- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 teaspoons honey, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
- 1 large head of frisée, torn (about 4 cups)
- 2 1/2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (about 1/2 of 5-ounce log), crumbled
Cook bacon in heavy small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to plate. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in skillet. Add olive oil, 3 teaspoons honey, dates, and onion to skillet. Stir in vinegar. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Place frisée in medium bowl; add dressing and toss. Divide salad between 2 plates. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.
This is your new must-have summer salad. Forget saving it for dairy Shabbos meals. You&rsquore going to want to make salad for lunch just so you can eat this. Trust me.
- 5 oz. frisée or arugula
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- ½ cup blueberries
- ⅓ cup candied pecans
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- ⅓ cup light olive oil
- 3 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp honey
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
1. Prepare the dressing: Place oil, lime juice, honey, basil, salt, and pepper into a blender or food processor blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Spread the frisée on a platter top with strawberries, blueberries, pecans, red onion, and feta. Drizzle with dressing before serving.
Holiday Special: Lunch
Valenti’s Italian soup-and-sandwich combo was inspired by dishes his Italian parents cooked during the holidays to use leftover ingredients.
Superfast Lunch Ideas
Frisພ Salad with Prosciutto, Pears and Pomegranate Seeds Toss oven-crisped prosciutto with frisພ, diced pears and a sherry vinaigrette. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Toasted Turkey, Radicchio and Blue Cheese Sandwiches Mix blue cheese with mayonnaise and spread on sliced bread. Top with sliced turkey, radicchio and another slice of bread. Sauté the sandwiches in butter until the bread is golden on both sides.
Raw Beet Salad with Feta and Mint Julienne red and yellow beets and toss with orange sections and lemon vinaigrette. Sprinkle with feta, toasted walnuts and mint.
Mushroom Salad with Serrano Ham
Summer hasn’t so far smothered New York City with the kind of punishing heat wave that has afflicted other parts of the country this July, but our temperatures and humidity have been high enough, for long enough, to make the prospect of cooking – especially oven cooking – less attractive than it normally is for me.
Consequently, I’ve been looking into recipes for dishes that can be either cooked in advance and served cool, or made all of raw ingredients, not cooked at all. I found a really nice one of the latter type in Penelope Casas’s Foods and Wines of Spain.
It’s her Ensalada de Champiñon, a mushroom and cured ham salad. I wouldn’t consider it a side salad – that is, something to be served along with a meal’s main course – because it’s so substantial in itself. But it would make an excellent component of a tapas spread, as Casas suggests, and for me it was a delightful appetizer.
For the two main ingredients I sliced fresh white mushrooms and cut julienne strips of Spanish Serrano ham. Though I was halving the recipe, I used the full quantity of ham because I wanted to give it more prominence in the dish. The dressing, from a separate recipe called El Aliño (which my dictionary says simply means “dressing”), is the most elaborate salad dressing I’ve ever made. Here are all the components:
In addition to the mushrooms and ham, above, there are olive oil, wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, prepared horseradish, Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, thyme, marjoram, parsley, salt, and pepper. To make the dressing I just dumped its dozen ingredients into my mini food processor and ran it until they combined into a cream. Now, that’s summer cooking!
At serving time I sprinkled a little lemon juice on the mushroom slices, added the ham strips, and gently tossed everything with some of the dressing. The extra dressing I served in a little bowl for each of us to add more to our portion if we wished.
Easy as it was to prepare, the salad was surprisingly complex in its flavors. There’s a real affinity between Serrano ham and mushrooms. Casas allows the use of Italian prosciutto in all her cured ham recipes, but the stronger, firmer Spanish ham was perfect here. I’m glad I raised the quantity of it. The dressing drew the dish together in a subtle way, with all the dressing ingredients making their small contributions to the blend. Tom, normally no great fan of salads, only regretted we couldn’t have gotten wild ovoli mushrooms instead of cultivated white ones, which would have raised the dish to even greater heights of enjoyment.
If you normally roll your eyes at special diets, I feel you. I’m more of an “everything in moderation” person and I try to eat balanced meals while indulging occasionally, but I was feeling like things were a little off-balance for us lately. Maybe it was all the burgers + cookies + bourbon + biscuits + hot chicken in Louisville and Nashville?? I was following along with Erica’s Whole 30 experience and her beautiful and simple meals gave me the push I needed to try it for myself.
If you’ve never heard of Whole 30, the rules are here. There is a book, which explains the program and the reasons for what’s ok to eat and what isn’t, which in retrospect, would have been helpful. Marc would ask me, “Why can’t we eat (fill in the blank)?” and sometimes I didn’t have a good answer for him. I’ll include links to the rules and approved grocery items that we used below. The quick version is that meat, eggs, veggies, fruit and nuts are ok, but all grains (with gluten or not), corn, alcohol, legumes (including peanuts), sugar (natural or refined) and dairy are off. My goal from the start is to just be more aware of what we eat and one week in, I can definitely say that’s happening.
We started on June 1st and we’re doing it for 30 days. I think the most important thing when starting out is to be prepared. Stock your pantry and fridge with easy to prepare meals and do some meal prep on the weekends. You do not want to be hungry and have nothing to eat in the house. Dates and Larabars saved us on hard days.
I made this frisée salad to get us started and it was a delicious way to start the week. I’ve never purchased frisée before, but it’s great, especially when you get bored with your average salad greens. The mushrooms and eggs make this hearty enough to have for dinner and leftovers keep well for lunch. I added some green garlic in there for a seasonal touch, but you can substitute minced garlic.
