Radicchio is one of my favorite cold weather vegetables. It is also known as Cichorium intybus and Italian chicory, and it belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family that includes other chicory vegetables, like Belgian endive.
Radicchio has a distinct bitter flavor. You can eat it raw, but I prefer it cooked, preferably braised with garlic and chicken broth.
Radicchio is an excellent source of Vitamin K, important for blood clotting, heart health and bone health. It is a good source of folate; contains a fair amount of Vitamins B, C and E; and, contains a variety of minerals, including copper, potassium and zinc. Anthocyanins, pigmented plant compounds that give radicchio its eye-catching purple color, are powerful antioxidants that can protect against oxidative (cellular) stress and help fight cancer.
Bitter foods support gut health. Eating bitter foods helps stimulate saliva, gastric juice and bile production, all of which contain digestive enzymes that help better break down (and absorb) the foods you eat. If you’ve ever taken digestive bitters, like Swedish bitters, it is a similar process.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, eating bitter foods like radicchio is said to help cool and clear heat from the body, and, as a result, can greatly benefit heart health. In Western medicine speak: the antioxidant compounds in bitter foods can help tame inflammation, which can manifest as symptoms, such as heart palpitations, a red face and anxiety.
My favorite way of preparing and eating radicchio is very simple. See recipe below.
1 head radicchio
4-6 cloves garlic sliced very thin
1/2 to 1 cup homemade chicken broth; if store-bought chicken broth, make sure it is low sodium or no added sodium.
2 teaspoons coconut oil
Celtic sea salt
Place radicchio on its base. Quarter into 4 even sections. Remove the white core near the base. Slice radicchio finely so that it resembles thin ribbons. Rinse well. Spin dry.
Warm coconut oil in a Dutch oven or skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add garlic slivers. Saute about 30 seconds or until golden brown. Add radicchio. Saute well, coating in coconut oil. When radicchio begins to stick to pan, add chicken broth to deglaze. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn heat to low. Cover. Let simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until radicchio is soft. Season with Celtic sea salt, to taste.