This time of year, my weekly farmers’ market haul is quite focused on an assortment of Brassica vegetables, which are very prolific through the cooler months of the year in our area.
While I do enjoy my regular preparations of Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale-based dishes, there is another category of winter greens that catches my attention, which falls under the “chicory” family.
Known for their naturally bitter presence and hearty texture, there are three main types of chicory: radicchio, puntarelle and Belgian endive. The naturally bitter flavor found in all three types are usually balanced out with acid dressings, flavorful salty cheese and tangy-sweet vinegars.
A specific type of radicchio that I have been enjoying the past few years is one called the sugarloaf radicchio. Possessing a similar physique and color to that romaine lettuce, yet slightly more elongated, these are some of the largest members of the chicory family you will encounter. Native to Italy, sugarloaf radicchio is not commonly encountered in the United States, except for farmers’ markets and some specialty grocery stores.
You can enjoy sugarloaf radicchio in both raw and cooked preparations, with the goal of pairing it with flavors that will well complement the natural bitterness. When cooked, the bitter flavor tends to dissipate a bit.
Sugarloaf radicchio is excellent when enjoyed in soups and stews, steamed, and served as a side dish, roasted or sauteed. One of my favorite uses for sugarloaf radicchio is to slice it in half lengthwise, drizzle it with olive oil and seasoning, then grill it to give the core a nice char. You can serve it as a knife and fork wedge style salad, then top the charred portion with complementary ingredients that perfectly balance out the natural bitter flavor.
Grilled Sugarloaf Radicchio Salad
1 sugarloaf radicchio.
Salt and pepper.
2 medium beets, roasted and diced.
¼ cup red onion, sliced.
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano (or chevre).
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
1 tablespoon olive oil.
Juice from 1 tangerine.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
Preheat your grill to high heat. Slice the radicchio in half lengthwise, and drizzle the center portion with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place cut side on the grill to char. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and plate char side up. Top each half with equal amounts of roasted beets, sliced red onion, cheese and bacon.
Whisk together remaining ingredients until well incorporated and drizzled over the top of the sugarloaf radicchio. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed to taste.
Yield: Serves 2.