Just wanted to make a note about the whole 30 rules. The program wants to help you out of bad habits, so if you are a major sweets person, they want you to try to limit subbing in your typical sweets for whole 30 approved sweets the whole time. I get that logic, but sometimes you just have to munch on dates to get you through. They also don’t prefer that you have smoothies for breakfast, because they want you to have something filling to last until lunch. Even before whole 30, we’ve been having smoothies for breakfast and it works great for us. Adding chia seeds, coconut milk and almond milk helps make the smoothies more filling. With all of the other meal planning involved with this program, I needed my go-to morning smoothies for something easy and whole 30 compliant.
Thoughts After Week 1
- I’m surprised by how much sugar is hidden in things, especially when I thought I was being pretty sugar-conscious already. Sugar-free bacon, sausage and sauces are hard to find. This is especially problematic if you want to eat out.
- I’m also surprised by how differently Marc and I are experiencing Whole 30. We’ve both stuck to it 100%, but we’re craving different things. This past weekend he mowed the lawn and did some other outdoor chores and he was missing a cold beer. Ice cold La Croix helped save the day.
- When we went to the grocery store Marc had to look away from the salty snack and cereal (he doesn’t even like cereal!), while I had a hard time passing by the ice cream and chocolate.
- We’re both feeling great! Less bloated with good energy. Day 2 was the hardest for me, but Marc has been a champ.
- Some people report headaches at first, but thankfully we haven’t had any negative side effects.
- Eating out is hard. At the first restaurant, I did a quick, apologetic rundown of what we couldn’t eat (please don’t bring that sourdough bread I love and we sadly won’t be having cocktails or dessert) and asked for grilled fish with vegetables and asked if they could be cooked only with olive oil. Our server was very nice and accommodating and we made sure to tip him well. I’m glad we were in a booth and hidden from other tables. I imagined them eating sourdough bread by the handful with big, buttery smiles on their faces.
- Trader Joe’s: coconut oil, avocados, shishito peppers, dijon mustard, Hawaiian pink sea salt and lemons.
- Amazon: coconut aminos, Red Boat fish sauce, nori sheets, organic raw almonds, ghee, raw almond butter, Larabars
- Pantry: extra-virgin olive oil, dates, vanilla bean
- Fridge: washed and trimmed veggies, washed and dried lettuce, eggs, meat, La Croix sparkling water
- Prep: wash and spin dry lettuce + cilantro, pit dates, make homemade almond milk
breakfast: swiss chard + apple + frozen blueberry + chia seed smoothie (similar recipe)
lunch: Frisée Salad with Mushrooms (recipe below)
dinner: grilled copper river salmon + grilled asparagus with evoo + sea salt
snack: 2 dates filled with almond butter + raw almonds +roasted pistachios
breakfast: breakfast smoothie
lunch: leftover grilled salmon + sliced cucumbers +raw almonds
snack: 2 dates filled with almond butter + homemade almond milk
breakfast: breakfast smoothie
lunch: leftover green salad with lemon vinaigrette + kalua pulled pork on top
dinner: chilean sea bass + vegetables (restaurant)
snack: 2 dates filled with almond butter + homemade almond milk
breakfast: 2-ingredient pancakes drizzled with almond butter
lunch: frittata with swiss chard, caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar + leftover pulled pork
dinner: fajita meat and veggies in lettuce wraps + guacamole
snacks: cashew cookie Larabar + homemade almond milk
breakfast: breakfast smoothie
lunch: leftover fajita meat and veggies over salad greens with leftover lemon vinaigrette
dinner: cauliflower fried rice (subbed in 2 cups of snap peas for mushrooms + 1/4 cup cilantro with no other herbs) + the last of the kalua pork crisped in a skillet on the side
breakfast: scrambled eggs + 2 pieces of sugar-free bacon + fresh cherries
snacks: 2 dates with almond butter + coconut flakes + homemade almond milk
breakfast: coffee with homemade almond milk
lunch: almond meal chicken bites + whole 30 barbecue sauce + shishito peppers with evoo + sea salt
dinner: burger patty over shredded lettuce, tomato and grilled onion (restaurant)
snacks: coconut cream pie Larabar
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Bacon, Bacon, and More Bacon
It’s a universal truth that bacon makes everything better. Here are some of our favorite uses for this salty, fatty, flavorful, brilliant food.
See the Recipe Maura McEvoy
Cabbage and Bacon PieIn Ireland, the term bacon is used loosely the meat in this casserole is actually ham. Get the recipe for Cabbage and Bacon Pie » See the Recipe James Baigrie
Bacon-Fried Chicken with GravyThe bacon fat makes this chicken taste as though it was kissed by a salty smokey flavor. Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon
The secret to cooking this dish, a classic German accompaniment to a hearty meat course, is in keeping the pot covered, which helps preserve the cabbage’s deep, purple hue. See the Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon recipe Ben Fink
Bacon Wrapped Dates with AlmondsAt the Red Cat in New York City, these are a popular choice on the bar menu. This warm salad is a good way to ease your way back into salad season.
Fingerling Potatoes with BaconThe secret to this simple dish is to use the best quality bacon available. Delicious and straightforward, you can whip this dish together quickly while keeping the oven available for other jobs.
Home-Cured BaconHome curing is easy and yields a far more flavorful bacon than the store-bought kind. What’s more, you can season the bacon any way you like this recipe calls for a rub of fennel, caraway, rosemary, and thyme.
Salade LyonnaiseHailing from Lyon, this French bistro standard gathers a delectable trio of bitter frisée, runny poached egg, and crisp lardons. Get the recipe for Salade Lyonnaise »
Bacon-Wrapped BluefishFatty bluefish and smoky bacon make a perfect pair. To adapt this recipe to the campfire, sear the wrapped filets in a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet set over moderate flames.
