It's the Negroni of the vegetable world
This week's curveball is RADICCHO. it's not related or similar to radish. It's actually a type of chicory, and it's popular in Italian cookery, so it's often known as Italian chicory. And the thing about Radicchio is that it's bitter. That's it's USP, in fact.
We in Britain are not generally inclined to bitter flavours. In fact we more often than not avoid them. Coffee, negroni and sometimes chocolate, but that's it. Everything else is on the sweet or salty or spicy spectrum.
But there is no way of getting away from the Radicchio's bitterness. You can mellow it by roasting or grilling it, or you can mix it with lots of bland food to tone it down. Or you can just not try it. But where would the fun be in that?!
The wonderful Anna Jones, a fellow vegcentric and seasonal cook suggests that we should embrace the occasional bitterness, like we would spiciness or saltiness. And rather than 'sparing use in salads' as the general advice goes, she has a recipe that really showcases this mightly flavour.
I have had a home kitchen attempt at this lovely dish, and it is indeed a stunning and weirdly enjoyable display of bitterness! It reminds me of a phrase that a personal trainer once said to me about making healthy smoothies - "The bitterer the betterer" So I wonder if there is an indicator of good nutrition? They do say bitter food is good for the liver and radicchio has recently been added to the superfoods list. So maybe. But nonetheless, this dish was certainly an adventure in food.
Ingredients & Instructions
1 small-medium radicchio
two portions of pasta (about 200g) Anna uses Strozzapreti - but it works well with fusilli
a good handful of walnuts, toasted - a good pinch of salt - 1 garlic clove - 2 bunches of herbs (although I used spinach) - a large glug of olive oil
zest of 1 orange - 2tbsps balsamic vinegar - 1 tbsp olive oil - pinch of chilli powder - seasoning
1) Cut your radicchio into eighths, and grill under a high heat on both sides until nicely charred.
2) Cook your pasta to packet instructions and drain
3) Mix the walnuts, garlic, salt and herbs into a food processor and as it's heading towards a thick paste, slowly add in the oil to make a smooth pesto. Mix this into the pasta.
4) Mix up the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Shred the radicchio and cover it with the dressing, mixing it well, whilst it's still hot.
5) Smoosh everything together and cover with Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Love it or hate it? Let us know!