What's In Season

Why You Should Be Grilling Your Radicchio

Add this bittersweet beauty to your late-winter spread

Illustration: John Burgoyne

Rebecca Wilcomb can’t recall her first bite of radicchio. “It’s like saying, ‘Do you remember the first time you had pasta?’ I can’t. It has just always been there,” says the executive chef of Gianna in New Orleans. Wilcomb has traveled to her grandparents’ home in Northern Italy every other year for her entire life. “My nonno [grandfather] has a great garden, and he always has radicchio,” she says. “He has to have it every day, sliced thin with good olive oil and a little bit of salt.” When Wilcomb was researching dishes for the menu for Gianna, which opened last spring in the Warehouse District, forager Ashley Locklear asked her what ingredients she was looking for. The answer, of course, was radicchio—the burgundy Perseo variety her nonno grows, plus others like speckled Bel Fiore and oblong deep- maroon Fiero. Local farmers successfully experimented with the seeds, and the waxy leaves, known for their bitter bite, have been on the menu in season since the first day. If you can’t find these exact varieties at your farmers’ market, look for more common types (such as Chioggia) from late fall through early spring. Choose heads that are firm without wilted leaves, and they’ll keep in your refrigerator’s produce drawer for several weeks. Like her nonno, Wilcomb loves radicchio thinly sliced in a salad. Grilling it is an easy way to bring out the green’s sweeter side, especially when it’s covered in a rich bagna cauda (from Italian for “hot bath”) of garlic, anchovy, chile flakes, and lemon. “The great thing about radicchio is that it’s hearty and very flavorful,” Wilcomb says. “When something is bitter like that, you can pair it with bold flavors. It’s such a versatile and special ingredient.” Surely, her nonno would agree.

Grilled Radicchio with Bagna Cauda
Yield: 4–6 servings

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup butter
¼ cup garlic cloves, peeled
6 anchovies
2 lemons, zested
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. chile flakes
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 heads radicchio, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into quarters

Heat grill to medium, and oil grates. Make the bagna cauda: On the stove top, gently warm olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Smash the garlic and anchovies into a paste with a mortar and pestle (or whirl in a food processor), and add to the oil and butter. Add the rest of the ingredients (minus radicchio), and simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. Grill the radicchio: Drizzle each quarter with additional olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, turning to lightly char all sides, about 5–8 minutes. Stir the bagna cauda, and, to serve, spoon over the hot radicchio.