There are few vegetables that are not improved by grilling. Flavors intensify with browning. Many vegetables become so robust that they can easily stand in for meats as second courses. If you are looking for a meatless second dish that is light yet satisfying, a variety of grilled vegetables could be the answer. I like the touch of bitterness in grilled radicchio and Belgian endive. Other Emilia-Romagna favorites are eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, curly endive, and escarole. This recipe for oven and stove-top grilling stands in nicely when grilling out-of-doors is impossible.
3 Belgian endives, split vertically
2 heads radicchio, each cut vertically into 3 wedges
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
Working Ahead: The vegetables have more flavor when sliced and marinated several hours before cooking. They are good hot from the grill or at room temperature, and can be grilled several hours before serving.
Marinating the Endives: Toss the endives with the olive oil, garlic, and a little salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature about 2 hours.
Oven Grilling: Preheat the broiler and set the oven rack so that when the endives are in their pan, they will be about 4 inches away from the flame. Trim away any wilted leaves from the endives and radicchio. If they have not been marinating in the oil ahead of time, rub each piece with a little oil. Cover a broiler pan with foil. Arrange the endives split side up and the radicchio wedges on their sides, all in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic (if you are using it) and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Broil 5 minutes, or until the endives are deep golden brown on one side and the radicchio is wilting and tinged with brown. Using tongs, turn the pieces and let them brown on the other side. The browning is the key: It must happen gradually, so the flavors are deep and rich. Do not let the vegetables burn. The radicchio will wilt, but the endive holds its shape nicely. When they are done, set the vegetables on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the parsley just before serving.
Stove-Top Grilling: Prepare the endives and radicchio with olive oil as described above. Preheat a gridded skillet, griddle, or built-in stove-top grill over medium heat. Once it is hot, turn the heat to medium-high and arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the grill. Sprinkle with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat if necessary so that it takes 8 to 10 minutes to cook the endives to a rich crusty brown on both sides.
Serving: Serve hot or at room temperature. Pass the cheese separately.
From The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Morrow, 1992). © 1992 by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All rights reserved.
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