Radicchio – a versatile leafy green

Posted on 3 min read

Are you bored with your usual choice of vegetables? Like to find something, that can complement both sweet and salty ingredients in everyday meals? Then try this burgundy-coloured leafy green with a distinct bitter taste.

Radicchio not only adds crispy fresh notes to any salad when consumed raw. But it is also very versatile once cooked. Radicchio goes well in pasta or risotto. Or it even becomes a secret ingredient for a delicious cake!

The two types of radicchio

Born and bred in Italy, radicchio comes from the chicory family. There are two most common types.

  • One type is known as radicchio di Chioggia. It looks a little like red ball-shaped cabbage.
  • The second one is called radicchio rosso di Treviso. It is reminiscent of endive with its elongated shape and more pronounced white veins.

Oh! And next time you ask for it in a farmers’ market: this plant is pronounced [ra’dikkjo].

Let’s prepare a radicchio salad

Let’s prepare an easy warm salad with a traditional Italian dressing from Vicenza. You need 250 g / 8 oz of shredded radicchio leaves and 6 rashes of bacon.

First, take a radicchio-head and cut it in 2 halves, then cut off the core and discard. Wash and dry the leaves before cutting into bite-sized pieces and placing them in a bowl.

Cut the bacon into 1cm / 0,5 in pieces. Place a skillet over medium heat and warm 1 tbsp of olive oil. Then add the bacon and sauté for a couple of minutes or until the pieces are nicely coloured. Avoid burning the bacon.

Drain the fat, and then add 125ml / 4 oz of red or white wine vinegar. Cook for a few more minutes until the vinegar reduces in volume.

Let the dressing cool down a little. Then add a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper for taste and pour it over the radicchio leaves. Serve immediately.

Get your hands on a sweet radicchio cake

As we mentioned radicchio cake earlier, let’s try to make it following this sweet recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • baking paper
  • tin of 21 cm/ 8 in diameter
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 150 g / 5 oz radicchio leaves
  • 100 g / 3,5 oz butter
  • 150 g / 5 oz granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • lemon zest
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 125g / 4,5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150 g / 5 oz white chocolate

Preparation:

  1. Preheat an oven to 180 °C / 350 °F top/bottom heat.
  2. Line the tin with baking paper, grease and set aside.
  3. Bring a pan of water to boil, add the lemon juice and sugar.
  4. Tear the radicchio leaves apart and blanch them in the pan with boiling water for about 2 minutes.
  5. Drain the water and chop the leaves finely.
  6. In the meantime, prepare in a separate bowl the cream, using butter and granulated sugar.
  7. Incorporate the eggs slowly into the mixture, one at a time.
  8. Add lemon zest, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and baking powder.
  9. Now add the radicchio leaves into the batter.
  10. Transfer it to the tin and bake for 45 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean when placed in the centre of the cake.
  11. Leave the cake to cool down before taking it out of the tin.
  12. For the glaze, melt the chocolate, and let it cool a little before pouring it over the cake.

If you thought adding radicchio in the cake batter was an unusual idea, try radicchio coffee. This drink was popular in France two centuries ago and is still consumed now.

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