (the griddle should not be searingly hot), turn the radicchio. Note the score marks left by the griddle.

Note the Score Marks...

Note the Score Marks…

Continue cooking and turning until your radicchio looks like the first shot. Done.

In addition to being a tasty vegetable that will nicely accompany other grilled foods, including flavorful fare such as sausages, grilled radicchio works nicely as a bed upon which to place other foods, and can go into other dishes.

Enjoy!

About Radicchio di Treviso

This recipe, without the photos

Radicchio Rosso: A Marvel from Treviso

Radicchio Di Treviso Tardivo

Radicchio Di Treviso Tardivo

Radicchio, Picked from the Ground

Radicchio, Picked from the Ground

Radicchio has a long history: Pliny mentions the marvelous red-lined lettuces of the Veneto region in his Naturalis Historia,noting that in addition to being tasty they’re good for insomnia and purifying the blood; he also says it was the Egyptians who bred radicchio from its more wild ancestor, chicory. In the Middle Ages it was especially popular among monks, who welcomed anything that would perk up the simple, predominately vegetarian diets proscribed by their orders.

Radicchio On The Way To The Shed

Radicchio On The Way To The Shed

Not that the plant was limited to monastic kitchens; it also figured prominently on the tables of nobles, both cooked and raw: In 1537 Pietro Aretino advised a friend who had a garden to plant it, saying he much preferred it to “aroma-free lettuce and endive.”

While tasty, Pliny’s radicchio isn’t the radicchio rosso we know today. The modern radicchio with its rich wine-red white-ribbed leaves was developed in the 1860s by Francesco Van Den Borre, a Belgian agronomist who applied the techniques used to whiten Belgian endive to the radicchio grown around Treviso. The process,

Radicchio: Imbianchimento

Radicchio: Imbianchimento

which is called imbianchimento, is quite involved: the plants are harvested in late fall, their outer leaves are timmed and discarded, they’re packed into wire mesh baskets, and they’re stood for several days in darkened sheds with their roots bathed in steadily circulating springwater that emerges from the ground at a temperature of about 15 C (60F). As they bathe the leaves of the hearts of the radicchio plants take on the pronounced wine-red color that distinguishes them (the deeper the red the more pleasingly bitter the plant). At this point the farmer unties the bunches, strips away the outer leaves, trims the root (the tender part that’s just below ground level is tasty), and sends the radicchio to the market.

If you visit a well-stocked Italian market you will find a number of different kinds of Radicchio Rosso. The most important are:

Radicchio Rosso di Treviso.The best, it comes in two varieties: Precoce,

Radicchio di Treviso Precoce

Radicchio di Treviso Precoce

which has fleshy red leaves with white ribs that form a compact bunch, and Tardivo (see above), which has much more pronounced ribs and the splayed leaves. As you might guess, precoce comes into season first, and though it is prettier to look at the tardivo is more flavorful, with stronger bitter accents. Both Precoce and Tardivo now enjoy IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status, which means that they can only be sold as such if they are produced around Treviso, under the supervision of the Consorzio Radicchio di Treviso.

Radicchio Variegato Dic Cstelfranco

Radicchio Variegato Dic Cstelfranco

Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco also enjoys IGP status; it looks more like a traditional head of lettuce but has deep wine-red stripes, and is also known as the Edible Flower. It’s a cross between radicchio and a round-headed endive.

Radicchio Di Chioggia

Radicchio Di Chioggia

Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia was bred from the Variegato; it has dark red leaves with white ribs, but is rounder than Radicchio di Treviso; it’s also compact, and as a result it resembles a head of cabbage in shape. It’s now the most commonly grown radicchio rosso in Italy, and is (alas) sold as radicchio di Treviso in other parts of Europe. I’ve also seen it in seed catalogs in the US.

Radicchio Rosso di Verona was bred from Rosso di Treviso in the 50s, and is somewhat fuller shaped than its ancestor.

Radicchio, like almost everything else in Italy, is quite seasonal, appearing in the markets in late November and remaining throughout the winter. It’s tastiest after the frosts begin, and is therefore worth waiting on if the winter is mild. It has also been introduced to California’s Napa Valley and is becoming popular in the US too. Small wonder; it’s quite good. And also good for you; Radicchio’s bitterness is due to intybin, which stimulates the appetite and digestive system, and acts as a tonic for the blood and liver.

Now that you’ve bought some radicchio, what to do with it?

When you get it home put it in the crisper section of your refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of days, and if it looks slightly wilted stand it in a glass of water — the tap root isn’t just there for show; it also has nutrients that feed the leaves and can absorb water. When you trim the root prior to using the radicchio, don’t discard it, but rather use it as you would a radish or other root vegetable.

My thanks to the kind folks at the Consorzio Radicchio di Treviso IGP and Treviso’s Consorzio di Promozione Turistica  for organizing a delightful weekend in Castelfranco Veneto, during which I learned much and took photos. If you are in the area, don’t forget to check the Strada del Radicchio, which includes itineraries dedicated to discovering Radicchio Trevigiano, and much more.

And Finally, Some Recipes

How to Grill Radicchio, Illustrated

How to Grill Radicchio, without the photos