Bacon-and-Cheese Deviled EggsSAVEUR kitchen assistant Max Iattoni gave us the recipe for these eggs, which he based on his favorite breakfast sandwich.
Baked Oysters with Bacon and SpinachThese baked oysters are a lighter take on the traditional oysters Rockefeller.
Bacon-Wrapped ScallionsButcher shops all across Sicily sell these bacon-wrapped scallions called Cipollate con Pancetta.
Maple-Bacon PopcornSmoky bacon, sweet maple, and a kick of black pepper make for an entirely addictive bowl of popcorn. Get the recipe for Maple-Bacon Popcorn » See the Recipe Todd Coleman These small bacon and onion pies are a staple of Latvian festive tables. We prefer double-smoked bacon, but any thick-cut bacon will do.
Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Trout with TarragonThis trout dish turns smoky and succulent in a stove-top smoker.
Le Veau d’OrEven though the heydey of Le Veau d’Or, a French culinary fixture on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, is more than 50 years past, it’s still a go-to for precisely executed, classic bistro fare. In the restaurant’s pitch-perfect version of a rustic French dish called Poussins en Cocotte, spring chickens are braised in wine and stock until tender. See the recipe for Poussins en Cocotte »
Radicchio is good
My friend Albert asked me for the radicchio salad recipe from our most recent dinner together. His request got me thinking wistfully about that pre-pandemic social event nearly a year ago now—our last before the stay at home orders began to roll out in early 2020—and also got me thinking hard about radicchio. Despite strong and fond memories of the dinner, I couldn’t remember the salad I made. In trying to jog my memory, I realized that I use a lot of radicchio in the kitchen, and that I might have something systematic to say about it.
The article below is a summary of my current thinking about radicchio, as of late 2020. I open with a note on sourcing and terminology and some general observations about radicchio, then go into a master recipe for stewed or braised radicchio with applications for pasta, polenta, and lasagne. The final sections are about using radicchio raw, grilled, and wilted in salads, with several recipes and a guide for improvisation. At the very end you’ll find a guide to further reading.
Introduction and general observations
Over the last few years I’ve adapted and developed a range of ways to use radicchio. In Walla Walla we’re lucky to have beautiful radicchio grown by Hayshaker Farm. Their exploration of the diverse array of radicchio cultivars over the past few years has been extremely exciting, and their wide-ranging experimentation with cultivars that have different ripening windows and storage properties keeps us in good supply for much of the year.
“Radicchio” is the generic term for all chicories in Italian, but as we use it in culinary English, it basically only refers to the red and pink hued chicories associated with Italy, especially the most common radicchio di Chioggia, and the somewhat less common radicchio di Treviso precoce, Treviso tardivo, and radicchio di Castelfranco, which is mostly light green with dark red speckles. Frisée/curly endive, escarole, Belgian endive, and puntarelle are in the same broad family, but they present and, more importantly, cook differently and with differing levels of success. Belgian endive cooks very well and can sometimes directly substitute for radicchio, especially Treviso tardivo, whereas most of the other white and green chicories want to be raw or very lightly wilted, as in, e.g., a frisée salad with hot bacon dressing.
Before I get to the recipes, I want to share a few observations about radicchio that might be useful in guiding thoughtful improvisation, and which inform the recipes below:
cooked vs. raw: while radicchio di Chioggia, the variety we see most often in the supermarket, is often used in America as a salad green to add complexity and color, in Italy (where they eat more of if it, and more types) radicchio is often cooked. This could be anything from lightly wilted, to grilled or roasted, to thoroughly stewed or braised. Different cultivars take these treatments in different ways. Tight heads can be halved or quartered, lightly oiled, and grilled or roasted, while loose heads will tend to fray and burn with high heat treatments. For wilted or stewed preparations, I like to cut (or even shred) across the ribs to minimize the length of any tougher fibers. Especially in cooked preparations, radicchio’s earthiness and density can distract from the meat-shaped void that occasionally lurks near meatless menus.
bittersweet: though raw radicchio can be quite bitter, cooked radicchio often seems rather sweet. Given that this effect doesn’t seem to require extensive caramelization, I suspect that it is mostly due to heat breakdown or volatilization of some bitter compounds, while whatever is making the leaves sweet remains intact.
Though I don’t know this for sure, my best guess is that this sweetness comes from the polysaccharide inulin, which is highly concentrated in roots of plants in the chicory family and is highlighted in the sweetness of coffees cut with roasted chicory root often associated with New Orleans. (Similar compounds are substantially responsible for the impression of roundness or sweetness we get from wines that have aged on their lees.)
You can also tame the bitterness in raw preparations a little bit by shredding the leaves and soaking them in cold water for a few minutes before spinning them dry.
Though soaking works a bit, I usually prefer to address bitterness by pairing raw radicchio with other ingredients that either want that bitter kick or have a lot of sweetness that benefits from a bitter foil (e.g., pears, apples, balsamic vinegar).
