grilled radicchio with parmesan
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Wedges of grilled, lightly caramelised radicchio dressed with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar make a wonderful grown up salad, lunch or a side. Why grown up?
Children don’t like bitter stuff. They won’t drink coffee (very good on them) or beer (even better); eat grapefruit or olives. Natural selection mechanism makes sure they go bleurgh! and spit out all that potentially could be poisonous.
Of course, there are exceptions. I know parents who proudly announce to those who will or won’t listen that little Olivia just can’t get enough of her namesake fruit; that Artie eats artiechokes for breakfast and Charlie was weaned on chicory. Bully for them – or rather, are the poor kids' survival skills evolutionally impaired? Where are their natural defence mechanisms of ‘what tastes bad kills you’? Will they start accepting liquorice from strangers next?
I hope Olivia and co will be all right but the rest of us only acquire a taste for bitter, sour and salty (and tequila slammers which is all three) when adults. The penchant for what is not straight forwardly ‘delicious’ has probably similar roots in our psyche as the love of really scary movies, escape rooms or handcuffs and black leather. You can only have so much boring tasty before you start to yearn for spicy and tart.
Radicchio is related to chicory and endive, native to Italy and that salad leaf that makes kids go ‘bleurgh!’ It looks impressive, white striated magenta, and forms a tight head that is easily wedgeable. Its bitterness, if you’re keen but cautious, is easily combatted with salt and acid not sugar: you should never fight the bitter with the sweet. And it loses some of the astringency when charred, be it under the grill, in hot oven or on a dry hot griddle.
So this is what I’ve done – all of it in fact: charred the wedges (the sugar there serves only the caramelisation purpose), attacked them with salt, soused with vinegar and smothered in salty Parmesan. Do the same with chicory or endive; the wedges can be roasted or blackened on the hob and the result is so, so good.
grilled radicchio with parmesanServings: 2Time: 30 mins plus soaking
- 1 head of radicchio
- flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 3 tsp olive oil
- 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- fresh or dried thyme
- shaved Parmesan, to serve
1. Trim the root and discard any outside wilted leaves from the radicchio. Cut it into quarters or eights if the head is very large. Place the wedges in a bowl of cold water and soak for 30 minutes or longer.
2. Preheat the grill to medium; use grill fan if available. Drain the radicchio and shake off the water. Sprinkle it liberally with salt flakes, brown sugar and at least 6 turns of the black pepper mill; drizzle with oil and both vinegars and sprinkle with thyme. Place the wedges on a baking tray one of the cut sides down.
3. Grill for 10 minutes; turn over the wedges onto the other cut side and grill for another 6 minutes. It will sadly lose the vibrant magenta hue.
4. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with more olive oil and scatter with the shaved Parmesan.