Another Christmas has come and gone. Leftovers still linger in fridges, half-eaten sweets fill cupboards and at the end of every meal, plates are full of orange peel, monkey nuts and pistachio shells. Just like any other post-Christmas period, you can hardly bear to eat another slice of cake or another biscuit, even though you end up doing it anyway (out of respect for food and hate for waste, you tell yourself). I have just opened up all the bookmarked salads I have in my browser and started dreaming up winter wonders of kale, oranges, carrots and whole grains. This is probably the only time of the year which has me actually drooling over vegetables. Unfortunately it never usually last long, so let’s make the best of it! To get in the spirit of things, a few days ago I went to the indoor market here in my hometown. It was nice to be reminded of just how many autumn and winter produce the Italian soil can give. Too many times we think of spring and summer as the bountiful seasons but winter is actually not that bad either.
To celebrate the produce available around here, this time around I went for a true seasonal classic. Radicchio Rosso di Treviso is an IGP product from the Veneto region of Italy. You can read more about it in its official website, but suffice it to say it’s a deliciously crunchy, bitter and flavoursome type of lettuce with long, thin leaves made up of a thick white spine and bright burgundy paper-thin leaves. I think it looks stunning, don’t you? I’m not sure whether you can find it abroad. My guess is that you can through specialist retailers, but it wouldn’t be as fresh as this. If you ever travel to Italy during the winter months, make sure you try this, it’s a true gem.
Wash and chop your radicchio heads. Make sure you keep the beginning of the radiccio roots, they can be peeled and finely sliced. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the onions and cook them until translucent but not browned, adding a little pinch of salt to help the process. Add the chopped leaves of radicchio and stir to cover. Cook for a minute or so, then add the rice and stir until evenly mixed. Have your broth hot and ready close by. Cook the risotto by stirring frequently and adding each time just enough broth to barely cover the rice. After 15 minutes or so, it should be ready, but try it first. Bear in mind that risotto keeps cooking after you’ve turned the heat off, so turn it off just before it’s ready, when it’s al dente, to avoid it being overcooked by the time you serve it. After you’ve turned the heat off, stir in the grated cheese and stir until melted ad evenly combined. Plate up, sprinkle with black pepper and serve straight away.