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.