What is Radicchio?
Did you know that radicchio is pronounced with the “ch” sound? I had been saying it incorrectly for many years.
Radicchio is pronounced ‘raˈdikkjo’ because it is an Italian word and the “ch” sound in English is a “k” sound in Italian. It is Italian because radicchio originated in Northern Italy in the town of Chioggia. Which by the way is also where Chioggia beets are from!
This vegetable is from the chicory family and it is a perennial plant, meaning it is a plant that lives for more than 2 years. It is closely related to artichokes, burdock, endive and Jerusalem artichokes.
The most common of the radicchio is the Chioggia which has red leaves, the colour of wine and sturdy white veins. It looks very much like a head of lettuce or cabbage and just like these vegetables, you would peel back the leaves, slice them or cut them up in wedges.
What Does Radicchio Taste Like?
Flavour: Radicchio is known for its bitterness and therefore it is often paired with sweeter ingredients to counteract the intensity. Cooking radicchio either by roasting, sautéing or grilling, mellows the bitterness considerably.
Texture: The leaves of the radicchio are of medium softness. Not as soft as an iceberg lettuce but not as hard as a cabbage. The white vein is quite hard and very crunchy when eaten raw. The vegetable leaf wilts a little if put through the cooking process.
How to Store Radicchio
The best way to store radicchio is in a perforated bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. The perforated bag will allow ethylene to escape which will reduce the rate in which the leaves will turn brown and therefore stay fresh longer. By doing so you’ll get a week out of the vegetable.
How to Choose Radicchio?
Radicchio is a tightly packed head of leaves that is surprisingly dense to hold considering its size. Not quite as dense as a cabbage but it certainly has weight. The leaves should be of a vivid colour and the white stem shouldn’t be browning.
I go to a couple of markets where I know they sell pre-removed radicchio leaves by weight. In most cases, I don’t need a lot of it as it is quite overpowering in its flavour.
I just need a touch of it and usually add it to other mixed leaves. I also love them because of their colour.
Selecting these loose leaves also gives me the chance to pick them individually, rather than as a vegetable as a whole. I ensure the leaves are not limp, colours are bright and the stem is sturdy.
What Goes Well with Radicchio?
Fruit and Vegetables
Artichoke, beetroot, blood orange, butternut squash, endive, fennel, green beans, kale, leek, orange, pear, persimmon, rocket, shallots.
Herbs, Nuts and Spices
Basil, chives, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, tarragon, thyme, walnut.
Protein and Other
Anchovies, bacon, balsamic vinegar, capers, farro, gorgonzola, mustard, pancetta, polenta, sour cream, tuna.
How to Use Radicchio in Salads?
Like most leaves, we eat them raw. They are a fantastic addition to a bunch of mixed leaves as it gives it a crunchier texture, adds a bit of colour while the bitterness is a great flavour bomb.
I usually trim off any brown parts of the stem and remove a couple of the first layers and extract the subsequent layers for the salad. If they are overly big you can roughly tear them up to the size that you need.
You can also slice radicchio like you could a cabbage. Some places sell radicchio in halves, which may be more economical if you don’t need a lot. Cut it into a quarter and with a sharp knife slice thinly.
Grilling radicchio is quite a popular way to enjoy this bitter vegetable. Just toss it through some olive oil and salt and pepper and place in the oven for about 10-20 minutes, depending how grilled you’d like it to be.
You can also grill in on a grill pan or BBQ. Toss it frequently to get even charring and so that the leaves don’t burn. You can grill individual leaves, as “steaks” or in wedges. That charred smoky flavours are delicious as it also mellows the biter flavours.
You can saute them too but this is perhaps not a method used a lot for making salads. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! Toss it through some raw leaves and other produce to help create a warm salad.
Salad Recipes with Radicchio
Adoro chioggia! Without this small fishing village in northern Italy, we wouldn’t have this beetroot salad. The sweetness from the chioggia beetroot and the bitterness from the chioggia radicchio provides for a sophisticated light side.
A delicious pairing of bitter and sweet flavours on one plate balanced with savoury umami Cantonese Roast Duck, this no cook warm salad recipe is super easy to prepare!
A delectable pairing of bitter and sweet flavours on one plate. This Ruby Grapefruit Salad is fuss-free to prepare, the colours are stunning and would definitely get guests talking around the table. Also perfect for any spring or summer barbeques and informal catch ups.
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