Recipe: Baked Radicchio On Bread
By Susan Simon
This is the time of year when bitter leaves show up in farmstand bins and on market shelves. They become the exciting and palate-pleasing new base for the salads and side dishes that I favor.
This segue from spring and summertime greens to the family of chicory varieties that run the gamut of bitter flavor from mild to strong is one of nature’s indications that the seasons are changing – they like to grow in cool weather. Endive and escarole are among the more well-known varieties. Radicchio, with its tight head of garnet red leaves, is gaining in popularity and availability to become one of the more widely consumed members of the family. Treviso or Trevigiano, a red-headed endive with long leaves, has begun to show up in markets with more frequency. A relative newcomer to the group, the stunningly beautiful Castelfranco, a head made up of creamy green leaves splashed with deep rose-colored markings, is thankfully for sale from a farm near my home.
The sturdy-leafed chicory varieties are not only good in raw salads – especially when combined with other ingredients that tone down and compliment their unique flavor – but also can become the defining ingredient in a baked dish or can be added to a soup.
A radicchio salad could include sliced pears, pomegranate seeds, grated or diced cheese, roasted nuts, candied orange peel, sieved hard cooked eggs and so on. A complementary dressing can include oil and vinegar with maple syrup and Dijon mustard. Or, make baked radicchio to serve alongside a frittata, a selection of cured meats – especially sweet and salty prosciutto – and a celery-root remoulade quickly made by peeling, then shredding it and adding it to a mixture of lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and chopped fresh parsley.
Baked Radicchio on Bread
Serves 4 - 6
One of my best and oldest friends lives in the Veneto region of Italy. Radicchio in all shapes is used in the autumn cucina of the region: radicchio risotto, radicchio stuffed ravioli, grilled radicchio and baked radicchio. I first tasted a version of baked radicchio during one of my visits to the area. That dish had a piece of pancetta stuffed under the radicchio and the nutty Montasio cheese of the region melted over the top.
A few years ago a Hudson friend made a variation of the recipe by placing the sections of radicchio on top of olive oil drenched bread. I fiddled with both recipes and came up with this one. The crunchy bread absorbs some of the vegetable’s bitter taste and is a perfect foil for the wilted leaves covered with melted cheese.
5 tablespoons olive oil
Enough sliced, dense Mediterranean-style white bread to cover the bottom of a baking dish
3 heads Treviso-style style radicchio – red endive, each head cut into 4 vertical pieces
½ cup dry white vermouth
¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ pound block Montasio, gruyère or fontina cheese cut into 12 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 400˚ F. Cover the bottom of a lasagna-style baking dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the pieces of bread into the dish, cutting into smaller sizes if necessary in order to fit.
Sue Decker of Blue Star Farm in Stuyvesant, N.Y. harvesting Treviso.
Place the radicchio over the bread. Splash the vermouth over the top, followed by the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place a slice of cheese on top of each piece of radicchio. Top with a few grinds of black pepper.
Cover the dish with tin foil. Bake for 15 minutes.
Raise the heat to 450˚ F. Uncover the dish and bake until the cheese is slightly golden and the sides of the dish are bubbling, 15 – 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Susan Simon is the author of a James Beard award-winning book and a shopping guide to Marrakech, and has translated a culinary guide to Italy. She writes a weekly food column for the Hudson-Greene Media Group. She also writes the What We Eat Now series for Nantucket Today magazine. She lives in Hudson, N.Y.