September 18, 2013

Roman Puntarelle Salad

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In Rome, they prepare this seasonal signature salad by tossing slivered chicory shoots with a pungent dressing. I was delighted to find puntarelle chicory at a neighbourhood supermarket and whizzed home to make my own, pronto. These elusive greens seem to appear in the shops for only a split second. (More info: A Puntarelle Project.)

       A succulent puntarelle shoot. Credit: Susan Sampson


1 bunch puntarelle chicory (2-3/4 lb/1.25 kg)
4 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) granulated sugar
Chili flakes to taste
2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar
6 tbsp (90 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut slice off base of puntarelle chicory bunch to release long, leafy outer stalks. Strip off all outer stalks, slicing more off base if necessary, until you reach core of clustered, succulent shoots. Set aside stalks for other uses. Pull apart core into individual shoots, slicing off sections of woody base as needed to release shoots.

Fill large bowl with ice water. Using sharp knife and/or mandolin on julienne setting (or puntarelle slicer, if you have one), sliver each shoot and toss it into ice water. Soak 1 to 2 hours, until slivers are curly and crisp. Drain, rinse and drain again. Spread out on clean kitchen cloth or paper towels 1 hour, or until dry.

Meanwhile, using mortar and pestle, mash together anchovies, garlic, sugar and chili flakes. Whisk in vinegar, then oil. Add salt and pepper.

In serving bowl, toss puntarelle with dressing. Let sit 30 minutes, or until flavours meld. Adjust salt.

Makes 7 cups (1.75 L).

  • My head of puntarelle chicory weighed 2-3/4 lb (1.25 kg). It yielded 1-1/4 lb (550 g) of trimmed, separated shoots and 9-3/4 cups (2.375 L) of loosely packed, slivered shoots.

Waste Not: The outer stalks stripped off the core are tender and delicious. Save and use them like dandelion greens.

Tool Time: In Italy, they actually sell puntarelle slicers. I make do with a knife and mandolin.

Kitchen Secrets: Soaking the puntarelle slivers makes them less bitter and more juicy, as well as curling them properly.

Oh No: Don’t try to make a smooth dressing – it should be rustic. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a fork to mash and whisk together ingredients.