dimanche 14 février 2010

Radicchio Salad

Happy Valentine's Day!

A couple of weeks ago my Italian colleague was looking for the French names for a couple of ingredients. I soon realized that he was writing down a recipe for radicchio salad. I didn't know the name for radicchio in French so when I got home I looked it up in my handy “Guide des Aliments” and e-mailed him the response “chicoree de Treviso”. The next day, he told me that was not the right name for the small round radicchio but the name for the elongated endive like one. A short discussion on the different types of radicchio and chicory ensued. This prompted me to investigate further.

He was indeed correct that the elongated ones with red leaves and white ribs that are similar in shape to endive are “Radicchio di Treviso”. They actually have IGP – Indicazione Geografica Protetta – status in Italy. In Belgium and Luxembourg it is known as Rood Witloof. The small red
ball-shaped radicchios that resemble small red cabbages are “Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia”. It is sometimes mislabelled in other parts of Europe and the US as radicchio de Treviso.

There are several different varieties of chicory including (Belgian or French) endive, radicchio, and curly endive. The leaves of these distant cousins of dandelion have a bitter peppery taste. They are wonderful in salads but can also be cooked. The red varieties add dramatic colour to salads. The taste of chicory works well with hazelnuts, walnuts, citrus fruit and blue cheese.

I threw together this simple but dramatic salad using radicchio, pine nuts, Roquefort cheese and a simple vinaigrette.

dimanche 7 février 2010

Lentil Soup with Cilantro and Tomatoes

We had more snow during the week. Light flurries throughout the day that added up to a massive traffic jam in Luxembourg city by the evening rush hour. By the time I got home (3 hours after leaving the office instead of the usual 40 minutes) it was raining. The next day, it was +6°C and in the afternoon the grey blanket across the sky parted and the sun shone giving the ray of hope that we are nearing the end of winter. I have been noticing other signs that spring is just around the corner too. Birds have been building nests in the trees. Not sure why I never noticed this in previous years but it could be that they are a bit difficult to spot amongst the mistletoe we are used to seeing hanging in the branches. In the larger trees there are more robust twiggy nests and in the smaller trees more mossy looking ones. I also spotted shoots breaking ground for the early spring flowers.

Lentil soup seemed to me to be a good thing to serve during this bridge period between winter to spring.

Lentil Soup with Cilantro and Tomatoes
Serves 6

15 mL (1 Tbsp) olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
180 mL (3/4 cup) red lentils
2 x 400 g (2 x 14 oz) cans chopped tomatoes
2 L (8 cups) water
1 chicken stock cube
80 mL (1/3 cup) chopped cilantro*
10 mL (2 tsp) turmeric
5 mL (1 tsp) paprika
5 mL (1 tsp) black peppercorns, cracked
Pinch ground cumin

Heat oil in a large soup pot; add onion and garlic, cook, stirring, until onions are soft. Stir in lentils, chopped tomatoes, water, stock cube, cilantro, turmeric, paprika and peppercorns; bring to a boil, the simmer uncovered for about 1-1/2 hours (or until lentils are tender).
Remove most** of the solids from the soup to a blender and purée until smooth. Blend puréed solids back into the soup and stir until heated through. Sprinkle with cumin and serve.

*Cilantro is also known as fresh coriander.
* *Amount will vary depending on the texture you want for the soup.