Does this vegetable make you joyous to the point of defending your territory to enable eating it?
Do you even recognize it?
If you’re guessing it’s a cabbage, you are not alone. But actually this is radicchio (Cichorium intybus), a cultivated chicory and a member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family.
You’re likely most familiar with it as a denser, slightly bitter, bright-red addition to a well-mixed salad. As such, it adds color, texture and a little flavor to the bowl.
But with just the tiniest amount of special attention, radicchio can turn into a delicious, dramatic-sounding preparation that will inspire great excitement in those lucky enough to have some on their plate.
cooking for the non-cook
I am a terribly minimalist cook. I’ve come to terms with this as a limitation, and it generally doesn’t bother me — except when my home “cooking” gets boring.
One of the best pieces of advice for folks who don’t really cook: Make friends with people who crazy love playing in kitchens.
Two such people are my best friend and her husband, who introduced me to this marvelous trick. It’s been part of several delicious meals at their house, and I realized it was simple enough that even I could reproduce it at home.
how to make it
The trick? Quarter your radicchio, sear each side in a hot pan (I use cast iron), then serve with a generous helping your favorite salad dressing.
That’s it. That’s the whole recipe.
It’s seared, sweet, salad drenched in dressing that you eat with a steak knife.
When someone asks you what you’re eating, saying “seared radicchio” sounds seriously impressive — although all you did was apply basic heat followed by salad dressing.
food worth fighting for
And y’all, the stuff is so good. My bestie and I actually came to blows over this.
She eats slowly and I felt entitled to the bits she had not yet consumed. (Yes, I am bad and wrong.) She objected to my aforementioned entitlement and bopped me with her spoon – violence! — not very gently and more than once.
(How sweet was our first physical fight?)
Happily, making it on my own keeps the seared radicchio safe from predation, friendly or otherwise.
dietary diversity matters
This is an astoundingly simple way to prepare a truly lovely and less-common vegetable.
And getting more plant diversity in your diet is a great way to protect and improve your health. Recent research found that folks who eat 30 different plant foods each week have a more robust and healthy gut microbiome. That matters, because the bacteria comprising that microbiome return the favor with nutrients and immune support. (Read the full study here.)
Seared radicchio may be the true salad preparation for winter, barely cooked with just a bit of char to keep things interesting — and to count as cooking.
P.S. Wondering where to get radicchio? If it’s not on your grocer’s shelf, check out farmer’s markets, local farmers offering CSAs (community supported agriculture) or veggie boxes like this from Full Circle Farms. If you’re in their service area, use the code “ZRNA7244” to get $15 off your first delivery.