Bitter Sweet Breakfast Cake with Radicchio, Dark Cocoa and Cherry Jam
Radicchio, one of my favourite veggies. The word radicchio is used to refer to a variety of bitter salads, although the most iconic and representative are the red/purplish ones from Verona, Chioggia, and Treviso. I also like the 'variegato' from Castelfranco, obtained from the hybridisation of the rosso di Treviso and escarole endive (yum...so good!).
I have to confess that until about 10 years ago, when speaking with my English friends, I would call it red/wild chicory. Then, one day, I watched for the thousandth time the movie "When Harry met Sally" and couldn't help notice that in one of the initial scenes, when they are in four at a restaurant, Meg Ryan orders some raw radicchio for her starter (watch scene)! How funny! I have to thank America's 'girl next door' if I learned that you guys call it just like us, but with a different pronunciation!
Anyway, I read that this crop was already cultivated in Treviso in the 16th century and was originally used to feed animals. The costume of 'eating flowers' was introduced eventually and comes from the Orient, probably like the plant itself. It is not by chance, in fact, that in the Veneto people would refer to radicchio using the definitions 'edible flower' or 'winter rose'. The one from Verona is long and with large leaves, the one from Chioggia is round, while the one produced in Treviso can be either precoce or tardivo. The precocious variety is picked in September directly from the fields and doesn't imply any particular extra work, while the tardive variety is picked in November, tied in bunches and left with the roots in tanks filled with spring water at a constant temperature between 12 and 15 degrees, to facilitate its re-growth, which ends 15/20 days later when new shoots start sprouting (source: www.gustomio.it).
Many are the recipes with this ingredient, mainly savoury. A few of my favourites are radicchio passed in the pan with oil and garlic and topped with a soft cheese like stracchino and anchovies, or risotto with chicken livers and tardive radicchio (rigorously made with chicken stock). While among the sweet recipes, if you come to the lagoon, you really ought to try the torta chioggiotta, made with radicchio, carrots, almonds and, of course, butter and eggs. A real comfort -and super filling- dessert!
I wanted to try use radicchio in a sweet recipe too, but I opted for the one from Verona. To avoid enhancing its bitter taste, I simply chopped it, without cooking it, and thought of combining it with dark cocoa and cherry jam. I used full fat milk and olive oil and the result was a lovely and moist cake, ideal for breakfast. The cherry jam was just right, as it's sweet and slightly acid at the same time, giving a good balance. Overall, this radicchio cake was easy to make and quite light, as I didn't add a lot of sugar. So far I've made it twice and, in addition to my husband, I brought one to my mother's house too, so to have more feedback. Everyone enjoyed it (I know we shouldn't ask our family... but I assure you that my brother is extremely honest and I totally trust him), so I hope you'll like it too. But please, do let me know what you think!
Bye for now and have a great weekend!...
RADICCHIO, DARK COCOA AND CHERRY JAM CAKE
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 30/35' Yield: 8 slices
220 gr whole wheat flour
30 gr brown sugar
10 gr dark cocoa
10 finely chopped almonds
10 gr chocolate chips
15/16 gr baking powder
1 radicchio di Verona
220 ml milk
30 ml olive oil
3 spoon cherry jam
1. Pre-heat oven at 200°
2. Wash, dry and finely chop the radicchio and the almonds.
3. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips, radicchio and almonds and mix with a wooden spoon.
4. In a small jar, amalgamate milk, olive oil and the cherry jam using a fork a fork.
5. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry mixture and stir well until you get a soft (but not too liquid) and elastic dough.
6. Put the dough in a baking pan and let cook in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Excellent served with extra jam on the side and topped with extra cocoa powder. Great both with coffee or a glass of sweet wine (try the red Recioto della Valpolicella!).