These unusual and wonderful ingredients find me… and I am most grateful. M, a friend and neighbor, recently got back from a trip to Rome, and among other goodies, she had several types of produce and herbs sent airfreight and/or brought in her luggage! This unusual (for Manila) head of puntarelle, a type of chicory, related to endive and other slightly bitter greens, was one of the surprises that was sent over to our home one evening! And if you recall, a week or more ago, I had found locally grown Treviso at Fresh Fields… so there was definitely the makings of an Italian style salad… :)
Puntarelle looks, for lack of a more intelligent description, like several thin phallic endives clumped together and partially hidden by frilly dandelion like leaves. Hahaha, I am sure there are much better published descriptions of this vegetable. It is pale in color, and clearly related to the chicory family. It possesses a slightly bitter flavor, but not so overwhelming as to be unpalatable. Here’s more on the vegetable, also known as Catalogna de Galatina.
While I have eaten salads with puntarelle before, I have not prepared it at home, so this was a “first”. A quick check with my Italian cookbooks and surfing on the internet suggested it was best prepared as a salad with an anchovy and lemon dressing… the saltiness of the achovy juxtaposed against the bitterness of the green to result in an almost faked out sweetness on the palate. I like slightly bitter, so this was definitely something down my alley…
The prep work is a bit more involved than most salad greens. You have to remove any bruised or browning leaves, then slice each section into thin vertical strips. Immerse the strips in iced water for about an hour, and the strips will curl and crisp up, a process similar to that of celery sticks in ice water for decorative frills, etc.
Drain the puntarelle and put it in a salad spinner to remove the water. Toss this with some sliced treviso radicchio that has been sliced. Prepare a simple dressing of a few anchovy fillets, good olive oil, some mustard, salt and pepper, fresh lemon juice and a splash of red wine vinegar. Whisk this all together and adjust seasoning to taste.
Drizzle the salad dressing over the greens and toss lightly. Serve will some grilled meat or seafood. It was really DELICIOUS! Not bitter at all, and the refreshing light crunch of the puntarelle combined with the slightly bitter radicchio made for a very nice counterpoint to grilled chicken. If you wanted to make a tricolore salad, you could have added in some young wild arugula. Gosh, I wish puntarelle were available here on a more regular basis! Thanks, M!