The fact that radicchio looks like cabbage or lettuce suggests a false analogy. Because of how it transforms under cooking, going from bitter to sweet, and how it is crunchy but fibrous rather than snappy or frangible like cabbage, it might be better to conceptualize radicchio as a culinary cousin to artichokes.
radicchio likes cheese: some of the nicest results come from pairing radicchio with strong cheeses like parmesan (salty and funky), pecorino (salty), smelly alpine-style firm cheeses (funky think Raclette and Alpenzeller), and strong blue cheeses (e.g., radicchio with pear chunks and blobs of Valdeon, Stilton, or Roquefort).
radicchio likes spices: black pepper, nutmeg, and mustard all shine with radicchio, as do other spices with similar flavors, e.g., clove and allspice, and sharp-tasting vegetables like horseradish, raw onion, shallot, and garlic.
radicchio keeps well: especially if it’s destined for cooking, radicchio keeps pretty well in the fridge in a bag with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture even a couple weeks storage after purchasing is often fine. Raw preparations call for fresher heads, or sometimes more aggressive removal of outer leaves to reveal better-preserved hearts. As Schneider points out (see “Further Reading” below), the downside of this storability is that grocery stores often have a small display of radicchio somewhere in the vegetable section, mostly for decoration. They can keep the display pretty by paring away the deteriorating outer leaves and restacking the heads for quite a while. A good rule of thumb for the common radicchio di Chioggia we see in most grocery stores is to look for larger, denser heads, but it is sometimes hard to judge what this means with some of the looser-headed cultivars. Especially with Treviso and the other less common cultivars, buy direct from the grower at a farmers’ market if you can. The cut edges of many radicchio cultivars brown quickly, so a brown stem end is not necessarily a sign of age.
Pink radicchio Rosalba, but I though it was prettier in black and white…
Stewed Radicchio Master Recipe
For me, stewed radicchio seems to scratch the same itch as bolognese sauce, and I use it in similar preparations. (By “Bolognese” I don’t mean red sauce with meat, but rather the long-stewed, largely tomato-free, slightly medieval pork and milk sauces from northern Italy). I think this parallel is substantially a matter of the specific seasoning (nutmeg + parmesan) plus the more generic earthy-sweet, meaty depth that comes from stewed radicchio. Needless to say, even with a fair bit of butter and cheese, stewed radicchio hits the stomach with much less weight than traditional bolognese. You can substitute good quality olive oil throughout for the butter for a different, but also very good effect. I slightly prefer the butter versions overall for the way butter marries with nutmeg.
Basic recipe: stewed radicchio with pepper and nutmeg
1 lb shredded radicchio (shred across the grain and shred finer for more fibrous cultivars, coarser for less fibrous cultivars judge fibrousness by inspecting the ribs down the center of the leaves.)
1/2 lb chopped onions (cut the ends off, halve longitudinally, through the stem and tip, peel off the outer layer, make 3/4 inch longitudinal cuts in each half and then slice across the grain in eighth to quarter inch intervals to make reasonably regular rectangular confetti pieces)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper (I prefer black pepper with radicchio, but white pepper is good too)
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Select a large skillet. Sauté the onions in the butter over medium-high heat until they begin to brown a little.
Pile the shredded radicchio over the top and let it sit for a minute. As soon as you smell the radicchio starting to cook, add the salt and toss the radicchio and onions together with tongs until everything is evenly glossy.
The volume will continue to reduce as the radicchio wilts and begins to release some of its water. The color will also shift from magenta to purplish, bruisey brown. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon and make note if you start to get browning on the pan surface if this happens before the radicchio is softened fully, you may need to splash in some water, or depending on the subsequent application, some red wine, and slightly reduce the temperature. I usually cook the radicchio for about 20 min.
In the last few minutes, mix in the pepper and nutmeg.
Below I describe three main ways I use stewed radicchio. The lasagne (number 2 below) is my favorite, but it is a little more involved and a little heavier than the other two applications. Though I don’t describe this option in detail here, you might also consider using stewed radicchio as a base layer on a pizza or flatbread, or as the main filling for a calzone.
Select a broad dry pasta whose width is similar to the shreds of radicchio. If you have wider shreds, select a dried fettuccini, for example, and if your shreds are very fine, select a linguini. Dried pasta has the right mouthfeel to pair with radicchio, and it is sturdy enough to stand up to the vigorous tossing required to get a good, even distribution of radicchio threads throughout the noodles. Avoid the fancy nests of tagliatelle, which perform more like fresh pasta just basic durum wheat dry pasta is the best pairing here.
Boil the noodles in much less water than directed by the manufacturer. I use about 1.5-2 quarts of water for a pound of dry pasta. This results in a toothier noodle and starchier pasta water for finishing the sauce. Since a good portion of the water will be absorbed, be careful not to over-salt the pasta water.
Put about half a recipe of stewed radicchio in a skillet (per pound of pasta). Heat it through as the pasta comes to the end of its boil—look for just a tiny chalky core in the center of the noodle. For me this is usually about 1-2 minutes less than the manufacturer’s recommended minimum cooking time. As the noodles finish, tong them over to the skillet and toss in a ladle of thick pasta water. Cook the noodles and radicchio together until the water is mostly absorbed. Turn the heat off and melt in a big knob of good butter (2 tbsp., perhaps, or even more if you’re feeling a bit greedy) while stirring to get a nice, glossy emulsion. You can also toss through some ground or grated parmesan at the same time and adjust the nutmeg or pepper upward if you want a stronger aroma. In any case, serve with more parmesan at the table. (Pecorino is also OK here, but parmesan combines more harmoniously with the nutmeg in the sauce. If you went without nutmeg and added some chili flakes to the stewing radicchio instead, then pecorino would be a great fit.)
For an 11x14 lasagne pan and one batch of stewed radicchio, simmered for a few extra minutes with a cup of red wine thrown in at the end. Fine tune the salt and pepper level at this point as well, but don’t add extra nutmeg since there will also be nutmeg in the béchamel.
Make up a batch of béchamel sauce: Melt 6 tbsp. butter in a 2 quart saucepan. Add 8 tbsp. flour and stir together to make a roux. Don’t cook this very long—just a minute. Slowly whisk in three cups of milk whole or 2% are fine. Whisk or stir—making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan—until the sauce is fully thickened and just starting to simmer or bubble. Turn off the heat and stir in a little salt, say a teaspoon, a few grinds of pepper, black or white, and a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg, a quarter teaspoon or less. Set this aside while you prepare the lasagne pan.
