Puntarelle – Roman Chicory

 

Although I have lived in Italy since 1998, I honestly don’t think I ever knew what ‘Puntarelle’ were until I moved to Rome to live.  Available in winter, Puntarelle are the inner stalks of Catalonian chicory (the outer stalks are extremely bitter eaten raw but work well cooked in a stew for example). They make a crisp and refreshing salad and have a slightly bitter taste.  They also aid in diegestion, are low in calories but rich in fibre and mineral salts.  It is traditional to serve them with an anchovy dressing, making a perfect accompaniment to cleanse the palate after a heavy bowl of pasta, or a particularly rich dish.  I like to add them to any salad I might be mixing up and recently I have combined them with baby spinach.  SO, while it is traditional to eat them alone with the anchovy dressing, I thought I’d share the delicious salad I made the other day, utilising puntarelle and their traditional anchovy dressing. 

Preparing the Puntarelle can be laborious work and I always buy them readily prepared at my local market.  The fruit & vegetable merchants prepare Puntarelle daily and you will find them all curly,  sitting in a tub of cold water.  If you’re not planning to eat them immediately, you must keep them in the refrigerator  in a bowl of water which obviously becomes icy cold. If you don’t do this, they turn brown quickly, and lose their ‘crunchiness’.

If you want to be an authentic ‘casalinga italiana’, (Italian housewife) you can buy the Chicory and prepare the Puntarelle at home.  Keep an icy cold bowl of cold water at the ready, it’s the cold water that makes the Puntarelle curl up.  After breaking away the outer leaves, you will need to break the core of the plant into individual stalks.  These stalks are then passed through a flat wire cutter – the ‘tagliapuntarelle’ (purchased from the hardware store for around €10 ), and then immediately put into the ice cold water.

 

Traditional Puntarelle Salad

  • Puntarelle
  • 4-5 anchovies
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 40ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  1. Place olive oil, anchovies, vinegar & garlic*  in a mini food processor and process until combined.  Taste, add freshly cracked black pepper  and add extra salt if necessary.
  2. Remove the puntarelle from the cold water and put into salad spinner to rid excess water, or pat dry with a clean tea-towel.
  3. Place Puntarelle on a plate and dress with anchovy dressing just before serving.

Toni’s salad with Puntarelle

  • 100g Puntarelle
  • 50g sultanas
  • handful of pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds
  • generous sprinkling of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 Cup pomegranate ‘Arils’ (fancy-pants name for pomegranate seeds)
  • 50g baby spinach (rinsed and put through a salad spinner to rid of excess water)
  • DRESSING:
  • 4-5 anchovies
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 40ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  1. Place olive oil, anchovies, vinegar & garlic*  in a mini food processor and process until combined.  Taste, add freshly cracked black pepper  and add extra salt if necessary.
  2. Remove the puntarelle from the cold water and put into salad spinner to rid excess water, or pat dry with a clean tea-towel.
  3. Using a large bowl, add baby spinach, puntarelle, sultanas, and all seeds. Pour a little dressing over and mix well, until you are satisfied there is enough dressing. (You may not necessarily use all of it).
  4. Place salad on a plate and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Eat immediately & Buon Appetito!

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I accompanied this with roast sweet potato.  So delicious and SO good for you too!
*If you are not a fan of garlic, you can leave it out…. dressing is still delicious!