Puntarella is at the height of its season in January but, I will have to concede, not easily found. Unusually, I would also concede that substitutions can and might have to be made. The salad will work well with curly endive, radicchio or witloof endive, the flavours being similar, if lacking a little of puntarella’s special crunch.
Discard the leaves from the outside and top of the puntarella and separate the stalk clusters, breaking them off or cutting them from the base. Cut these in half, then slice them into thin strands. Rinse them carefully in cold water, then soak in a large basin of very cold water for at least 1 hour, preferably 2. Drain the stalks, then dry them in a salad spinner. Place the anchovies in a bowl and mix with the grated zest of one of the oranges and the juice of both. Add the olive oil and a good grinding of black pepper, then add the puntarella and turn it very thoroughly until it is coated in the mixture.
Serve with plain country bread, either as a starter or as a side salad to a piece of grilled fish or grilled lamb chops.
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