It was in Italy, at a neighborhood market in Rome, that I noticed the arrival of radicchio. More specifically it was the Radicchio di Treviso, a regional specialty adored by Italians in all parts of the country.
This Italian variety of radicchio is particular in form (with long finger-like leaves curling over each other) but not in flavor. It still maintains that familiar bitter taste that many members of the chicory family are known for.
Radicchio can currently be found at Paris markets, with the season starting in the fall and lasting throughout the winter months. A nod to the origin of the vegetable, you can often find the purple and white striped heads referred to as Trevise in French markets.
The dried apricots and whole grain couscous I had picked up that day would pair nicely with the bitterness of the radicchio leaves and make for a hearty midday meal (I included roasted walnuts in my first attempt of this recipe but have since taken them out because they had too many tannins, which didn't pair well with the radicchio flavor).
Roasted Radicchio and Dried Apricot Couscous
2 small heads of radicchio, wedged
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
For the couscous:
2 cups dried couscous
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F. Place radicchio wedges in a casserole dish. Brush with olive oil, coating each wedge uniformly. Sprinkle with sea salt and place on middle rack of the oven. Let cook 10-15 minutes, or until slightly browned, you will lose the vibrant purple color in this process- the leaves will turn to a slightly brow color, but that means they're roasted.
While waiting for radicchio to roast, place two cups of dried couscous in a bowl and cover with boiling water, leaving an additional 1/2 inch layer of water for the couscous to soak up. Cover the bowl and set aside. In the meantime, chop your dried apricots into small cubes. When the couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff it and add a dash of olive oil if it looks a bit dry. Mix in dried apricots.
Remove roasted radicchio from the oven and finish with a dash of balsamic vinegar, this will cut some of the bitterness. Serve on a bed of dried apricot couscous.