Salad

Radicchio and Our 11 Favorite Ways to Use It

December  6, 2014

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: Winter vegetables can be rad.

Radicchio 

How often have you been at the farmers market and, unsure of how to pronouce the vegetable you're looking at, mumbled "I'll have one of those" under your breath while pointing at the object of your desire? Let's agree to stop doing that. Head out to the market this weekend and confidently ask for the rah-dee-key-oh.

Radicchio is a type of chicory (as is puntarelle) and, along with artichokes, burdock, and Jerusalem artichokes, a member of the sunflower family. Endive, another member of the family, is especially closely related to chicories (they’re all in the Chichorium genus) and they're confusingly named depending on where you live in the world -- what we think of as endive is known elsewhere as chicory.

Radicchio

There are a number of varieties of radicchio: Most are named after the area of Italy where they're grown, and a handful have protected geographic indication (Indicazione Geografica Protetta or IGP). These labels guarantee that the item comes from a specific region, that its quality and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin, and that at least one phase of production and/or processing takes place in its designated region.

The most popular type of radicchio in the U.S. -- and thus the type you're most likely to get your hands on -- is Chioggia (1), or more properly: Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia. It's rounded, and looks like a small head of cabbage. Once you find it, you'll be able to have it on hand for awhile: Deborah Madison says that Chiogga radicchio "keeps well for weeks in the refrigerator should you need to store it that long, though it’s always better to use things sooner than later.”

You're also likely to be able to find Treviso (Radicchio Rosso di Treviso), which is milder in flavor, and more elongated in shape (2) -- like a giant version of endive. Tardivo comes from the same Treviso plant, but looks more like a sea creature with curling tentacles. It gets its otherworldly looks from a forced second growth, not unlike endive.

Marcella Hazen, who left us with an abundance of food wisdom, had her own radicchio preferences: “The noblest members of the family -- radicchio di Castelfranco, radicchio di Treviso, tardivo di Treviso -- make an eagerly awaited entrance around November...The greatest of the three and, in my opinion, the most magnificent vegetable grown, is Treviso’s dazzling tardivo or late-harvest radicchio.”

Radicchio

Although you can find radicchio year-round, it’s at its best in the cooler months -- its trademark bitterness is more assertive in warmer months. Select crisp-looking specimens, remove any sad, wilty leaves (3) before use, and mentally prepare yourself for any red radicchio to become a less-appealing shade of brown once cooked.

The Pros Propose*

Marcella Hazen lets us in on a secret tip she learned from the radicchio growers of Chioggia: "Although the whole, bright red leaf looks very attractive in a salad, radicchio can be made to taste sweeter by splitting the head in half, then shredding it fine on the diagonal...Do not discard the tender, upper part of the root just below the base of the leaves, because it is very tasty."

Nancy Harmon Jenkins says: "Here in Italy we usually sliver the radicchio in fine slices and dress it a bit ahead of serving with excellent olive oil and a few drops of good wine vinegar, plus salt, of course. Both techniques -- slivering and dressing in advance -- help to cut down on bitterness."

Radicchio

Once you procure your radicchio, try one of our 11 favorite ways to use it:

Salads
We can't deny it, radicchio is great in salad.

Non-Salad Stuff
But there's no need to limit radicchio to just side dishes.

We can't wait to hear how you like to use radicchio -- tell us in the comments.

Final photo by James Ransom, all other photos by Mark Weinberg

*You've earned yourself an extra cookie if you recognize this as an homage to Elizabeth Schneider!

7 Comments

Jack H. July 4, 2017
We just bought some seedlings that had the sign radicchio in the pot so we grew them and they look nothing like the red ones ,ours are long green leaf,s not red can some one put us right as to what verity this is ,but it still tast bitter the leaf,s are about 600mm long with no solid middle !!!! Can anyone help ,
 
Jack H. July 4, 2017
We just bought some seedlings that had the sign radicchio in the pot so we grew them and they look nothing like the red ones ,ours are long green leaf,s not red can some one put us right as to what verity this is ,but it still tast bitter the leaf,s are about 600mm long with no solid middle !!!! Can anyone help ,
 
hobanny December 14, 2014
We cut wedges of radicchio and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and then onto the top rack of the grill they go! They need to grill for some time, so put them on first, grill low and slow, and then finish on the bottom rack next to the meat for a minute or two on each side. The simpler the better!!
 
alice Y. December 10, 2014
The best radicchio dish I have had is a grilled radicchio and romaine caesar salad at MB Post.
 
mizerychik December 7, 2014
I love radicchio. My favorite is this stuffed shells recipe - http://www.marthastewart.com/356384/stuffed-shells. The cheese, prosciutto and radicchio makes a delicious combination.
 
Andrea F. December 6, 2014
Try this: cut a Chioggia in 4 to 8 pieces, salt & pepper it, then roast in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes, add balsamico winegar and few drops of soy sauce and slow finish it for 30 minutes, covered.
 
Lynn D. December 6, 2014
I use the method suggested in the Toro Bravo recipe. Soak the radicchio leaves in ice water for 10-15 minutes to remove a bit of the bitterness. Then spin dry and it will be delightfully crisp