This post is for our friend Tom and his family at Red Barn Farms. Tom just announced the amazing array of produce they are planting this year. We won’t be there to partake of all of it, but we can share a little bit of what our family is eating from the farm stands in Italy.
On Wednesdays, I now make it a habit to stop at the open market in Perugia’s Piazza Matteotti. It is a small market (compared to the Saturday market in the Pian di Massiano). The vendors are local producers of olive oil, wine, and cheese; and there is one family that sells produce. After picking up two pieces of fresh mozzarella and a wedge of pecorino (Jakob likes the sotto vino variety: aged under wine for at least 6 months), I make my way to the produce stand and try to think through the menu options for the week.
For several weeks we have been in the hearty winter greens stage (the only additional color on the table is provided by a few tomatoes that come from somewhere else in Italy and do not taste much better than the supermarket tomatoes we have at home). The Romanesco broccoli that the kids enjoyed is gone and we are now subsisting on rapi (broccoli rabe) and beitole (chard), which comes in several varieties (I am feeling iron fortified). But this week there were some new items on the table, including several different forms of radicchio that I had never seen before. The woman who runs the stand suggested I take an assaggio (taste) of each to see what we liked best.
I am not sure about the technical names for the two varieties of radicchio I got this week. Next week, I will ask if there is specific nomenclature. In the meantime, the larger bunch with the purple stalks (in the photo below) is similar to Radicchio Rosso di Treviso tardivo, a variety that come from the Veneto region of Italy. The tardivo means that is is harvested late in the season. Early in the season the leaves are still tightly packed together and it looks similar the radicchio we see in the grocery store (sometimes marketed as treviso, I think).
But they bunch I picked up is more purple than red, so I am wondering if this is a local variation. Also, the Radicchio Rosso di Treviso is protected by the I.G.P. – Indicazione di geografica protetta – designation.
It was actually the little heads of green, looking like blooming brussel sprouts or stout versions of baby bok choy, that first caught my attention. I was surprised when the vendor said this was also radicchio.
Both of these varieties are mild in flavor and their leaves are tender compared to the radicchio we usually see. They taste just fine raw and would have made a nice salad but I decided to saute them with a little olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar.
It looked beautiful in the pan, but it quickly cooked down to almost nothing.
The flavor was nice, though, a little bite of bitterness tempered by the softness of the leaves and the sweetness from the balsamic vinegar.
If we had a grill, that might have been a better option. I am hoping that these late winter greens will still be available next week and I’ll get a chance to be more adventurous in using them.