Striking-looking leafy vegetables are an odd compulsion, I’ll admit, but I love them. Chard, cavolo nero, chicory, any greens you could name – I just can’t walk past them at the market. On saturday, and actually for the first time, the one I couldn’t walk past was radicchio.
It looks like a particularly aggressive lettuce, and it’s basically Italian chicory. Sometimes radicchio has the long slender shape of standard chicory (Treviso radicchio), sometimes it’s smaller and rounder (The Verona or Chioggia varieties). In all cases it has most of chicory’s bitterness, although I found it easier to cook out. Being round and mostly red, I think mine was Chioggia, but I’m not massively sure this matters.
What to do with it? Well, my go-to handbook for foregrounding single ingredients is Silver Spoon, and what Silver Spoon usually says is more or less: heat it up with a bit of umami and/or citrus, and don’t fuck about. So that’s what I did; with some spicy lamb on the side.
Remove any unpromising outer leaves, and cut the radicchio into segments – about sixths in this case. Hack out the woodier bits of the stalk and toss it with oil and a little lemon juice. I added some slices of celery. Put the whole lot in a hot oven, in a sturdy, dish for something in the 20 minutes range, then, grate over some parmesan, and toss with extra lemon before putting it back in the oven to finish for about another ten. There’s a chance you’ll need to cover it with foil if it’s heading for crispy, but usually it’ll give off plenty of liquid.
The lamb in this case is nothing special, either. Just a leg steak, marinated in a paste of harissa with extra garlic, oil, and vinegar. I smashed the garlic into a purée first, then worked in the harissa, and left the lamb sitting in it overnight. The steak was then just griddled savagely for a couple of minutes on each side.
The taste is quite sharp and astringent, but thoroughly pleasant, and the lemon balances it through.
This used about half the radicchio I baked. So the leftovers were tossed with pesto and heaped onto a pizza base with big torn shreds of mozzarella. The pizza was, if anything, better than the radicchio on its own.