Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hot Stuff!

Radicchio di Castelfranco Ripieno 
Stuffed Radicchio di Castelfranco

Hmmm- salad, in the middle of the bleak midwinter- who would want to eat such a thing? Nope- on a cold and rainy evening like this one- not me either! And yet... I was checking out the produce at the indoor market today, I happened to stumble upon this beautiful, beautiful radicchio del Castelfranco- with its lovely pale yellow and mulberry-spotted leaves... and I immediately had a great idea as to how to turn it into a wonderful Winter dish!

Looking at this, you wouldn't believe it is actually a head of lettuce (of sorts), basically- it is transformed, using the most basic of added ingredients into a satisfying yet light meal and makes a wonderful change! And we LOVE change, right?

To prepare 1 head of radicchio, I needed just 4-5 black olives, 5-6 cherry tomatoes, a little fresh ginger, a little salted ricotta, fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme, about 3 cups of bread crumbs, salt, pepper and some good olive oil.

I have used the same method to prepare escarole in the past, but you can prepare most large, tender, leafy greens this way. You could use lettuce for example, which would be fine, but very mild and sweet tasting- but me, being Sicilian... I like the light bitterness of the radicchio!

The stuffing is basically going to consist of the breadcrumbs, to which we are going to add plenty of finely chopped herbs, about 2" of ginger, finely chopped and a little salt.

Believe it or not- beneath that huge-looking radicchio, is a frying pan... see the handle there in the top right hand corner? This is just to show you that you need a frying pan that is considerably smaller than the radicchio to make this- and you need to use a lid that is smaller still... but we will get to that in just a minute. 

In any case- begin by washing the radicchio out thoroughly and then carefully fanning-out the leaves. Remove the center leaves so that you will have a flatter result in the end.

Next, sprinkle those bread crumbs in-between each of the leaves- just a tablespoon in each one- no need to overdo it. Then add sliced tomato and halved olives, nicely and evenly spaced, here and there, all the way around. Grate generously with salted ricotta, add plenty of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and then carefully fold the lives shut again, nice and tight. 

Pull the large outer leaves nicely and tightly together and then put a small lid on top to trap everything nicely. You may want to ask someone to help you with doing that... but I managed to do it, even though it is just a little tricky... so you should be able to too!

Add a drizzle of water and a dash of olive oil to the frying pan and turn up the heat so that it begins to steam and wilt the leaves- and let it do so for 5-6 minutes.

After 5-6 minutes, pour off any excess moisture and then turn the pan upside-down, holding the radicchio in the lid. Then, place a plate on top of the radicchio, turn it over again and slide it gently back into the pan like this... looks lovely, doesn't it? You can start seeing the tomatoes and olives and herbs and bread crumbs showing through already!

Add another dash of water, return the lid and let it steam on for a good 5-6 minutes more from the other side. This will give it time to cook through, for the bread crumbs to meld together with the ricotta, for the tomatoes and olives to cook through... and for all of those aromas to mingle!

After 12-15 minutes of cooking in all, the radicchio should be cooked through- tender, but still relatively firm- and ready to be carefully turned back out again onto a baking dish, which I first drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with bread crumbs, to prevent it burning or sticking. 

I then scattered the remaining bread crumbs on top and grated it generously with salted ricotta. I drizzled it lightly with both a little water and olive oil, grated it generously with pepper and then pushed it under the broiler in my oven, on a medium setting, for a further 10 minutes or so to finish and become golden brown.

And I would say that this my dear friends- looks absolutely heavenly! Who ever would have thought? Well... except for me that is? wink emoticon

Let it cool off for 3-4 minutes and then serve, still steaming hot... it is so wonderful the way you can slice it up and serve it like a pie!

If you like steamed cabbage, you will love this... it is such a refreshing change and does without all of that complicated steaming and rolling and tying and whatever... and it is a whole lot more fun!

I want to make it... and EAT IT, all over again! Real soon!

Simply irresistible!

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