A few pages into The Patriarch by Martin Walker, the current selection of our Cook the Books Club, I had this image of Bruno, the protagonist, as a head of cabbage and Pamela, his girlfriend (who in the course of the novel becomes his ex) as a head of radicchio1.
Bruno reminded me of a head of cabbage because, although he is a pleasant and sensitive person, a smart and conscientious policeman, a gardener, a cook, a horseback rider and dog owner, you'd probably overlook him at a party attended by other detectives from the literature, like Salvo Montalbano, Pepe Carvalho or Rocco Schiavone. Ebullient entrepreneur Pamela wishes him well as she moves on to another relationship.
The novel was a pleasant read, weaving together into a tense plot local politics, the history of WWII, and the past and present life of the various characters. There is plenty of food and wine in the story, which is set in the south of France, and some recipes, but the image of Bruno as a head of cabbage stuck with me. I have always liked cabbage and appreciated its versatility. I think it is undervalued when not denigrated outright, which is unjust.
Finding plenty of cabbage of all varieties (savoy, green, red, cone, napa) at the farmers' market, plus some gorgeous radicchio rosso di Treviso got me experimenting with pairing those until I obtained the lovely side dish (contorno) below, which marries radicchio's distinctive light bitterness with savoy cabbage2.
- 3 tablespoons / 45 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces / 112 g onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon Harissa spice mix3, or to taste
- 8 ounces / 225 g savoy cabbage
- 5 ounces / 140 g radicchio rosso di Treviso, variety precoce (early)
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml coconut milk
- fine sea salt, to taste (depending on the salt content of the Harissa spice mix)
- 2 tablespoons sliced almond, lightly toasted in a dry skillet (optional, as topping)
Warm up the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or pot. Add the onion, stir well and cook on gentle heat until soft, 18-20 minutes, stirring often.
Quarter the savoy cabbage. Separate the leaves of radicchio. Cut both vegetables into 1/4 inch / 0.5 cm wide ribbons.
Add the garlic to the onion and stir. After a minute, add the Harissa and stir well. After another minute or so, add the cabbage and stir well. Again wait a minute or so, then add the radicchio and stir well. Cover and cook on gentle heat for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the coconut milk, stir well, cover again and continue cooking on gentle heat until the vegetables are soft.
Adjust salt, give it a final stir and take off the heat. If using, sprinkle almonds on top. Serve warm.
The output of this recipe can also be used as topping for a savory tart.
1 There are several types of radicchio, tied to their production zone:
- radicchio rosso di Treviso
- radicchio di Chioggia
- radicchio di Verona
- radicchio variegato di Castelfranco
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the cavolo verza e radicchio audio file [mp3].
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FTC disclosure: I have received the placemat free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.