Radicchio is at its finest in the cooler months. A member of the chicory family, radicchio is loved for its bright magenta color, crisp texture, and spicy-bitter flavor. I can’t resist buying a head when beauties like this are displayed at Maggie’s Farm and other stands at farmers’ markets throughout Los Angeles. I like to choose a firm one with intense color, and no signs of darkening.
The radicchio has been so good this winter I have been serving it frequently. Most often used as a colorful addition to salads, it mellows slightly when cooked, and develops a pleasing tender but chewy texture. When I only have a few minutes to make dinner, I cut a head into 1½-inch thick wedges, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet in a 450°F until tender, turning over after 10 minutes, for about 20 minutes total. This is a great accompaniment to fish, poultry or meat. On a recent cold night I added sliced radicchio to a white bean soup flavored with pancetta and sage, and let it simmer until it wilted- a satisfying meal that warmed up the evening.
Best of all, I like sautéed radicchio. Here is an easy recipe with many uses. It makes a colorful all-purpose vegetable side dish; we ate it with roasted mahi mahi fillets last week. Mounded atop toasted pain rustic, it becomes an elegant before-dinner nibble. To perk up a rainy Saturday afternoon, concoct these surprising cheese sandwiches: toast whole grain bread, while the bread is still hot, top it with thinly sliced Fontina or Manchego cheese, and then crown with the sautéed radicchio. These purple “greens” are also great at brunch or as part of a super simple after-yoga dinner, just fry eggs and make toast to complete the meal.
Makes 2 servings
½ tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
½ medium-size head radicchio, halved again through the core, then thinly sliced crosswise
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Splash of Sherry wine vinegar
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper flakes and sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the sliced radicchio, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add a splash of vinegar and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.