Grate or grind about six ounces of parmesan and set it aside to use as you assemble the lasagne. Either pour a couple tbsp. of olive oil into your lasagne pan or smear it with a couple tbsp. of butter. Slice a smallish red onion into eighth inch slices and scatter these evenly over the base of the pan—these will keep the noodles off the bottom of the pan and brown/caramelize nicely during cooking. Lay three no-boil lasagne sheets over the onions. Evenly distribute half of the stewed radicchio over the sheets. Sprinkle evenly with one quarter of the parmesan. Add another layer of noodles. This time cover with just under half the béchamel sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Cover with the remaining radicchio and another quarter of the parmesan. One more layer of noodles. Cover with the remaining béchamel and the remaining half of the parmesan. Cover the pan tightly with foil or with a larger sheet pan, making sure that the lid doesn’t touch the top of the lasagne.
Bake this covered for 40 min at 400 F, then remove the cover for another few minutes until the top looks attractive. If you have a broiler-safe lasagne pan you can turn on the broiler for a minute at the end to get a little more color on the top.
Let the lasagne cool for at least ten minutes before digging in. This serves maybe six people as a main course.
It' ain’t pretty, but it tastes good: stewed Treviso Tardivo over polenta with cheese (parmesan plus raclette) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The polenta is made from homegrown Painted Mountain corn, which is why it’s pink.
Stewed radicchio, finished with a cup of red wine as in the lasagne above, also makes a fine topping for polenta.
There are lots of approaches to polenta. The back of the bag of cornmeal will suggest you can make perfect polenta in a few minutes by whisking cornmeal into boiling water. On the other hand, some cooks suggest that the sun will go dark and snakes will rain from the sky if you don’t stir polenta constantly over low heat for six hours. I’m a little closer to the second camp, but I don’t think quite so much hangs on this issue. (For a good account of polenta and what it means to take polenta seriously, consult the early chapters of Bill Buford’s 2006 book Heat.)
My preference is for long-cooked polenta made from quite coarse cornmeal, but the most important thing is to match the cooking time and temperature to the cornmeal grind. The finer the grind, the faster you’ll get complete hydration and gelatinization of the starch. Short cooking will give less time for flavor development, but that isn’t the end of the world when you’re topping the polenta with a strongly flavored sauce. In general I go for about 6 parts water to 1 part polenta, by volume. I find it easier to stir the water at or near a boil while sprinkling the cornmeal slowly to avoid lumps. When you add the cornmeal to cold water, you have to stir constantly at the beginning or you get a brick at the bottom when the water begins to warm to the gelatinization temperature of the corn starches. If the 6-1 mixture gets too thick before the largest granules have a pleasing texture, you can add more water and keep cooking. Longer cooking with frequent stirring to prevent scorching and perhaps occasionally whisking in extra water seems to bump up the corn flavor a fair bit, but it’s still pretty good either way. I haven’t explored pressure-cooked polenta, but I bet that’s a thing.
In any case, get your polenta to a good texture and then finish it with some salt, olive oil or butter, and possibly cheese. If I’m making five or six cups of polenta from 1 cup of cornmeal and six cups of water I start with a teaspoon of salt to season, three tablespoons of butter, and usually an ounce or so of parmesan or pecorino. Other cheeses work well here too, like raclette, alpenzeller, or gruyere, or even gorgonzola, but they will have a stronger aromatic impact.
Plate the portions individually, making a puddle of polenta with a big dollop of stewed radicchio on the top, or serve the two separately at the table. This is glop on glop, so presentation is never going to be totally on point. Top with additional grated cheese if you like. It can also be nice to drizzle a little saba/mosto cotto, vin cotto, or decent, syrupy balsamic vinegar on each portion. (Mosto cotto or saba is reduced grape must/juice vin cotto is wine reduced with sugar and spices to a syrup both are reasonable, if situational substitutes for balsamic vinegar, and are occasionally better fitted to some applications, e.g., when strong herbs or spices might obscure the subtleties of good balsamic vinegar.)
Palla Rosa Radicchio, green on the outside, red/purple on the inside
Radicchio in Salads
From a pairing perspective I think it makes sense to think of raw radicchio and cooked radicchio as totally different vegetables. Raw radicchio is crunchy and springy and defined primarily by bitterness. The more cooked the radicchio is, the more it is defined by earthiness and sweetness, rather than bitterness. Cooking also brings more intense aromas, and texture management becomes increasingly important as especially the ribs can go a little slimy.
My preference is for grilled and raw radicchio in salads, though there is certainly a place for quickly sautéed/wilted radicchio when you shred across the grain or adopt another strategy to prevent the stalks from seeming overly fibrous.
The easiest raw radiccho salad I make is shredded radicchio tossed with batons of apple and dressed with a simple broken vinegrette of olive oil, salt, pepper, grated garlic, and lemon juice. If I don’t have a lemon on hand, I’ll use sherry vinegar or maybe balsamic vinegar radicchio is the only salad green that I like dressed with balsamic vinegar. In this case the bitterness of raw radicchio is balanced by the sweetness of the apple.
This basic chopped radicchio salad takes embellishment pretty well. Sometimes I add ground parmesan or pecorino, or shredded alpine cheese plus a fine grating of horseradish root, as described in (4) below. Toasted hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts, or toasted and crushed pistachios all combine well with radicchio. If you want extra bite you can add a shredded shallot or half an onion (or even more than that if you have height-of-the-season Walla Walla sweet onions). You can make a raw radicchio salad into a whole meal by adding cubes or slices of avocado (as my mother often does) or crispy bacon, or chopped soppressata or salami in addition to some nuts and cheese, with a few chunks of crusty bread on the side.
