Aug 23, 2009

Puntarelle

Rome's curious (and VERY tasty) curled chicory salad
Puntarelle are the number two Roman quintessential vegetable after artichokes. They are the sprouts of a chicory variety called cicoria di catalogna, puntarelle chicory or asparagus chicory, picked while still young and tender. Of course I am craving them now. And of course, like many other of my cravings, they are in season only in winter...


The preparation of this raw salad is a little complex, fortunately puntarelle are sold in Rome’s farmers’ and corner markets already trimmed and "curled." If I was able to find puntarelle in a supermarket tucked away in the hills above northern Bologna, I’m sure you can get your hands on a crate too, whatever your location.

The sprouts and shoots of the puntarelle are cut lengthwise into long, thin strips and soaked in acidulated ice-cold water for an hour.

This causes the crunchy pale green chicory to curl up in extraordinary Shirley Temple-style, to become juicier and less bitter. The recipe for the punchy dressing of this very particular salad dates back to ancient Rome. Another bizarre flavor combination, but a delicious one at that.

When come November, your mind drifts to the Eternal City, and you mysteriously begin to long for the unique smell of roasting chestnuts and the particular glint of wet cobblestones in the morning sun, go ahead and assemble the following ingredients for a taste of true Roman flavor.
1 kg (2.2 lbs) puntarelle (can be substituted with Belgian endive or the youngest curly chicory you can find)
8 anchovy fillets packed in salt, cleaned (can be substituted with regular oil-preserved anchovies in extremis)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare a creamy pesto with minced garlic, anchovies, splash of lemon juice (not too much!) very little salt, pepper and plenty olive oil. Pestle and mortar would be best, but if you use a mezzaluna or a kitchen knife to chop finely and then mix with a wire whisk, I won’t tell. Stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Drain the puntarelle, dry with a kitchen towel or spin-dry carefully. Trickle the obtained velvety beige dressing over the chilled and curled puntarelle salad, toss, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and expect to face reduced social life for the next 3 days.
Image © su-lin


Note: If you're particularly in a rush and decide to use anchovy paste instead of fillets, just cut down on the salt and – again – count on my discretion.

23 comments:

  1. This sounds divine! I cannot wait to try the recipe! Have a wonderful day!

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  2. Hi Lola

    they do look fresh and yummy.

    p.S. I ordered the green tomatoes at the market this am...will collect them next Sun...

    Happy days

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  3. happy weekend to you lola! sounds fresh and refreshing...so you did not hit the numbers tonight?...a shame. smiles.

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  4. The dressing sounds amazing; I love anchovies. Thank you for this recipe! :D

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  5. I love your new and creative recipes that you share in your blogs~
    Thank you~Pattee

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  6. Umm, that does look refreshing and delicious. Even if I can't eat anchovies, there's just something about teeny little fish, although for this I would make an exception, since once again Lola dear, your photos look good enough to eat.(that was a very long sentence)hehee.

    love,lori

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  7. "Reduced social life..." Ha ha! Your humor about the food is one of the many things that sets your writing apart, dear L.

    I love the simplicity of this salad. It sounds divine.

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  8. I have been in the mood for a chicory salad and just bought some yesterday. (Not your wonderful puntarelle though.) This sounds delicious.
    Catherine

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  9. Oh this sounds wonderful, I have to go make lunch now. Not this,,,, but maybe salmon and salad.
    My sister lives in Treviglio, I will have to share your blog with her!
    Spirithelpers

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  10. probably can't chicory in this part of the world easily.... but who knows? maybe I'll ask at the farmer's market next time I go.(it's not nearby) This recipe sounds great. I'm gearing up to go off of sugar in a couple of weeks, and this is just the kind of recipe that sounds as if it will make it easy :)

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  11. Sei cativa, Lola, you are making me suffer reading your entry on the puntarelle with that divine pesto dressing. I would give anything for a plate like the one on the photo. And no, cant find puntarelle in Portugal or Spain, so I guess I will have to come to Roma...

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  12. Boy, do I miss puntarelle! But you can get something of the same taste bu using chicory hearts with the same anchovy and garlic sauce... still, not quite the same. :((

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  13. My friend,

    This looks delicious!

    I look forward to the day the two of us can sit down together and share a meal!

    Much love, Maithri

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  14. Never really been able to get my tastebuds around chicory in any form, though I must admit, your recipe does sound sublimely scrummy! xxx

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  15. Love puntarelle! Wish I could get some where I am. I wonder if I could grow it?

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  16. Oh, and to add, there's a little something for you at my place ;-)

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  17. "The recipe for the punchy dressing of this very particular salad dates back to ancient Rome."

    Diavolo, it's true! From the Garum fish sauce the ancient Romans used everywhere. See? I'm not much into these things, I'm more abstract.

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  18. wow, more fascinating little known facts from Roma! :)

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  19. your posts about food make me hungry. :)

    stopping by to let you know my next post in my series is up. Just wanted you to know. feel free to link or not.

    have a good day.

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  20. This looks really good! I enjoyed your blog post. I will be back.

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  21. That sounds so interesting. Looks light, fresh, and tasty. Yum.

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  22. I made this tonight and it was delicious! I was lucky to find puntarelle in NYC at Eataly. This is one of my all-time favorite dishes in Rome. A keeper, in my book. Grazie!

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  23. Just found your site via this puntarelle post. I've had the veggie three times in the last three weeks (a lot, seeing as how I had never had it before). Thanks for the insider knowledge!

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