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. For details on buying and prepping puntarelle, go to
A Puntarelle Project.

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 pepper to taste

Cut slice off base of puntarelle chicory to release long, leafy outer stalks. Strip off all the 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; slice 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. Set aside to soak for 1 to 2 hours, or until slivers are curly and crisp. Drain, rinse and spread out on clean kitchen cloth or paper towels to dry for 1 hour.

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

In serving bowl, toss puntarelle slivers with dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes. Adjust salt and serve.

• The outer stalks stripped off the core are tender and delicious. Save them and use them like dandelion.
• My head of puntarelle chicory weighed 2-3/4 lb (1.25 kg). It yielded 1-1/4 lb (600 g) of trimmed, separated shoots and 9-3/4 cups (2.4 L) of loosely packed, slivered shoots.
• Soaking the puntarelle slivers makes them less bitter and more juicy, as well as curling them.
• 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 salad ingredients.

Makes about 7 cups (1.75 L).

Credit: Susan Sampson
Tested in Imperial