Cut radicchio into big chunks rather than shreds. Toss the radicchio with oil, salt, and pepper, and spread about an inch deep on a wide platter. Scatter one inch chunks of ripe pear all over the top of the dressed radicchio, covering about a quarter of the surface. Drizzle with reasonably nice balsamic vinegar, making sure that each pear chunk gets a drop. Dot with frightfully large chunks of blue cheese to cover another quarter of the surface area. Many blue cheeses work well: ripe gorgonzola, Point Reyes Blue from California, Stilton, etc. just make sure to use a nice cheese. Definitely don’t use pre-crubmled blue cheese this salad works with bigger chunks and a softer texture and more complex flavor than you’ll ever get from a tub of pre-crumbled cheese. An optional scattering of halved, toasted hazelnuts works well as a final touch, especially if you’ve chickened out a bit on the quantity of cheese.
Point Reyes blue cheese with Okanagan D’Anjou pears on a bed of olive oil dressed radicchio
Especially in the summer, when we’re eating and cooking outside as much as possible, I’ll make a grilled vegetable salad including a lot of radicchio to serve with a grilled chuck steak, e.g., flatiron or some other tender bit peeled out of the chuck or shoulder clod, or a pork sirloin chop or pork tenderloin. In this case I’ll often also slice and toss the grilled and rested meat in the same vinaigrette that I make for the salad—maybe with an extra clove of raw garlic mixed in at the end. Vinaigrette is not just for salad, and when prepared with citrus juice or only a small quantity of vinegar (say 6 or 8 oil to one vinegar rather than the more traditional 3 or 4 to 1), it doesn’t generally conflict with wine. That said, because they are usually pretty high in acidity, the Marginalia wines are a little more tolerant of vinegar in foods.
I haven’t given exact proportions here. The key is balancing the volume of vinaigrette to the volume of vegetables, and that is really a matter of taste. I use a standard Weber kettle grill and natural wood-based charcoal briquettes with great success sometimes I use lump charcoal for super high heat cooking, but it find the quality very uneven. I think this recipe could work on a gas grill as well, provided that you get a very good preheat before attempting to color up the vegetables the concern would be that the temperature might not be high enough to get good browning/charring before the vegetables cook through.
Components to grill
Radicchio halves or quarters, rubbed or sprayed with a little oil on the cut side(s) leave the core intact to keep the wedges together and pare it out after grilling
Fennel bulb halves, cut to make two large flat pieces rather than two narrow tubular pieces, rubber or sprayed with a little oil on the cut side leave the core intact to keep the bulb coherent and pare it out later after grilling
A few 3/4 to 1 inch discs of onion, cut so that the rings form concentric circles, with a toothpick jammed through to the core to keep the layers together, rubbed or sprayed with oil on the cut sides
Halved young zucchini or summer squash, oiled on the cut side (the squashes are optional, but they add nice heftiness if you are serving this salad as the main dish rather than as an accompaniment small, dense squashes are much nicer on the grill than older, larger, spongier squashes)
Halved lemons, cut longitudinally to expose all the segments, rubbed with a little oil on the cut side
A chuck steak (flatiron, chuck eye, etc.), a pork sirloin chop, or a pork tenderloin, seasoned and prepared for the grill (optional, but if I’m going to light a fire at all, I’m probably going to prepare as much of the meal on it as I can).
Sherry vinegar (optional, but useful to have on hand to make adjustments if you need more acid than your grilled lemons can provide)
Finely ground cheese (Pecorino is my favorite here, but Parmesan and Cotija also work well)
Crushed or pulverized nuts (Pistachios are my choice, but other nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans work too while pistachios work well pulverized, the other nuts are probably better crushed or chopped)
Avocado slices (optional I usually leave the avocado out if I’m serving the salad with grilled meat and often include it if the salad is the centerpiece for he meal)
If you’re grilling meat as well, get it salted and seasoned with pepper or whatever sort of seasoning rub you like at least an hour before you want to start cooking. For beef I use salt and pepper only, and for pork I often sprinkle on a little bit of granulated garlic as well.
With the vegetables we are looking for grilled flavor and a little bit of tasty browning, but not to cook them through, so you’ll want to use the fire at its hottest point to quickly brown the vegetables. You can grill the meat after the vegetables come off, when the fire has calmed down a bit, and you can do the final chopping and assembly of the salad while the grilled meat rests.
Prepare your vegetables for the grill by slicing and oiling. Just a thin film of oil is all you need if you have too much oil it will drip into the fire and give you lots of flare-ups and soot. Grate a few cloves of garlic through a microplane into a few tablespoons of olive oil and set that aside to be the basis of your vinaigrette. Grind or grate your cheese. Optionally toast and crush, chop, or pulverize the nuts.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill. When the flames die down and you have cleaned the grates, start browning the vegetables on their cut sides in batches. The radicchio can go pretty quickly, so keep an eye on it. You want to crisp and brown the edges, but you don’t want to burn them, and you don’t want to cook the radicchio through. Onion, fennel, and zucchini are a little more forgiving, but especially try not to overcook the zucchini—it should still have some snap even after grilling. Grill the lemons when you sense the fire is at its hottest—the cut side can get pretty brown or even a little black that’s OK.
Set the vegetables aside while you grill the meat. It is fine if the vegetables cool off. We grilled them to modify flavor, not to serve hot. Brush or spray some oil on the meat and have at it. I’m not going to tell you how to grill your meat.
