Grilled Radicchio and Basalmic Risotto

This dish came from my newly arrived Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice Waters. I love Alice Waters' philosophy, and this is the first dish I've created from this cookbook. I bought it specifically because we get all of these organic vegetables every week from our CSA boxes, and it's nice to know several (delicious) dishes that you could make with a single type of vegetable. The best part about the CSA is that everything is seasonal, and about as freshly picked as you can possibly get without picking it out of your own garden.

This risotto is superb. And easy; since Alice Waters' recipes tend to showcase in-season vegetables at the peak of their flavor, there aren't a lot of ingredients. Radicchio is a bitter green (actually, an Italian chicory) that looks very similar to lettuce. Sort of like a head of purple- and white-striped lettuce. Choose medium-sized heads, as a young, mature radicchio has a rich, spicy flavor that mellows when grilled (also good just chopped raw in salads), while it tends to get quite bitter as it grows older and bigger. It's also high in magnesium, potassium and vitamin A. Store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to a week.

Grilled Radicchio and Basalmic Risotto, from Chez Panisse Vegetables

1 1/2 medium heads of radichio
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 to 2 quarts of chicken stock
1 stick of butter
2 tsp. basalmic vinegar
chopped parsley and shaved parmesan (for garnish)

Prepare the radicchio by removing any outside leaves that are wilted or damaged. Cut into 9 large wedges lengthwise and grill the radicchio over medium heat until lightly colored and wilted, but not charred. It did fall apart a bit on me, but I was still able to get most of it out of the grill (P.s. It's not fun to grill while it's raining!).
When cool enough to handle, chop roughly and set aside. Heat the chicken stock. Heat 3 tbsp. of oil in a large, heavy sauce pan over medium heat, and cook the onion until tender, but not brown. Add the rice and cook until slightly transluscent - about 3 minutes. Add the white wine, and when it is almost evaporated, add a ladle-full of the hot stock. Stirring often, each time the stock is almost absorbed completely into the mixture, add another ladle-full. After about 15-20 minutes, when the rice is still chewy but not cracked, stir in the radicchio, the butter and the basalmic. Cook for 3-5 minutes longer. The finished product will be slightly chewy. Garnish, and serve immediately. 4 Servings.

On a side note here, and yes, I am venting, if you should ever choose to do a CSA through a local farmer (and they are truly a wonderful way to support local farms and try lots of new and heirloom varieties of vegetables, so I highly recommend that you do), do get yourself a written contract from the farm. This is not something I ever really thought about, but we recently realized that our farmer, from Little Wing Farm here in Eugene, has just up and disappeared with the money that all of the CSAmembers paid for the rest of the season (through November, at $20 a week). It's very unfortunate, as we have been with him for almost three years, and even, I would say, had become friends and done activities with him not connected to the CSA. He's been seen around town by other farmers (thus we know something awful has not befallen him physically), but no one in the CSA has gotten any vegetables for three weeks, and not even the Lane County Farmer's Market consignment can help us. We were worried about him at first, giving him the benefit of the doubt, and have left several messages trying to contact him, but now have been forced into only the saddest and hardest conclusion...that there won't be any more vegetables, and that our relationship with this farmer is over. The director attempted to find out what was up, but when asked what they found out, they just shrug their shoulders, give us a sad look and say, "Sorry." Sorry, I guess you're just out of luck. I'm pretty sad about it, because I feel a bit betrayed by a friend (that's the worst of it, really...if he just would have called to tell us he couldn't do it anymore), and we're out the money which we don't have much of anyway, but we're counting our losses and moving on. So, please, don't let this happen to you.

9 comments from you:

Beth - The Zen Foodist said...

Mmmm, yum! I need to make risotto soon!

vlb5757 said...

Michelle, I loved the recipe and I am so sorry about your farmer. I have never thought about getting a written contract. Now I will armed and ready to try this come next spring. I am sorry that your experience had an unhappy ending. Is there anyone else you can contract with?

michelle said...

Hi Beth,
I love risotto - I always heard lots of stories about how much of a pain it is to make because it involves constant stirring, but I find it kind of zen :)

Hi Vickie,
Yeah, I'm pretty sad...I just thought our story might prevent someone else going through what we have. We could join another CSA, but right now and with Christmas coming up (ie. plane tickets and presents), it's kind of hard to front all the money for the season. But there are a lot of great CSAs here; we'll just need to be more careful in the future.

Michèle said...

Hi Michelle, this recipe sounds fantastic, I love grilled raddicchio but I seem to forget to buy raddicchio at all.. This gives me a perfect reason to go get some. I've never actually tried an Alice Waters recipe either, so Im quite intrigued!

Dawn said...


That really sucks about your CSA (what does that acronym mean?). I feel bad for all of your group. I mean, what kind of person promises food and then doesn't give it to you?! How disappointing.

On a happier note, your risotto looks yummy.

michelle said...

Hi Michele,
I always try to buy at least one thing that I don't normally get every week - then I get to try out new yummy ingredients! I hadn't really had radicchio except in salad before and had never bought it, but it's really good this way. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

So Cal Foodie,
CSA is an acronym for 'community supported agriculture' where a local farm (sometimes 2-3 farms) provide you with a box of veggies every week for a set price for the season. You really never know what you're going to get as far as veggies go, so it's a great way to try new things, in season, and support local farmers. It's been a really positive experience until now - we've been doing it for three years. I think you could definitely find one in your area if you wanted to try it. Ask around at your farmer's market or try here: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/

I would definitely do it again, I just can't afford to pay twice this year! Good luck!

McAuliflower said...

That really sucks. Since you have tried contacting your farmer though all your available channels- I might suggest a letter to the editor (Eugene Weekly), or an "I Saw you" ad. If worded appropriately, I've found this method to be quite cathardic (as this blog entry probably was!). Public exposure is also a good way to spur action. It's not like you can easily afford to pay out a month like that (really push the grad-student angle in the letter!).

It's too bad your CSA farm didn't keep the lines of communiation open in what have been tough times for the local farms ("this season sucked" has been a local consenus). If they couldn't give you a refund- a voucher would have been nice.

We use to have the SweetWater Farm CSA do campus deliveries for all of us in Neurosci who had orders coming in. The Gordan-Lickies organized it. Perhaps, when the farmers market stops, you can get labmates to join you in a fall/winter csa adventure.

michelle said...

Hi mcauliflower!
That's some great advice, thanks. The worst part is definitely the communication gap - we understand it's a pretty bad year with the weird weather. Do you really like Sweetwater? When does their season end? I've also heard that Good Food Easy is a good one and I've seen a Fall/Winter CSA through Groundworks, but I don't know anything about them either.

McAuliflower said...

I think Sweetwater and Good Food Easy are the same CSA programs. I liked them. Last time I had them was during the winter months last year. When the Farmers Market came back on I stopped. Having them deliver to work was a huge help... something I hope to renegotiate if I join up again.

The tough part for me was the psychological aspect of plunking down $75 a month- for a small, (when I would still go out and buy more everyday vegies). GFE is good about feedback (if you want less collards, or more onions, etc). They also played with providing us eggs. I imagine its typical- but they also included a nice round up of recipes with each delivery.