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Radicchio

Radicchio

It might look like red cabbage, but radicchio has a spicier and mildly bitter taste that, combined with its bright colors, makes it a classy addition to any salad.

Nutritional Highlights

  • Radicchio delivers vitamin C with every bite, helping to keep your cells healthy by protecting them from oxidation.
  • Its purplish leaves are mineral-rich. They contain plenty of magnesium, which helps to build strong bones and teeth. Radicchio also contains potassium, which helps to mitigate some of the effects that sodium has on blood pressure.
  • Radicchio is bursting with vitamin K, a nutrient that is essential for proper blood clotting.

History

Radicchio looks a lot like red cabbage, but it's actually a member of the chicory family, which explains its sharper taste. Ancient Romans thought it could cure insomnia, which scientists have recently said is plausible: Radicchio contains a little bit of lactucopicrin, an organic compound that can make you sleepy. People first began cultivating radicchio in 15th century Italy, but the red-leafed, white-veined version we know and love today was created in Belgium in 1860. Though it was at one time almost exclusively imported from Italy, today it's also grown right here in the U.S.

Varieties

There are three main varieties of radicchio. The first and most common is radicchio di Chiogga, with a round, red cabbage-like head, white veins and a strong flavor. Less intense is radicchio di Treviso, an elongated version that is shaped like an endive. Finally, there is the Tardivo variety, whose long, curly leaves make it look almost like a flower.

When is Radicchio in Season?

The Chiogga and Treviso varieties of radicchio can be found in grocery stores year round, while the Tardivo sort is only in season from November to March.

How to Choose Radicchio

A good head of radicchio has crisp, unwilted leaves that show no scars or insect damage. Choose radicchio that's a deep red or purple with fine white veins.

How to Store Radicchio

Like any head of lettuce or cabbage, radicchio needs to be kept in your refrigerator's crisper. Once there, it will stay fresh for about a week.

How to Prepare Radicchio

Before chopping radicchio, first rinse it under cold tap water to remove any loose dirt or grit from the leaves. To slice it, use a large butcher knife to chop the radicchio head into halves or quarters. Laying each piece on its flat side, slice it into thin strings or slightly thicker strips.

Key Measurements

The most common measurements for radicchio are whole heads (small) or cups (chopped).

Substitutions

To capture something of the crisp, mild bitterness of radicchio, try using Belgian endive, chicory or escarole in its place. If you just want the bright purple color, red cabbage will do instead.

Radicchio in Recipes

Radicchio Salad, anyone? Watercress, green apple and honey-lemon dressing make this mix a real tongue teaser. 

Another mouth-watering use for radicchio is to put it into Roasted-Garlic Hummus and Goat Cheese Sandwiches. Served on rolls with bell pepper slices, this meal will make you look like the intercontinental chef you are. 

Finally, in place of crackers, serve Skinny Crab Dip on whole radicchio leaves for a cold and crunchy appetizer.

Reviews & Comments

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