While the meat rests you can cut the woody cores out of your fennel and radicchio, and chop all the vegetables into quarter to half inch shreds. Squeeze the juice from the grilled lemons and mix that with salt, pepper, and your reserved garlic and olive oil to make a vinaigrette. I like about 3 volumes of oil to 1 volume of lemon juice here, and if you need more dressing than you can make with the grilled lemon juice, add a bit of sherry vinegar and more olive oil, keeping in mind that the vinegar is much stronger in acidity than the lemon juice. Reserve a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette to dress the meat—maybe 3 tbsp. per pound.
Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette to coat evenly. Add the cheese and chopped nuts and toss through quickly. Plate the salad and top with a fan of avocado slices if you’re using them.
After the meat has rested, cut it into quarter or half inch slices, across the grain if that’s possible. Toss the meat slices with any of their escaped juices and the reserved vinaigrette, possibly strengthened with an additional clove of grated garlic. Serve a few slices of meat with a big plate of salad.
As with other chicories like frisée, you can make a fine salad by crisping bacon or guanciale in a pan, deglazing with vinegar and adding a bit of olive oil to restore balance before pouring this hot dressing over radicchio to warm and very slightly wilt the leaves. Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Boulder, CO’s Frasca Food and Wine offers another variation on this theme in Friuli Food and Wine (see Guide to Further Reading, below). The salad described there (p. 78) depends on a particular radicchio cultivar—Rosa di Gorizia—but the technique and flavor profile generalize.
Frasca’s salad is built in layers on individual plates: a layer of shredded apple on the bottom, followed by a scattering of shredded Montasio cheese (an alpine cheese different from but comparable to Gruyere, Alpebnzeller, or Raclette). This is topped in turn with radicchio wilted in olive oil finished with wine vinegar, salt, and a little bit of grated horseradish. Without having quite the right radicchio cultivar on hand, I think this salad makes more sense with wedges of radicchio, wilting them quite gently in olive oil on each cut side so that the thickest parts of each wedge remain a little crunchy.
You can get much the same flavor profile but with less fuss by using the same ingredients to make a raw chopped radicchio salad: shredded radicchio, shredded apple, shredded alpine cheese, simple 6-1 vinaigrette of olive oil and wine vinegar, tossed at the last moment with salt and some finely shredded horseradish root. I like this version with a little microplaned raw garlic in the vignette as well, and a few grinds of black pepper, though those flavors don’t occur in the original recipe.
Improvising Radicchio Salads
These recipes only scratch the surface of what you can do with radicchio. Rather than listing even more specific recipes I though it would be more useful to end with a guide for improvisation that might help readers invent their own combinations. With raw radicchio you want something to balance the bitterness—usually some sort of fruit or sugary vegetable for sweetness, and some sort of dressing, usually with salt, pepper, and oil, but beyond that there are lots of possibilities.
Additional greens or vegetables (reduce bitterness, modify texture)
butter lettuce (cut or torn into big pieces, especially with tender radicchio cultivars)
shredded kohlrabi (I think of kohlrabi as halfway between broccoli stems and apples)
finely shredded celery root or sliced ribs of celery (especially with walnuts/hazelnuts)
really fresh cauliflower, sliced into thin sheets or shredded
paper thin shreds of young artichoke
Fruit and other sweets (balance bitterness)
sweet citrus: grapefruit or orange supremes or cells (supremes of citrus are what you get when you cut all the peel off and then free each wedge by cutting down each side of the membranes that separate the wedges sometimes grapefruit or pomelo will have large enough cells to worry them apart individually making a fussy but sometimes elegant garnish, sort of like pomegranate seeds)
apple/pear/quince, firmer examples shredded fine and softer examples cut into chunks
plums, pluots, or peaches (esp. with creamier cheeses, below) select firmer fruits so they don’t mush up or juice all over the salad
balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, mosto cotto, or vin cotto
raisins, dried cranberries, sliced prunes, sliced dates
roasted beet wedges or par-cooked carrot coins or batons marinated in salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and oil
sweetened pickled peppers, e.g., Mama Lil’s Sweet Hots or something similar
avocado, cubed and tossed through or sliced and fanned on the top just before serving.
cheese (blue, fresh goat/chevre, hard goat cheese, ripened goat cheese like Humboldt Fog, feta, parmesan, pecorino, cotija, funky mountain cheese like alpenzeller or raclette)
nuts or seeds (pistachio, hazelnut , walnut, pecan, pumpkin seed meats, sunflower seed meats)
olive oil or other interesting oil, like pumpkin seed oil
salumi or other cured meats like bacon
oil-cured black olives or nice, firm tan or green olives kalamata would work in some combinations standard canned black olives and pimento-stuffed olives are often a little too mushy to work well here (and the black olives, in particular, are a little too mild in flavor).
crispy fried shreds of young artichoke
sour citrus: lemon or lime juice
vinegar (cider, wine, sherry, balsamic (or mosto cotto/vin cotto))
dried, crushed sumac berries
Dijon or other strong mustard
garlic (either minced or grated cloves in the vinaigrette or chopped young garlic greens tossed through)
pickled mild peppers or other pickled vegetables
marinated artichoke hearts
anchovy fillets, especially when pureed into the vinaigrette.
