It’s not just because of its potential for a play on words that I love radicchio and I’m not in the least a bitter person but I do love the bitterness of this salad leaf.
I love even more that I have just picked it from my own veg patch in Bristol.
Grow your own
Radicchio may be one of the most satisfying lettuces to grow: one of its best attributes from a gardener’s perspective is that its bitter flavour seems to deter the slugs and snails, ensuring your success. Appearance-wise, it starts out in life looking a rather uninteresting, off green but as it develops over the weeks, it reveals its heart of mysterious and magical magenta, shot with white veins.
When the outside leaves are perhaps too big for salad, I never waste them but I put them into a green smoothie. The inside, however, is where the treasure really lies with its crunchy, bitter leaves. It’s a great lettuce to experiment with – try grilling it and while it’s still warm, marinate it with thyme and balsamic vinegar; serve cold on an antipasti plate or as part of a warm salad.
For me, it cries out for goat’s cheese and thyme to keep it company. Just after I’ve thought of flavour on the plate, colour comes next so enter the luscious fig with its complementary colours to complete the picture.
A bitter sweet salad
Here’s how I put this salad together, it only takes a matter of minutes and even less time to demolish because it’s so delicious!
Finely slice some red onion and macerate in a bowl with some good red wine vinegar, such as cabernet sauvignon (I make my own vinegar with a culture that I scored from a fellow chef years ago), and season with salt and pepper. Slice or rip up the radicchio leaves and cut a couple of figs into quarters. Sprinkle plenty of thyme leaves over the salad, break up some goat’s cheese and drizzle with a really good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. You will find that it makes a perfect supper, and although it may not sound that substantial, the flavours more than make up for it.
You can read more about radicchio and its health benefits in a previous blog.