Radicchio is a type of leafy chicory known for its spicy, bitter taste. There are many types of radicchio: tight, round, magenta-colored heads of rossa di Verona, elongated rossa di Treviso, and the more unusual rosettes of red-, green-, and yellow-spotted Castelfranco. All these varieties share leaves with a dense, crisp texture and a bittersweet flavor that's delicious raw or cooked. Although you’ll find chicories in the market year-round, they develop their best flavor in the fall and winter. Cool weather enhances their sweetness and intensifies their color.
Verona (or Chiogga) radicchio adds color and crunch to salads. Castelfranco also adds verve to tossed salads and tastes great grilled. Radicchio di Castelfranco Veneto, on the other hand, is the chameleon of radicchio. No two heads are ever alike; each has its own unique color combination.
Any variety of chicory is perfect for a winter salad. Chicory combines beautifully with citrus, pears, apples, and fresh, sweet root vegetables like turnips and carrots.
When buying, inspect the stem ends. They should be white, with no more than a trace of browning.
Clean radicchio gently. Discard wilted outer leaves and wipe the heads with a damp towel. Cut out the core from the bottom and peel off the leaves one by one.
When you cook radicchio, it mellows deliciously, becoming almost another vegetable entirely. Cut it in half, rinse and drain it thoroughly, brush it with olive oil, and throw it right on the grill.
After you buy radicchio, you can store it in the refrigerator for several days, wrapped loosely in a damp towel.