Guide to Further Reading
My thinking about radicchio has been substantially influenced over the years by the following sources:
Elizabeth Schneider, Vegetables, from Amaranth to Zucchini, William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2001. Though it was published about 20 years ago, Schneider’s 750 page reference work on vegetables available in America is still quite current. There is a focus on growing and storing with the market farmer in mind, but there are also very informative shorthand recipes, many of which derive from the leading kitchens of the 1990s and early 2000s. (Find this book — follow the link to worldcat.org and see if you can get it from your local library or purchase from AbeBooks/Amazon/Better World)
Alice Waters and the cooks of Chez Panisse, Chez Panisse Vegetables, Harper Collins, 1996. This is a central source text for Schneider, and it offers deep insights into the potential of vegetables to live at the center of the plate. The section on chicories includes a number of risottos that call for either endive or radicchio. This is generally a very useful book and it has aged well. Chez Panisse, and particularly the cafe upstairs, is a special place for me. For many years my wife had a close collaborator at Berkeley and we would spend a couple weeks each summer in Berkeley so that they could work on projects together. I went along for the ride, and to spend the weeks tapping into the food and wine world of the Bay Area. In these trips I would often eat lunch at the Chez Panisse Cafe five days in a row, eating through the entire menu over the course of the week, and making extensive notes for myself that guided my own experimentation over the subsequent months back home. I know that folks like to make fun of Chez Panisse for serving things like a plate of figs—like just a plate of figs—as a dessert course. I’ve never found this pretentious indeed, when they do this, the figs are perfect and anything else would be a stain on their perfection, but I see how it looks that way if you aren’t actually tasting the figs. One of the most memorable meals of my life was when I took my son to the Cafe for lunch as a two year old. He ordered the fruit plate dessert as his meal and slowly made it through a series of perfect blueberries, peaches, and plums while I had a salad and a pasta. I noticed about halfway through the meal that there wasn't any butter left for the bread. Just a moment later the server arrived with another dish of butter and told me that this was the third one she’s brought apparently my son was eating the butter like cheese along side his fruit while I was rapturously savoring my pasta. She also said that this was by no means the most butter that a toddler had plowed through during a Chez Panisse lunch. Anyway, it was very good butter. (Find this book)
Stuckey, Mackinnon-Patterson, and Erickson, Friuli Food and Wine, Ten Speed Press, 2020. They eat a lot of radicchio in Friuli, but it is also notable as a wine region for fostering early natural wine and orange wine movements in Italy. This book is a useful reference on regional food and wine and covers the interpretation of Friulian food and wine that Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson have developed at their Boulder, CO restaurant Frasca Food and Wine since 2004. It’s too soon for me to say a lot about this book, but I have learned from it over the last few months, and it spurred the most recent developments in my thought about radicchio. (Find this book)
Bill Bufford, Heat, Knopf, 2006. Heat is Bufford’s first memoir of learning by doing as a stagier at Babbo in New York during the height of the Batali-Bastianich hegemony over New York fine dining, and of his subsequent apprenticeship at Dario Cecchini’s butcher shop in Panzano, in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Through this series of events he also tells the story of the rise and fall of actual food content on the Food Network, and offers his own relatively uncritical, but also unvarnished take on celebrity chef culture (as exemplified by figures like Marco Pierre White and Mario Batali) and the behind-doors excesses of the fine dining world. It reads differently now than it did before #metoo began to reveal the underlying tectonics of the food world, but I think not badly. Chapter 14, pp. 145-160, centers on polenta, and as with a number of chapters of the book, there is not actually a recipe here, but there is more to be gleaned from the narrative and sensuous description than can be conveyed in an explicit recipe. Some of the most exciting Italian food I’ve ever made has come from reflecting on descriptions in this book. (Find this book)
True endives such as Frisee are believed to date back to ancient Egypt, making their way to Northern Europe by 1200 A.D. The unique coloring of true endives such as Frisee is achieved by tying up each loose head of the green at the leaf tip of the bunch to prevent the sun from penetrating the center. This process is called blanching and allows the core of the Frisee to remain bright white to yellow while the outer leaves turn a vibrant shade of green. While able to thrive in both mild and cold climates Frisee grown in cold conditions will be milder and less bitter in flavor.
Recipe: Tianma Lily Pork Rib Soup
Lily has the effect of clearing fire, moistening the lungs, and calming the nerves. Gastrodia is used to treat headache, dizziness, limb numbness, convulsions in children, seizures, tetanus and other diseases. The ribs can also be supplemented with calcium, and the soup is very fragrant.
- Pork ribs
- Chicken essence
Wash the ribs and put them in a casserole. Add the cold water to boil. Be sure to clean the oil on the top. You can also pour off the water and put in the cold water (because some of the ribs are too dirty)
Then put a few drops of vinegar (this will help the calcium in the bones to come out) and put a few slices of ginger (go to 腥)
At the same time put in Tianma and stew together
After the water is turned on, change the small fire and slowly simmer for half an hour. You can use the chopsticks to insert it. It is easy to insert it and put the lily into it.
Sweet and Savory Bacon Twists
Sweet and Savory Bacon Twists. (Photo: Elaine Cromie/Special to the Free Press)
Makes: 14 to 16 / Prep time: 30 minutes / Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
This recipe originally appeared Dec. 24. The amount of cheese listed in the directions should have made clear that you sprinkle ½ to 1 cup of the cheese on the bottom half of the puff pastry. This recipe can be easily doubled.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg beaten
Cayenne pepper, optional
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese finely shredded (or your favorite)
1 pound center cut bacon
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degree. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.
Open the puff pastry with the short side facing you. Press out the seams using a rolling pin. Brush the surface lightly with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper if using. Sprinkle bottom half of the puff pastry surface with ½ to 1 cup of cheese to evenly cover entire surface. Fold the top half over the cheese. Dust a rolling pin lightly with flour and then roll the rolling pin over pastry pressing the cheese into the pastry.
Cut the puff pastry lengthwise into about 1/2-inch-wide strips. Place a bacon strip on each strip and twist several times and pinch the ends together.
In a pie plate mix together the brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Roll the twist into the sugar mixture coating on all sides. Place each twist back on the wire rack and repeat with the remaining twists.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until bacon is cooked. Be certain to check every so often to make sure the bacon isn't burning. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes before serving.