When I was poking around the net to see if I could find nutritional information about my new best friend,
I found this picture on the Produce Hunter website:
And the Royal Rose Products site (Everything Radicchio!) describes it as a "cross between asparagus growing out of a fennel bulb covered by dandelion leaves", which describes the PH photo, but not so much what I brought home from Paffenroth's, though the leafy parts look plausibly similar. My brilliant deduction is that I got baby puntarelle.
(Incidentally, I found my new mission in life on the RRP site. I must find and consume Radicchio di Castelfranco.
Seriously, how gorgeous is that?)
Anyway, back to puntarelle, aka "Roman Wild Chicory", aaka "Remind Me Again Why I Don't Live in Rome"? As with most leafy greens, I thought a quick saute would tell the tale quickest. The bunch I got had small enough ribs I didn't bother to separate them from the leaves, I just put the lower pieces into the pan a couple of minutes before the top pieces. It didn't take long to cook, five, maybe seven minutes. I tried a piece--it was deliciously bitter, with a barely detectable sweet undertone. I tossed it with some sundried tomatoes, garlic, black pepper and Parmesan into some rice. The tomatoes brought out the sweetness while somehow highlighting the bitterness, and the garlic, pepper and cheese worked their usual magic.
Next I tried it in a quiche with mushrooms. Spectacular! I used Cook's Illustrated's new no fail pie crust, the one that uses vodka, and it was really easy to work with and turned out pretty perfect. Bonus: I got to play with my exciting new tart pan, which I now love a lot. The bitter puntarelle, earthy mushrooms, and creamy eggs were a menage a trois made in heaven.
You may notice my friend Carla, the professional photographer, came over and gave me a tutorial on my food pics. It's really amazing what having your camera on the right settings and screwing with the lights for over an hour will accomplish. THANKS CARLA!!!!
Everything I read about this stuff indicates that anchovy is its soul mate, so I hope to find it again, perhaps in its more mature state, and report back.