There are few things I relish more during summer than dining al fresco in my backyard as the sun settles in for the evening over Lake Michigan. A cold, inexpensive bottle of Friulano paired with my white bean bruschetta with grilled radicchio salad makes it a perfect evening. This bruschetta was one of the most popular dishes I served at Pó, and I still love it.
The radicchio di Treviso used in this recipe has longer, narrower heads than the more familiar round, red Verona radicchio. This marvel from Treviso comes in two varieties and both are most delicious when grilled in the prime of summer. Precoce, with its fleshy red leaves and white ribs, forms a compact bunch. This variety comes into season before its companion, Tardivo, which is less aesthetically pleasing but packs a stronger flavor with bitter accents. When grilled, the radicchio leaves, take on a softer flavor and the bitterness is muted.
Both Precoce and Tardivo now enjoy IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status. The acronym identifies any product originating from a specific region whose quality, reputation and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin. This means that Precoce and Tardivo can only be sold as such if they are produced around Treviso.
With that said, if you cannot find radicchio di Treviso, substitute it with any member of the chicory family: radicchio, frisee, escarole, Belgian endive, or puntarelle to name a few. Red radicchio di Verona, more often found in your local market, is my preferred second choice to pair with white bean bruschetta. Radicchio Rosso di Verona was bred from Rosso di Treviso about sixty years ago, and is somewhat fuller shaped than its ancestor.
You can make the cannellini beans up to a day ahead, and in fact they retain even more flavor that way. Store them in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving under a sunset near you.