Most of us only know radicchio as the round, reddish-purple, lettuce-like vegetable, usually grown in California. But more local farmers are growing several different varieties of this winter vegetable with Italian roots and an intriguing bitter flavor. The colorful member of the chicory family offers the region’s eaters a better-tasting alternative to out of season lettuce grown farther south.
RADICCHIO, BRUSSELS & PEAR SALAD WITH CREAMY CAESAR DRESSING
Sweet and creamy flavors help offset the bitterness of radicchio, so we add pears and mix some mayonnaise into the dressing.
If you see Brussels sprouts sold on the stalk, grab them. They’re usually fresher and often a much better deal. Most stalks hold at least a couple of pounds of the little cabbages.
Look for radicchio rosso di Treviso, usually just labeled Treviso, a milder chicory that looks like a bright purple and white head of Romaine. The long-leafed Treviso is often milder, but if you can only get the round Chioggia variety, use this restaurant trick to temper its bitter flavor: cut the leaves and soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
Fry bread cubes in olive oil to make some croutons first so they have time to cool. Then chop the radicchio into bite size pieces, and cut the Brussels in half lengthwise and slice them. Quarter the pears, cut out the core, and slice thinly.
Make our version of Nostrana’s creamy house dressing with Burlap & Barrel’s purple stripe garlic powder, fish sauce, Kewpie mayo, extra virgin olive oil, and Katz red wine vinegar. Toss everything together, taste for salt, and eat.
I started Real Good Food so I’d plenty of olive oil, and over the years we’ve added more of the things I love to eat. I discovered the dried shrimp during a trip to see one of our kids in New Orleans, and I use the ‘bacon of the sea’ when I need a little briny umami or just a quick snack. The fennel pollen is traditionally used for the Tuscan roast pork called porchetta, but it’s really good added to our olive oil cake or even sprinkled over yogurt. And besides olive oil, I put a pinch of the Portuguese flor de sal on almost everything I eat.