This is radicchio. It's so pretty! Radicchio is a chicory, whose roots are often substituted for or mixed with coffee beans. It's related to escarole and endive, and it's a very popular vegetable in Italy. Here in the US it often makes an appearance in those bagged salad mixes, but radicchio can be so much more than just a filler green (er... purple?)
And when you cut it open, it's like purple lace! This is a vegetable fit for a princess! Or, you know, Prince. It's also fit for your supper tonight, because it is crunchy and bitter in a good way, like cabbage and kale.
Take your two small heads of radicchio, and cut them in half. Then you stop and admire the frilly-ness. Don't you just want to make a dress out of this stuff?
Then you cut them in quarters. And you stop and admire the frilly-ness, again. Then you brush them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set them aside for an hour or so to absorb some oil and start to soften.
Then you get your cast iron pan (or your grill or your grill pan) screaming hot. Hot is key. Not-hot-enough will make for limp lettuce which is decidedly NOT crunchy, awesome, seared radicchio. So, screaming hot cast iron: brush the pan with a little bit of olive oil, and place the radicchio cut side down on the pan. Wait two minutes for some golden brown spots to develop, then turn it onto the other cut side.
When the second side has some golden brown spots, take the wedges out of the pan, shave some parmiggiano regiano on top, and sprinkle on a little bit of parsley, if you have it. The thin shavings of cheese (as opposed to sprinklings of grated cheese) are a fun textural contrast with the radicchio, so just grab your vegetable peeler and attack your block of parm. We ate this the other night with some polenta "fries" and basic tomato sauce for a light dinner.
Do you use radicchio? What do you use it for?
two small heads purple radicchio
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
shaved parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)
Trim and discard any discolored outer leaves, and trim the root end of the radicchio, leaving enough that the wedges will stay intact. Slice the head in half, then each half in half again so you have quarters. If your radicchio is very squat, you may want to slice the halves into thirds - basically you don't want any wedges whose widest points are larger than two inches.
Brush wedges generously with olive oil on each cut side, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate for an hour (I just left them on the cutting board while I made tomato sauce and polenta).
Heat a cast iron pan or skillet over medium-high heat until it is very very hot. You shouln't be able to hold your hand over it for more than 10 seconds. Brush it with a thin film of olive oil, and place the radicchio wedges cut side down in the pan. They should sizzle. Don't crowd the pan, it's better to work in batches so it doesn't steam.
After 2-3 minutes the radicchio should be browning in spots. If it's not, wait another 30-60 seconds. When it's golden brown, turn it to the other cut side for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove to plates and top with shavings of parmiggiano reggiano and sprinkle with parsley.