As I sussed out the ingredients in Matthew’s CSA box, one thing briefly stymied me. A leafy green that had red streaks like a red leaf lettuce but a more compact head. Was this an heirloom variety of lettuce I had not seen before? I nibbled on a small piece and spit it out. Sure enough, it was radicchio, and it was incredibly bitter to my taste.
Most lettuce gets bitter from hot, summer sun. If you don’t like bitter greens, as I don’t, you can tame their flavor by cooking them on the grill. Radicchio (and romaine) has a sturdy texture that stands up to the intense cooking.
To grill lettuce: Cut the head of lettuce in half through the root. The root will hold the leaves together as you cook it. After you cut it in half, cut each half into 3rds – again, take care to leave the leaves attached to the root.
Toss the leaves with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. They cook quickly on a hot grill, so turn them often. When they are cooked, drizzle balsamic vinegar on top.
I served the radicchio with grilled swordfish, and topped the whole thing with “Sicilian Crumbs”: toasted bread crumbs mixed with pine nuts, currants and lemon zest. The sweetness of the currants and the richness of the pine nuts further calmed the bitterness of the radicchio.
Sicilian Crumbs2 tbs. butter
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbs. pine nuts
2 tbs. currants or raisins
1 cup bread crumbs (preferably home-made)
1 lemon – zest and juice
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and let cook for two mintues until it begins to soft. Add the currants and toss to coat in the butter. They should plump up quickly.
When the currants are plump, add the pine nuts and breadcrumbs. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the crumbs are lightly toasted.
Add the lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Radicchio Photo Credit: SpiceTart