My husband and I moved to Colorado four years ago from Memphis, Tennessee. Though we came from a region known for its barbecue, I discovered the joy of cooking over open flames in Boulder. Growing up in the oppressive heat and humidity of Arkansas, going outside meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Arriving in Boulder, Colorado, I was intoxicated by breathing the fresh, dry air, and the feel of brisk breezes coming off the Rocky Mountains. I felt lighter, and the stunning snow-capped mountain views seduced me, constantly calling me outside. At altitude, the sun shines more intensely, and even on a 30 degree winter’s day, if there is sunlight on your shoulders you’ll be warmed through. Our fourth floor apartment faces open fields where bald eagles nest and coyotes roam, horses gallop around the pond and cows ruminate. This time of year, as winter becomes spring, you can find us on the balcony with a glass of wine and our little Weber grill lit, a trail of savory smoke drifting above our heads. Cooking on the grill is easy, it’s casual, and to me, it’s the essence of Colorado living. As the days grow longer, I begin to pine for patio time, the simplicity of summer cooking, and a slower pace of life. On a warm March day, the husband uncovers our grill and I open a bottle of wine. Tomorrow might bring a foot of snow, but today feels like spring, and we intend to savor this moment.
Chicories like Belgian endive, frisée, and radicchio are sturdy enough to handle the heat of the grill. The leaves soften and a light char brings out the sweet side of these bitter vegetables. I discovered this technique in Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables, and her instructions are more of a technique than an actual recipe. Simply cut the chicories into manageable pieces (halves or fourths), dip them in a bowl of water to prevent burning on the grill, and baste with a mixture of olive oil flavored with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Place the pieces of chicory on a medium-hot grill, turning and basting every few minutes, and serve warm or at room temperature with your favorite sauce. Grilling the chicories only takes about 10 minutes.
I like the idea of grilled chicory as a rustic appetizer, served on a platter or cutting board with a big bowl of vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing. Bagna cauda is a warm Italian sauce made with olive oil, melted butter, garlic, and anchovies. I added lemon zest to Mario Batali’s recipe in Molto Gusto, and the briny, rich, pungent dip complimented the bittersweet smokey flavor of the grilled chicory. Here’s to warmer days and patio time!
For more on grilling chicory, check out my weekly article at Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder. I’ve got tips plus ideas for serving grilled radicchio other than as a rustic appetizer. To see the article, click on the icon below.