Radicchio is a crisp, white veined red leaf vegetable, part of the large chicory family and it is a staple during the cold months here in Veneto (from late autumn throughout winter).
There are so many ways of preparing and cooking radicchio: raw leaves torn in salads, in risotto, lasagne or grilled to name just a few. Something to bare in mind when you grill radicchio in the oven or on a griddle pan is that the process accentuates the bitterness of this vegetable. Having said that, many of you including myself may like it, but on this occasion however, I prefer the milder late harvest radicchio tardivo di Treviso*. It is also quite different in shape. It’s leaves are long and narrow, more like slender stalks with the tips curled inwards. An absolute delight just to look at, let alone eating it.
You can of course use any radicchio of your choice, just brush the radicchio with olive oil before grilling which makes the grilling process kinder to the radicchio.
Serves 4-6 as a starter or 2 as a main course:
Start with preparing the radicchio:
Heat up a griddle pan (or just plain frying pan). Cut the stems of the radicchio heads ever so slightly, but not too much. When you cut the vegetables into quarters lengthways they should still stay intact.
Brush the quarters with olive oil all over and place them on the hot pan. You should hear now some lovely sizzling going on. Keep on grilling for about 5-7 minutes and then turn onto the opposite side. The leaves should change colour and curl even more. You don’t want to grill them for too long as they will fully soften during the final baking. If you check the body of the radicchio with a small knife you should still feel a small resistance to it.
Alternatively grill the radicchio quarters in the oven preheated to 180 C (a static oven) for about 10-15 minutes (turning them in the middle of roasting). Remove the tray from the oven.
For the pastry:
Heat the oven to 175-180 C (160 C if using fan assisted oven).
Roll out the pastry to make the base of the tart. I stay with the actual size of the pastry and don’t roll it out to a thinner larger size.
Put the pastry base on baking tray lined with baking parchment. Create a border all the way round by lightly running a knife 2cm from the edge. Prick the rest of the pastry all over with a fork.
Put a rectangle of baking parchment, cut to the size of the inside of the border, over the pastry.
Weight it down with baking beans (I sometimes use coins or dry beans instead). Put the pastry in the preheated oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Take the tray out from the oven, remove the beans and the baking parchment. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Slice the Taleggio cheese into thin slices and lay them neatly all over the pastry case within the borders. Now arrange the grilled radicchio on the cheese.
Leave a few olives for decoration. The rest of them the cut roughly into halves or quarters and sprinkle over and between the radicchio.
Brush the borders with the egg wash.
Put your tart back into the oven and carry on baking for another 10-15 minutes until the whole pastry turns golden in colour and seems dry.
Take it out of the oven, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, decorate with some olives and serve whilst still warm.