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Nov 28, 2004 10:33 PM

How to change my embittered relationship w/ radicchio?

  • c

I recently purchased a couple of beautiful heads of radicchio from my local farmer's market. They looked fresh--leaves were tight and vibrant.

I have never cooked w/ radicchio before--only have had it in those salad bag mixes. So I cooked one of them by quartering it and then quickly braising it in a pan w/ some olive oil, and then finished at end w/ splash of balsamic.

It looked delicious alongside my culotte steak and roasted creamer potatoes; however, when I went to bite into it, an overwhelming bitter flavor permeated my mouth and made it even difficult to swallow just a bite. Threw the rest out...

Have the other one waiting patiently in the fridge, so would like to create something that is actually edible if not delicious. Should I blanche first? Only eat raw? Thanks for your suggestions!

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  1. approaching it from a different angle (as an eater, rather than as a cook)....see link below


    5 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      Jim, I certainly appreciate your point. In fact, as I appreciate diversity in life, I also appreciate diversity of flavors that all come together in harmony on my tongue--e.g., salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and yes, bitter.

      For instance, I enjoy bittersweet chocolate, mustard greens, bitter melon, raw radishes, etc. when prepared and served well. I knew that radicchio had a bite and was looking forward to experiencing that when I bought them. I guess those not as fresh pieces of radicchio in those salad mixes didn't quite prepare me for such a big leap.

      I have a feeling that eating a whole radicchio affords nothing to balance the bitterness (I mean these babies were super fresh, and the bitterness just attacked my entire mouth w/ no mercy), while tossed into a pasta (such as you described) sounds much more palatable to me.

      In order for me to approach my relationship with radicchio from an eating standpoint, I need to figure out how to bring out its assets in cooking first--otherwise it goes in the trash once again. If you or others have any suggestions on how I can feature radicchio outside of a salad, then please pass them my way.

      1. re: Carb Lover
        Chris Willging

        I agree with what another poster said on the General Topics board - bitter and sweet flavors are often great together. There is a recipe for Winter Squash Risotto with Seared Radicchio in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors book that you might want to try - I made it once and found it quite delicious. It involved cutting radicchio into 2' wide wedges, brushing the wedges with olive oil & sprinkling with s & p, and searing them in a fairly hot pan until they're wilted & brown, then sprinking with a little balsamic vinegar & chopping the wedges up. Other than this, it is basically a simple risotto with a cup of mashed cooked winter squash stirred in towards the end of the cooking. The radicchio just gets put in the risotto at the end, just long enough to heat. Of course, lots of parm at the end, and the recipe suggests 2 t. pumpkin seed oil, which sounds yummy but I didn't have.

        1. re: Carb Lover

          I sympathize. I love bitter foods, but I have bought radicchios at the farmers market that were just too bitter. My solution was to cut the radichio in slivers and mix it with other salad greens, with a sweetish dressing, like balsamic.
          I have not tried this, but I might cook a bitter radichio like southern-style greens, with smoked pork butt. Maybe toss in some chpped chard leaves towards the end of cooking -- for color and texture variety.


          1. re: Val Ann C

            Nice to hear that it's not just me. I've also noticed that the radishes that I get from the farmer's market have 3x's the bite as those purchased from a major market. I really enjoyed the radishes; however, eating the radicchio relatively unadorned that first time was very unpleasant.

            Thanks to you and other posters, I now have very high hopes for enjoying the other head in the fridge.

          2. re: Carb Lover

            I have a natural affinity with bitter tastes but always hated licorice or anything anise-y. I would still rather be whipped with licorice than eat it but have developed a taste for fennel over time. I think it's interesting that we hounds will punish ourselves trying to learn to love even more foods. That reminds me, I need to pick up some pastis on my way home...that's my next step!

        2. Perhaps a slower braise in chicken stock (with some white wine a chip of butter, or even a chip of bacon grease) might take the edge off?

          1. I have to be honest: I love bitter foods & I'm not a fan of braising vegetables in the french style. So maybe our tastes will be very different, but I love radicchio. I usually serve it in a salad with other greens of varying degrees of sweet & bitter. I like to use a sweet dressing, such as poppyseed, & I like to add fruits, nuts or cheese, depending of course on the dressing. Hope this helps.

            1. Thanks to everyone who has responded thus far. I'm feeling much more hopeful about enjoying this next head of radicchio. I can see how pairing it w/ something sweet and perhaps tart can really balance the inherent bitter flavor. Also think that slicing it into pieces as opposed to eating it whole and unadorned makes good sense.

              I consulted Mario Batali's recipes at since I totally respect his cooking and techniques. Found what sounds like a wonderful recipe featuring radicchio that would be perfect this time of year which I've linked below. May make this tonight subbing wonton skins in my fridge for the homemade pasta and will report back w/ my results if I do so...


              3 Replies
              1. re: Carb Lover

                Since you are a Mario fan; I seem to recall the last time I saw him cooking radicchio (either a grilled or sauteed version) he mentioned that in the first stage of cooking it becomes more bitter but as you cook it longer you will get some caremelization and the bitterness will diminish. I believe the final product was fairly 'hammered' in Mario's vernacular. I'm also a big fan of the adition of acid to bitter vegetables finding that it improves flavor balance.


                1. re: Nathan P.

                  Yes, carmelization (e.g., by grilling) or cooking until it looks "melted" will sweeten up the taste of raddichio, belgian endive, frisee, etc. Playing around with addition of acid and especially salt will also sweeten the flavor. Sugar usually seems too cloying to me, standing apart from the flavor interplay.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks for the info, Melanie & Nathan. Yes, it sounds like cooking the radicchio a bit longer will take it from bitter bad to bitter good for me. I believe that I cooked it for only about 5 min. last time, which may have brought it to a bitter peak w/ minimal caramelization that I personally couldn't appreciate.

                    It's amazing to me how the properties of food are transformed through the art and science of cooking...and that a few modifications, in the case of radicchio, can make a world of difference.

              2. You can marinate it and grill it for a change of pace. If you ever see Radicchio Treviso, the long one as opposed to the round, buy and grill. However, you can still slice in thick wedges, marinate with olive oil, salt & pepper and balsamic vinegar for 30 min. and then lightly grill.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Doreen

                  Hmmm...didn't know that Treviso was dif. from the round variety (which is what I have). The ravioli recipe that I posted below actually calls for Treviso. What is the dif. btwn. texture and flavor of the 2 types? Somehow I'm envisioning that Treviso is more delicate in both flavor and texture.

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    Treviso is more delicate, not as bitter as the round. Fairways in the city and whole foods carries it. It is all over Italy and that is how I tried it grilled. It was wonderful.....