Balsamic vinegar, because it has been mellowed by years of aging in wood casks, is not highly acidic and therefore does not overpower a glass of fine wine. Here, heads of radicchio are blanched ahead of time, then put under the broiler or baked in a hot oven, where they are basted with a little olive oil mixed with an aged balsamic. They can be served at this point, or they can be dressed with a warm vinaigrette con pancetta croccante, as they are at
Preheat the broiler.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the radicchio into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Push them under the water, as they have a tendency to bounce up. Drain well and squeeze out excess moisture carefully. If they are large, cut them in half lengthwise.
In a small cup, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Place the radicchio on a broiler pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush with some of the olive oil and vinegar. Broil for 3 minutes, then turn and brush with more oil and vinegar and broil for 3 minutes longer. The radicchio should be golden and tender. Arrange on a platter and keep warm.
To make the vinaigrette, cook the pancetta in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Spoon this over the cooked radicchio. Serve hot.
© 2001 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.