Radicchio: The Other ‘Green’.

RadicchioWith tightly bound, magenta leaves, radicchio is a striking vegetable. But, at the market, it often receives an admiring gaze, then is passed over for the more familiar, less bitter and less intimidating bins of greens. While radicchio (pronounced similar to Pinocchio), looks like a small cabbage, it is actually a member of the chicory family, cousins of lettuces and dandelions. Also known as Italian or Red Chicory, radicchio is very versatile to use, nutritious and is as simple to prepare as your usual green suspects. Radicchio is nutritionally rich, but has several distinguishing health benefits, which set it apart from typical salad greens. Check out this impressive red-head!

Digestive Health: Chicories, like radicchio, contain inulin, a non-digestible carbohydrate [1]. Through fermentation, inulin acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria in the intestine. Inulin also helps regulate blood sugar levels [2]. In addition, the bitter quality of radicchio increases bile salts, which can improve digestion.

Bone and Neurological Health: Radicchio is uniquely rich in vitamin K, with 100 grams providing 212% of daily recommended values. Vitamin K promotes the formation and strengthening of bone. Further, research shows adequate dietary vitamin K may limit naturally occurring neuron damage in the brain. As such, vitamin K has an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s [3]. 

Visual Health: Radicchio’s vibrant red color is an eye-pleaser, in more ways than one. The brightly colored leaves are an excellent source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants, such as zeaxanthin and lutein. These compounds protect eyes from age-related macular disease (ARMD) by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays [4]. Sunscreen for your eyes!

When selecting radicchio, look for compact, bright-colored heads with prominent ribs, free of bruises and brown or withered leaves. The smaller, younger heads will be less bitter. Store the heads refrigerated, but eat as quickly as possible as they will become more bitter with time. To reduce the bitterness, soak the leaves or quarters in cold water for 10 to 30 minutes.

Radicchio Leaves Soaking

Substitute radicchio in recipes calling for chicory or endive. Using radicchio raw, tear or chop the leaves into small pieces, and combine it with other salad greens for a flavor, color and texture accent. The individual leaves can also be used as elegant and low-carb serving cups or wrappers for appetizers. Cored, but not quartered, the sturdy leaves are excellent grilled or roasted. Radicchio pairs especially well with balsamic vinegar. Try tossing the soaked and dried leaves with a balsamic vinaigrette, with an optional topping of shaved parmesan. Balsamic vinegar also combines well with grilled or roasted radicchio. Following is an adaptation of Michael Ruhlman’s Grilled Radiccchio recipe.

Roasted Radicchio with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Radicchio with Balsamic Vinegar

Serves 4-8.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium heads radicchio, quartered lengthwise, core intact
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette

Radicchio Quarters

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place radicchio wedges in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  4. Place each wedge, cut side down, on the lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast the wedges, turning once, until the leaves are wilted and just slightly charred, about 12-15 minutes.
  6. Season both sides of the wedges with salt and pepper.
  7. Before serving, drizzle balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette over the top of each wedge.

REFERENCES:

[1] The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia – Comprehensive Resource for Healthy Eating, by Rebecca Wood
[2] Niness (1 July 1999). “Inulin and Oligofructose: What Are They?”Journal of Nutrition. 129 (7): 1402 (7): 1402. PMID 10395607. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
[3] USDA National Nutrient data base
[4] nutritionandyou.com – Radicchio

Organic at Costco: Deep Greens Blend & Baby Beets

Costco Organic Deep Greens BlendCostco is responding to demand for organic packaged foods as well as produce. You never know what you will find! Here, my newest discoveries, a deep greens blend and baby beets are tossed with red onion and my favorite lemon vinaigrette. Simple. Delicious. Easy. 

Earthbound Farm – Organic Deep Greens Power Blend

Earthbound Farm’s Spring Mix is fantastic, but Deep Greens is a welcome change. This blend of triple washed tender baby greens; kale, red and green chard and spinach is ideal for juicing and smoothies as well as salads. Deep Greens is a power dose of vitamins A and C in a 1.5 lb bag for $5.99. This goes on my perennial Costco shopping list.

Love Beets – Pre-Cooked Organic Baby Beets

You’ve got to love the name. These are true baby beets, none more than 2-inches in diameter and at their most nutrient-rich stage. Love Beets are available plain or dressed in vinaigrette, making them a great add-in for salads or other sides. But, for a feature dish, I would probably opt for fresh beets. Twenty baby beets are conveniently packaged in 4 units of 5 beets each for $7.99.

What are your favorite organic finds at Costco?

Love BeetsEarthbound Farm Power Greens
 

 

Cabbage & Avocado Slaw

Cabbage and Avocado Slaw

If cabbage and avocado are good, then coleslaw and guacamole must be even better! This variation on a classic Chilean salad is simple to make, refreshing to eat and a powerhouse combo of fiber and healthy fats with mashed avocado replacing the mayonnaise in traditional coleslaw. Generously salting cabbage for an hour or more makes it tender and withdraws the bitter juices. Add lemon, and mashed avocado and you are picnic ready. Continue reading

Nicoise-Style Salad

Nicoise-Style SaladIn his blog, David Lebovitz, American food writer extraordinaire in Paris, kindly sets us straight about Salad Nicoise. According to the rules of French cuisine, our American practice of topping the salad with a crown of seared tuna, is a no-no. Canned tuna is acceptable. Canned anchovies are acceptable. But, using both is not okay. Further, according to some camps, the “classic” boiled potatoes and cooked green bean accompaniments are also forbidden. Cooked vegetables are not allowed, only raw. There are a lot of rules and a lot of debate over the rules. I’m ignoring most of them with this Nicoise-style salad. Continue reading

Grapefruit Avocado Salad

Avocado and Grapefruit SaladThe heat wave persists. So, avoiding the stove is priority #1. Unfortunately, grilling and barbecuing are verboten on Manhattan balconies.

Salads to the rescue, particularly this one, which I am living on lately. Last week,  I prepared this recipe multiple times, including final assembly in Central Park during the free concerts.

Continue reading

Raw Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Summer Kale Salad“Eat more kale”. I wish it had been MY idea to print this clever slogan on T-shirts. But, at least I can live the slogan. This is my new favorite way for its flavor and ease. The lemon vinaigrette actually softens the raw kale, which usually requires a separate step.

My mother made this salad for me during a recent trip home to SeattIe. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what seems a modern combination of flavors was not, inspired by her latest Food Network marathon. Rather, the credit actually goes to her mother. I hope you will enjoy Virgie’s Raw Kale Salad as much as I do. It is irresistibly light and zesty. It is also rates high on the convenience factor. Feel free to make it in advance, as it will not wilt as quickly as other salads. Great job grandma!  Serves 2-4. Continue reading

Raw Kale Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Tahini Lemon Kale Salad DressingFor detoxification, cancer-prevention and nutritional-density, kale is king! Juicing and steaming are common preparations. But, many people are hesitant to use it raw? Could there be such a thing as too much “crunch” in a salad? This simple and flavorful preparation changed my mind. The trick is letting the leaves soften before dressing and allowing the salad to “rest” before eating. Lacinato “dinosaur” or black kale work particularly well. Serves 2-4. Continue reading