Category — Travels
With its pointed leaves and gorgeous wine and cream color, Radicchio Trevisano seems to jump right out of the produce aisle. It is a welcome sight, especially at this time of year, when choices are limited.
Radicchio Trevisano is grown in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy near the city of Treviso where the climate is just right for the painstaking production process. When I was in that area recently, I had the chance to visit Lucio Torresan who grows 2 types of Trevisano: the early season bullet shaped heads known as precoce, and the later curled leaf kind known as tardiva. Lucio explained that the process for growing radicchio was devised in the 19th century by a Belgian agronomist who applied techniques similar to those used for growing Belgian endive, is a member of the same botanical family. Lucio showed us how he harvests the plants, then places the bushy untrimmed bunches in shallow tubs of cold fresh water that is kept constantly circulating for between 15 and 18 days where the radicchio develops its distinctive flavor and color. Then the plants are trimmed down to their tender hearts, rinsed again and packaged for shipping.
Radicchio Trevisano is good raw in salads, and cooked in risotto, in appetizers, and as a side dish. The flavor of radicchio goes especially well with meats. At a dinner at the Ceccheto winery organized by Buon Italia, the Italian food and wine promotional organization that had organized our trip, we had a chance to sample juicy grilled sausages made with radicchio and red wine, radicchio roasted in a wrapping of pancetta, and in a mixed salad. The sausages were made by Master Macellaio (butcher) Bruno Bassetto. Bassetto is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records with having prepared the world’s longest salamella — I am not making this up– a skinny sausage that reached 7.018 meters (nearly 8 yards) in length! While we watched, Bassetto demonstrated his meat cutting skills by first breaking down a beef carcass, then chopping the beef for carpaccio with 2 scary looking butcher knives. With the carpaccio, he served a tangy and bittersweet roasted radicchio salsa that I could not wait to get home to my kitchen to try to duplicate. I serve it with grilled sausages, steak or burgers, or on toasted Italian bread.
ROASTED RADICCHIO SALSA
This is really 3 recipes in one. Make the radicchio for the salsa, or serve it plain as a side dish, or top it with a slice of Asiago and bake it a minute or so more until slightly melted for an appetizer.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
12 ounces radicchio, preferably Trevisano
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained and finely chopped
2 or 3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced red onion
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Oil a large baking sheet.
Trim off a thin slice from the base of the radicchio. Cut the radicchio into 1-inch thick wedges through the core.
Brush the radicchio with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
Bake the radicchio for 12 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Turn the pieces over and bake 8 minutes more or until nicely browned and softened. Remove from the oven.
(At this point, you can serve the radicchio warm as a side dish or appetizer, drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar.)
In a bowl, mix together the capers, anchovies and onion. When the radicchio is cool, place it on a board and chop it fine. Transfer it to the bowl and add the vinegar and season to taste with more olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
January 25, 2010 2 Comments
High up in the Dolomite Mountains in the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northern Italy is St. Hubertus, one of Italy’s finest restaurants. Named for the patron saint of hunters, this elegant 2-star Michelin restaurant is located at the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in the tiny town of San Cassiano. Though Charles and I were not able to dine at Rosa Alpina when we were in this area several years ago, we met the chef, Norbert Niederkofler, here in New York this week with Hugo Pizzini, whose family has owned and operated the Rosa Alpina for more than 70 years. The hotel is a part of the luxurious Relais & Chateaux group.
The personable Chef Norbert prepared an outstanding tasting menu for us which was paired with some of the region’s great wines. Here is the menu:
Speck with Horseradish served with crispy dried bread from the Dolomites – Speck is a tender smoked ham that is typical of this region. The bread was light and airy and super crunchy. Terrine of Foie Gras with Alto Adige Apple Snow — The snow was a tart green apple granita, a delicate complement to the foie gras. It was perfect with the Tramin Gerwurtztraminer, a slightly sweet wine, that accompanied it. Char cooked in Moutain Herbs with Potato and Wild Ramp Puree — The fish was delicious and cooked to perfection, but I loved the potatoes and wild ramps that went with it. I think I will try this if I can find some ramps at the Greenmarket this weekend. Crispy Red Mullet on a Tartar of Scallops with Sauteed Calamari and Coconut Coriander Sauce — Sounds like a lot going on, but this was actually very delicate and the flavors were subtle. The coconut and coriander flavors were a subtle undertone. Risotto with Pine Needles and Slow Cooked Breast of Guinea Fowl — Yes, pine needles! Tender green tips of low-growing mugo pine branches are pureed and blended with sweet butter which as stirred into a basic risotto in bianco. Very delicate and different. Venison with White Asparagus, Pea Puree and Fresh Morels — The venison was tender and perfectly cooked while the vegetables were the essence of spring. Chocolate Pudding with Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Rhubarb Soup — Warm, cake-like steamed chocolate pudding topped with tart, creamy ice cream and surrounded by a tangy rhubarb sauce. Charles was really crazy about this.
Home cooking in Trentino Alto-Adige is hearty with many kinds of whole grain breads made with nuts as well as buckwheat, oats, and other grains. There are stewed meats, delicious cheeses, and dumplings of all kinds served in broth or simply doused with butter. It may not be what you think of when you imagine Italian food, but believe me, it is all delicious! The Alto Adige region is influenced by Austria, and before WWI, was actually a part of that country. The first language in the region is German, and Italian is second. The people in the valley where the Rosa Alpina is located also speak Ladin, derived from Latin. Hugo Pizzini said that the region is eligible to become a United Nations World Heritage Site which he believes will help to preserve the beauty of the area and the local traditions.
Charles and I look forward to returning to this stunningly beautiful region of Italy to see Chef Norbert and enjoy his delicious cooking once again. For more information about the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa and St. Hubertus restaurant, go to www.rosalpina.it. And for a complete run-down on the wines we tasted with our meal, see Charles’ post, which will appear soon, at http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/wine-and-food
April 24, 2009 1 Comment