We all grew up hearing that parental mantra “Remember to eat your greens!” And don’t get me wrong, we stand by parents everywhere and think greens are not only important but also extremely delicious. But what if we told you it was also important to eat your purples?
Purple and blue produce like red cabbage and blueberries are filled with anthocyanins, which give those foods their vibrant color, and research shows that foods rich in anthocyanins can have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-obesity, and anti-diabetic effects, as well as promoting brain health and helping to prevent heart disease.
One of our favorite ways to eat purple while eating healthy: radicchio! It’s a staple veg in the Delish kitchen (especially in the winter), and we think more folks should be eating it. This leafy, gorgeous plant originated in northern Italy in the early 16th century and has been an important element of Italian cuisine ever since (hence its nickname Italian Chicory). Read on to learn all about this hearty, healthy and tasty vegetable.
What does radicchio taste like?
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family, a group of cabbage-like, leafy vegetables that are known for their spicy bitterness. Radicchio is no different. When eaten raw, its white veined, purple leaves have a delightfully sharp and bitter flavor. It’s also pretty common to see radicchio cooked, either by boiling, sautéing, roasting, or grilling. The cooking brings out some natural sweetness while still providing that iconic bitter kick.
How is it grown?
Radicchio gains its red pigment through a growing process called blanching wherein plants that are 2-3 weeks out from harvest must be totally shaded from the sun by a pot, a built structure, or the plant’s leaves itself. This helps the radicchio plants to lose their chlorophyll and highlight the red pigment provided by the anthocyanin.
How do I shop for radicchio?
You should be looking for firm, even, hard heads with an intense reddish, purple color. The leaves should be intact and undamaged, and if there are darker parts, that usually means that the head has been on the shelf for longer.
How do I store radicchio?
Radicchio will keep beautifully in the fridge for at least a week, maybe a bit longer.
How do I prep radicchio?
First you’re going to want to peel and discard the first couple of outer leaves. If you’re using it for a salad you can simply keep peel leavings and chop or slice to your desired size. If you want larger pieces for grilling or roasting, cut the radicchio in half and cut out the white stem at the base of the head.
How do I cook radicchio?
One of our favorite ways to eat radicchio is raw, usually in salads. Since its bitterness can be pretty intense we love to pair it with acidic ingredients like fresh citrus juice and fruit or a vinaigrette. You can also curb the bitterness with briney things, like olives or capers, or fattier ingredients like olive oil or bacon.
We also love to cook with radicchio! Grilling and roasting big halves of radicchio is easy, and makes for a meaty, delicious vegetable dish. Simply rub the radicchio with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast or grill at about 400° for 20 minutes. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or honey and you’re good to go.
You can also sauté it with caramelized onions or place it on top of turkey burgers. Whatever way you cook radicchio, it’s a delicious, healthy way to spice up your crisper drawer.
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