Living in the Treviso, Italy area, we see radicchio everywhere. Radicchio di Treviso is purple and white, and is sort of the shape of romaine lettuce. Since it is such a local staple, I knew I had to give it a try and this recipe for Radicchio Crepes seemed like a logical place to start, given my affinity for all things crepe-related. A word of warning to those who may have never tried radicchio di Treviso before…it is bitter. If you’re not used to it (which I am not), it can be overpowering and resemble the taste of getting hairspray in your mouth. I know, I know. I’m not instilling a lot of confidence in you all that this is a delicious recipe. Believe me, there are easy ways to reduce the bitterness if you would like to, and I’ll share those with you. If you like to embrace the bitterness, by all means, please do. I do not care for radicchio at its full strength. In fact, if you prefer to eliminate the radicchio from this recipe all together, I would suggest using spinach in its place for a perfectly lovely alternative with no risk of bitterness.
You can read more about Radicchio in this article from the New York Times: Radicchio: Tasty but So Misunderstood from 1988, but still perfectly relevant, in my opinion.
How to decrease the bitterness of radicchio:
1. Remove the outer wilted leaves and the core and stem. Submerge remaining radicchio leaves in a large bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Drain and proceed with recipe. (While this did remove some of the bitterness, there was still a good bit remaining. Definitely better than when I tried it without using the ice bath though.)
2. Remove the outer wilted leaves and the core and stem. In a medium saucepan, bring equal parts white wine vinegar and water to a boil. Blanch the radicchio leaves for about 15 seconds and drain excess liquid. Immediately plunge into ice bath of water with 1/4 cup of sugar dissolved in it. Let soak in sweetened ice bath for several minutes before draining and continuing on with recipe. (The vinegar solution not only assists in decreasing bitterness, it also helps the radicchio to retain more of its purple color. Without this method, the radicchio turns dark brown when cooked. This is my preferred method, but please note that you will be able to detect a hint of the vinegar taste afterward. I preferred it to the natural bitterness, but die-hard radicchio fans would probably shudder at the thought of doing such a thing.)