I posted my first ode to bitter greens back in November of last year. I haven’t had the chance to write any more, as that one glorious bunch of escarole in my box was followed by a winter and spring of wonderful but not at all bitter spinach, kale, chard, and turnip greens.
This week I returned from my travels to an empty fridge, so, for the first time in a very long time, Duck and I hit the farmer’s market. We checked out one we’ve never been to before, the Wednesday Kaiser farmer’s market. This was a tiny market – one stand with stone fruits, one with strawberries (they had just run out of organic, and strawberries are super high on my “No buy” list for conventionally grown fruit, too bad!), one with organic veggies, and then a juice stand, a Sukhi’s Indian food stand, and a bread stand (maybe? I never made it over to that one).
The small size suited me just fine, since, after nine months of CSA box delivery, choosing produce can actually be a little overwhelming. (My produce-selection muscles have atrophied!) Everything at the stands was beautiful and perfectly ripe. At the veggie stand we got our several bunches of kale, and Duck got to give another customer a run-down of the taste and tenderness of each of the three kale varieties on offer. We stocked up on cauliflower to make impressionist cauliflower, and picked out some potatoes to roast.
Then I spotted them. The little pile of burgundy spheres, their tightly curled red leaves shot with white. My mouth started to water.
“How much is the radicchio?,” I asked the woman behind the cashbox.
“A dollar-fifty a head,” she answered. I almost fainted.
I grabbed Duck’s arm and pulled him over to the pile. “Duck, they have radicchio for $1.50 a head,” I muttered. I had to keep myself from whispering, half-afraid the stand would be mobbed if I spoke too loud.
Duck looked blank. “Is that good?”
Before I could answer, the woman behind the counter explained, “It typically costs around $3 a pound.” She put one on a scale. “This would be $2!”
I could only stare at her. I happen to know that radicchio is currently selling at Andronico’s for $7.99/lb. Now that’s Andronico’s, mind you, where you walk in to just get change for the meter and somehow still walk out twenty dollars lighter, but still… Except for when I was in Italy, radicchio has been for my whole life a very carefully doled out treat, bought on only the most special of occasions.
As much as I wanted to buy the whole pile and make a bed of the leaves to roll around on, Uncle Scrooge-style, I restrained myself to two heads. Two lovely, bitter, luxurious, DOLLAR FIFTY heads.
And for all you San Franciscans reading this, if you have to make a run on Kaiser next week, at least save me a head!
Seared Radicchio with Balsamic Vinegar
Shown above with a pan-cooked fritatta of eggs, thyme, teleme, and brown rice
2 heads radicchio
Salt, fresh ground pepper, balsamic vinegar
Cut each head of radicchio in half lengthwise, keeping the core intact to hold the leaves together. Cut each half into four wedges. Brush both sides of each wedge generously with olive oil.
Heat a cast iron pan (or another pan that can handle high heat) to medium-high, letting it get good and hot. Add the radicchio wedges in a single layer and cook until a bit brown and wilted. Turn wedges over and continue to cook. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Some people like their radicchio still somewhat crisp, some like it absolutely limp. Taste a leaf every now and then until you reach your desired texture, being careful not to burn them! (If they start to get too dark before they are tender enough, turn the heat down some and add a bit more oil.)
Once the wedges have reached your preferred tenderness, turn off heat and sprinkle a few spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar over the wedges.
Serve for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for dessert! Radicchio is the appropriate food for any and every occasion!