Cooking Italy: Radicchio with Warm Bean Salad

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This is a simple salad to kick off the March schedule of Cooking Italy. What I love the most about this group of home cooks is our google group. Not only do we discuss the ingredients that sometimes are not so easy to find, or the outcome of the recipes we cook, we overflow with the topic of food in general. Sometimes we share recipes that are not Italian because we get going on a topic. When I was making pizzoccheri and struggling with my buckwheat pasta, Glennis from cantbelieveweate suggested adding in semolina flour which worked like a charm. I could go on and on with the knowledge that passed back and forth in amidst humor and life stories. Needless to say, we have all become better cooks because of this exchange.

An added delight is that my neighbor, Maia, joined the group, which prompted my first teaching experience on Friday morning. She came over and I gave her a hands on lesson in making three kinds of pasta. Of course, I think I learned as much as Maia, because when you teach you really have to pay attention to the technique and what you are telling someone.

The Process
I was a bit late in getting the schedule out for March and gave us a very easy recipe. In Cooking Italy, easy never means compromise or fast food. It just means easy. I simmered a pot dried borlotti beans after soaking all night, tossed with some olive oil, slices of radicchio and that’s it.

Radicchio can take you by surprise because it looks similar to red cabbage. Nothing like cabbage, it is a member of the chicory family and has a mild to medium bitter taste. It needs acid and salt and welcomes olive oil with lemon or vinegar. I prefer a good dose of vinegar to offset the bitterness. Although this recipe calls for raw radicchio, I sauteed it quickly in the same pan I threw the beans in. You can eat it completely raw; I just find it tastier when the rawness is broken down a bit.

Wine Vinegar
I like to pair wine vinegars to my salads the way people pair wine with each course.
For this dish, I used Zinfindel wine vinegar from O, and it is described as “smoky with some cherry notes.” My other choice would be the Port Balsamic from O.

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