I’m so culinarily inspired right now, I feel like I want all of the other stuff in my life to disappear for a while so that I can just cook through some of these thoughts before my head explodes.
I just spent two weeks in Amsterdam (visiting my sister, bro-in-law and my beautiful new niece) and Rome. Siiiiiiiiigh. As much as I didn’t want any of it to end, I couldn’t wait to get home to my kitchen to tweak some of my fave dishes (including some from Amsterdam, which we’ll get to).
I hadn’t been to Italy since I was 21, where I spent a month backpacking with my sister, trying not to spend too much money, and discussing the places we would come back to with rolly suitcases and more than two yellowing t-shirt options. I think we had gelato for every meal…
It took me way too long to get back, but was it ever worth the wait! I was picturing a debaucherous celebration of gelato and gluten, but to my surprise, it totally wasn’t. We ate so many Italian winter veggies with the odd pasta and some pizza, but I was not feeling nearly as strezza-shaped I thought I would by the end of the trip.
The way Italians embrace their bitter veggies is truly impressive. Artichokes, rapini, chicory, cardoon, dandelion greens on every menu. They have types of chicory (including the more commonly known radicchio) at their markets and in their restaurants that look like they should be growing on coral reefs. In January too!
The bitterness in chicory encourages bile production and aids digestion. It also contains inulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. It seems it is the perfect balance to insanely good homemade pasta that you promised your 21-year-old self you would go back for. Italy, you know what you’re doing, no wonder your citizens seem to sparkle.
We have been eating radicchio since we’ve been back (we may have also headed up to commercial drive in search of out of season artichokes….) This recipe is a version of what we have been eating: lightly seared to knock the chill put of it, finished with warm, lemony and garlicky fat white beans. If you’re experiencing pasta envy (sorry), you could toss this whole recipe with some zucchini noodles, something similar to what we did here. If you’re reading this during shorts weather, leave the radicchio raw and serve the beans at room temp or chilled.
In Rome, the radicchio would be much simpler, probably fried in olive oil, finished with salt and pepper and slid haphazardly onto a plate. But in Rome, you would probably also be eating six other courses along with a loaf of crusty bread. The beans in my dish are to replace the bread (and/or pasta), the parsley and basil make up your insalate mixte, the dulse is your pesce and the lemon is your aperol spritz. Almost just like being in Rome, right?
Seriously though, you are going to find this delicious, whether or not you have been to Italy and even if you’re not used to bitter greens. Give it a try. If you close your eyes while you eat this, you can almost hear the buzz of the scooters and feel yourself tripping on the cobblestones.
Italy, you rule, I want to learn Italian and come back for a year.
- 1-2 Radicchio heads, cut into wedges, (8-10 per head) connected by the root.
- 1-2 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 c cooked Cannellini Beans (or other beans), (soaked overnight, cooked with kombu and drained)
- 4 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp Dulse, finely chopped
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Lemon, Zest
- ½ tsp Chili Flakes (optional)
- ½ c fresh Parsley, chopped
- ¼ c fresh Basil, torn (or chopped)
- A drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea(weed) Salt, to taste
- Pre-heat a large frying pan on medium heat and add the coconut oil.
- add the radicchio wedges to the pan, only enough that there are room for (don't overlap). You'll probably have to do it in batches.
- Cook until just softened. You may need to flip some if you cut them big but I like the idea of having them half cooked and half raw.
- Arrange on a platter, all spread out.
- In the same pan, add a little more coconut oil, and the garlic and dulse. Sauté until translucent.
- Add the beans and sauté until heated through.
- Turn off the heat, add the lemon zest and juice and half of the herbs.
- Scatter on top of the plated radicchio and top with the reserved herbs and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.
- This tastes great hot, room temp, tossed with zuke noodles or right out of the fridge on day 2 and 3.