Most of us aren’t used to the bitter notes some vegetables like radicchio bring to the table. In a world full of sweet or salty treats, bitterness has been abandoned. Using a little kitchen magic, we take the edges off the bitterness and transform it into a crowd-pleasing side dish that goes with pretty much any meat or even fish. An Italian classic with a little Asian twist. Give it a try!
As many Italians, Chantal’s parents love bitter things. They enjoy all the bitter salads, that most of us would disregard as weeds. Radicchio and chicory are only the relatively tame tip of the iceberg. Even dandelion is used for salads and this is the true end boss of bitterness. How is it possible that people eat something like this? Well, bitterness is an aquired taste and we just forgot how to handle it. You need a stepping stone to fall in love with it again and this recipe should help you with exactly that.
To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of bitterness. At least for food, it feels a little off-putting. Bitter drinks like tonic water are another story though, as they usually contrast the bitterness with sweetness. And exactly this strategy is what makes the bitter radicchio amazing. Add a good quality vinegar for a slightly sour twist and some soy sauce for those salty, umami notes, and a well balanced dish is created.
- a large head of radicchio
- two pears
- a glug of red wine vinegar and soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp of sugar or honey
- some starch to thicken the sauce
- salt and pepper
- Quarter and deseed the pears. Fry them in some olive oil (or butter) over medium heat until starting to take a golden hue.
- Meanwhile quarter the radicchio and remove the stalk. Push the pears to the side and add the radicchio to the pan, letting it take some colour too.
- Add the sugar and let it caramelise slowly. Watch it like a hawk. As soon as it turns golden, add the vinegar and soy sauce and carefully stir. This is a little difficult in the beginning as the pan is quite full, but as soon as the hot juices hit the radicchio, it will wilt down, making stiring easier.
- Let it cook until the pears are done (varies wildly depending on ripeness and variety of the pear). Season with salt and pepper, check sweetness and add more sugar or sweetener if necessary. If a lot of juices are still in the pan, thicken with a little starch.
I won’t give you exact macros for this, as they vary depending of the size of pear, exact amount of sugar and oil used. Tracking this is pretty easy though, as there are only a handfull of ingredients. I wouldn’t bother tracking soy sauce, vinegar and starch, just “overtrack” sugar and you are good. All in all this is a pretty low calorie side dish, as radicchio mostly consists of water and fiber. A pear, some oil and sugar are the only things to worry about.
Pair this side dish with any protein source you like. I’ve tried chicken liver, steak and even salmon (as in the picture above), and they all work great. Whenever you have a cut of meat or fish that only needs a little pan frying, or you have meat left from a sunday roast, be it pork or lamb or duck, this goes well with it and is prepared in just about 15 minutes.
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