“….In early February I find myself craving the bitter leaves like a bad-tempered Kodiak bear who drank 18 bottles of Côtes du Rhône the night he hibernated.”
-Tim Hayward, The Financial Times
This is a warm salad, or a straightforward vegetable accompaniment, with a lot of WOW! factor. The colour is arresting, but so are the fabulous shapes of the radicchio, and the sheer volume of it. This serving for three to four takes up a whole oval platter.
The volume does mean however that this isn’t a dish for more than four. You could serve it as a hearty lunch with freshly baked rolls and ham and mustard, or a salty cheese such as feta. The quote above comes from a review by Tim Hayward of a classic endive-based salad with roquefort, pear and walnut experienced at L’Escargot.
Alternatively, because the radicchio packs a hearty bitter punch, it works well as an accompaniment to meat with a strong flavour – mutton, game, or beef.
You can use the early, compactly, neatly shaped radicchio from Treviso (radicchio rosso precoce di Treviso) which comes into season in September. Or you can use the deliriously, outrageously curvaceous late (radicchio rosso tardivo di Treviso), which comes into season on 1 November. Both remain available until early spring.
However you serve it, this salad looks amazing, it’s different, and it doesn’t take long – it’s a winner!
Recipe for Warm Red Radicchio Salad
Serves 3-4 (don’t try to make this for more)
- 1 long radicchio from Treviso – either the compact early or the deliriously curvy late
- 1 red onion
- 3 tbsps thick syrupy balsamic vinegar (you may need more if the radicchio is very bitter)
- Smoked salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil for frying and drizzling
- Warm a serving platter.
- Heat some olive oil in a large oval frying pan. Slice the onion into thin crescent shapes and add to the pan, heat on quite a high heat for a couple of minutes to give a little golden colour and to begin caramelising. Then lower the heat, and continue to cook gently.
- Shave off the brown root of the radicchio (don’t cut off too much, you don’t want it to fall apart completely).
- Halve the radicchio vertically, and then quarter each half – again vertically.
- When the onion has softened increase the heat a little, add the balsamic vinegar, get it beginning to bubble and then add the radicchio. Season.
- When the radicchio has coloured on all sides, and is just beginning to wilt (the straightlaced early radicchio will start to curl a little), move the contents of the pan to a serving platter.
- Drizzle over a little additional olive oil, and possibly a bit more balsamic vinegar if it seems a bit too bitter. Adjust the seasoning and serve.