Now that the World Cup is over I can get back to things such as laundry, reading articles about things other than football (like art and food and news,or The Goldfinch) and going to bed before 1am. This World Cup was a good one, full of drama, surprises, heartbreak, historical moments and humour (I don't know how I missed the Colombian Nazi Weed Pope but even if football isn't your thing, this article delivers some quality laughs). Obviously I enjoyed this World Cup the most since it ended with belting out the lyrics to "We are the Champions" in a crammed Bierhall before celebrating Germany's fourth star with all of Munich (and their first, amazingly, as a reunited Germany).
I can also now get back to eating long and thoughtful meals without being distracted by goals or questionable decisions made by referees.
I wasn't fussy about radicchio until I spent time in Venice. Too often I had experienced radicchio as the salad leaf responsible for adding both colour and bitterness to a bunch of mixed greens. I wasn't impressed. I think that some salads do benefit from bitter leaves, but that decisions should be conscious and they shouldn't be included just for the sake of it.
One night I was bacari-hopping in Venice and making a meal out of eating cicchetti between glasses of prosecco. At a tiny bar with an impressive variety of dishes, conveniently just around the corner from my apartment, I pointed to a dish that I could only assume held the charred remnants of what had one been a vegetable. "Radicchio con balsamico," I was told. The radicchio had been roasted until limp, blackened in parts and caramelized all over. The balsamic vinegar, thick and sweet, brightened up the radicchio just enough to elevate this simple combination of flavour into a memorable dish with a complex taste. The next couple of times I found myself at this one bar, I made sure to always order the radicchio.
Ever since I've been roasting radicchio in the oven. It couldn't be simpler. I toss the radicchio with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, roast it until it is charred in parts and then drizzle it with a bit more balsamic vinegar and sprinkle it with crunchy salt. Two weekends ago I was at a summerhouse in Northern Italy and happily took advantage of the barbecue with the view by grilling radicchio, followed by a feast of octopus, zucchini and other treats from the well-stocked, local grocery store. As an appetizer, I stuffed zucchini blossoms with creamy burrata and a home-made tapenade (full disclosure: that I made while watching Argentina play the Netherlands). It was summertime cooking and eating at its very best.
This summer my cooking has been based around grilling. It is the first summer that I have been the proud owner of a barbecue and I have been putting it to frequent use. Over the years I've used the barbecues of friends and family whenever I can, but it is quite different to have one of my own on my balcony that I can use whenever I please. It has also had an influence of my cooking this summer - the simpler the better, the less prep the more satisfaction. And grilled radicchio couldn't better exemplify this philosophy.
The measurements here don't matter; only the combinations of flavour do, so feel free to make as much or as little as your prefer.
Grilled Radicchio with Pine Nuts
2 heads radicchio
good balsamic vinegar
scant 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
Wash and dry the radicchio well, separating all of the leaves. In a bowl, toss the radicchio with olive oil and balsamic vinegar until well coated.
Place the radicchio on the grill and cook until lightly and then flip to repeat on other side. Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with more balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salts and pine nuts.