I've been dead silent on the blog lately, and I really don't have a good reason for it other than getting caught up in distractions--and holidays--and you name it. But it's a new year, and it's time to return to a grounded existence where food & drink are a little less celebratory and a little more nourishing. But no less appetizing. That's the juggling act.
So I return to this recipe, which I first made almost exactly a year ago and have made several times since in various ways. The recipe is from Diana Henry's cookbook A Change of Appetite, an appropriate name for the way I want to eat after the holidays: heavy on vegetables, with recipes that span the globe from Norway to Burma and everywhere in between. The star is grilled radicchio, which I've always loved. In her recipe, Henry serves it on beans doused in olive oil, which is one of my favorite ways to eat beans. Together, you get the savory, smoky quality of grilled radicchio with enough richness from the beans to make the dish feel like a complete meal
Radicchio is forgiving if you char it a little too much, and it is better to char it too much than not enough. I've used both a grill and a grill pan, and both work well (just ensure your grill pan is seasoned). Slowly grilled red onions accompanied the radicchio for sweetness. I spooned the beans on the plate and arranging the radicchio on top. There are enough assertive flavors in this dish that it can be served like a room-temperature antipasto, but I most often pair it with a salad and a side of crusty bread and let it stand as the main course.
Grilled Radicchio with Cannellini Beans
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for finishing
1/2 yellow onion, diced finely
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1-2 sprigs fresh oregano or thyme (optional)
1-2 wedges lemon
2 heads radicchio, outer leaves removed if they look beat up
1 red onion
About 1/4 cup olive oil
About 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely crushed
For the bean puree: In a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Stir in the beans and water and bring to a simmer. Season with a few pinches salt and pepper and lower the heat to medium-low.
Add the red pepper flakes and oregano. Simmer until the liquid is mostly evaporates, about 15 minutes. If the pot is too dry, just add more water. If using herb sprigs, pull them out. Mash the beans with a potato masher and season with a squeeze or two of lemon. Taste and add more salt if bland. Cover and keep warm.
For the radicchio: Prepare a grill for medium-heat grilling. Halve the radicchio heads through the core and cut into 4 to 6 wedges, ensuring that the core of the radicchio is in tact in each wedge. (This helps the leaves stay together while grilling.) Do the same with the onion, cutting the onion into thinner wedges.
Have a rimmed baking sheet ready. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the radicchio and season with salt and pepper. Coat thoroughly in the olive oil and vinegar and then place on the baking sheet.
Add the onions to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Coat in the olive oil and vinegar. (If there’s not enough oil or vinegar left in the bowl, drizzle in a bit more.) Place on the baking sheet.
Set the baking sheet up next to the grill and arrange the onions on the cooler part of the grill. If you happen to have a basket on your grill, it’s good to use for the onions, which are more likely to fall through the grates than the radicchio leaves. The onions usually take longer than the radicchio.
Put the radicchio on the hotter part of the grill and cover for a minute or two to encourage browning. (If the grill is very hot, do not cover.)
Return the grilled radicchio and onions on the baking sheet.
To serve, spoon the bean mash onto a warmed serving plate. Arrange the radicchio and onions on top and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Drizzle more olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar over the top if desired.