This time of year we’re reminded of our Easter trip to Italy a few years ago. Puntarelle was being sold in the markets and was listed on menus all over Rome. It became one of our favorite Italian dishes.
Puntarelle is a very bitter chicory with a thick, hollow center surrounded by leafy greens. The traditional preparation is Puntarelle alla Romana with an anchovy vinaigrette.
We were delighted to find puntarelle at Eataly when we lived in Chicago. It was imported from Italy, but more farmers in the United States are starting to grow it. When we saw a beautiful pile of puntarelle at Dirty Girl Produce at the Ferry Plaza market last weekend we acted quickly! These had one stalk each but usually you will see a much larger plant with lots of shoots. We liked these ones because it gave us long strips.
To prepare puntarelle, strip off all of the outer leaves until you’re left with the core. Save the leaves for later. You can braise them and use in another dish. Cut off the tough bottom stem to expose the hollow base. You need 6-8 stalks to feed four people, fewer if the ones you get are especially large. They can get as big as a head of Napa cabbage.
There are a few ways to tackle the shredding, depending on what you have available. At the markets in Rome, vendors use a wire cutter that you force the core through. We have a similar vegetable slicer, which is what we use. Your second best option is probably the medium julienne blade of a mandoline. We’ve tried many madolines, and our favorite is this Japanese mandoline that we love and use all the time. If we didn’t have our special tool, this would have been our approach. Lastly, you can slice the core lengthwise into thin layers with a knife, and then again into thin strips.
Once your puntarelle is shredded, the next step is to soak it in ice water for at least 45 minutes. During this time, the shreds will curl, get very crunchy, and lose some of their bitterness.
While you wait, you can make the classic anchovy salad vinaigrette. You should slightly salt the dressing even though it has anchovies, and make sure to use good oil packed anchovies. These are what we prefer. If you cannot find puntarelle, the vinaigrette would be great on other bitter greens or chicories like endive or shaved raddichio.
- prepared punterelle
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of chopped anchovies
- 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- Combine oil, anchovies, and vinegar.
- Simply dress the punterelle with your hands, being sure to coat all it thoroughly.
- Lightly salt to taste.