A chicory leaf and a radicchio leaf walk into a salad bar. One leaf says to the other, "I really hate the way the barman in here can never remember which one of us is which but he can tell a Little Gem from an Iceberg instantly". "Don't be so bitter" replies say the barman.
I'm just trying to make the point that chicory and radicchio are quite similar and both have a bitter taste. Ok, fine. I'll steer clear of stand-up.
Anyway, both are in season now, both are a doddle to grow and both often result in gluts. Sadly not at G&G HQ this year - I was distracted by supper clubs in late Summer and missed their sowing window. However, in previous years I've planted in late Summer and harvested from February onwards. The RHS will instruct you to force chicory (dig it up and exclude light whilst restricting growth in order to create that blanched, thin-leaved effect) but it's all a bit technical. And frankly, they taste just as delicious when left to their own devices over Winter and picked in the New Year when their crisp texture and punchy flavour are a welcome respite from the stodge of the season. They will tolerate frost and turn dark red when ready to harvest. I tend to grow Rossa di Treviso but they're all very similar (which, in case you're still stumped by my joke, is the thing about chicory/radicchio: many varieties all largely interchangeable. I know. Hilarious).
Since I don't have a harvest of my own, I'm borrowing Natoora's glut which is wide-ranging, delicious and available on Ocado. Chicory lends itself wonderfully to braising and lathering in cheese sauces, but I'm in need of some crunchy freshness to counter the grey days of cloud and drizzle we seem to be stuck in at the moment.
Blue Cheese, Hazelnut, Pear, Red Onion and Chicory Salad
1 red onion
Knob of butter
Handful hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 large head of red chicory or radicchio
150g salty blue cheese (a Stilton/ Cropwell Bishop is ideal)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp runny honey
Pre-heat the oven to 210ºC. Peel the onion, slice it into wedges and split the layers out. Toss in a little olive oil and roast for 10 minutes until soft and just golden at the edges. Set aside until needed.
Meanwhile, slice the pears into quarters and remove the core. I like to leave the skin on. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the pears and fry until golden brown. Just before the pears are done, add the hazelnuts to the pan and toss in the buttery juices. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To assemble the salad, shred the chicory/radicchio and mix in the onions, pears, hazelnuts and buttery juices then crumble in the cheese.
For the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar, honey and salt and adjust the flavourings as necessary. Pour over the salad and serve whilst everything is still warm.
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