Roman Puntarelle Chicory Salad

Le Puntarelle

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Puntarelle is a variety of chicory grown for the Roman market; it is used primarily for raw salads. A head of the full-grown vegetable weighs about 1½ to 2 pounds. A crown of long, slender, dark green outside leaves resembling those of catalogna chicory cradle within them a mass of white, twisted, hollow stalks. It is from these stalks that puntarelle salad, the crispest and possibly most refreshing of all salads, is made.

Puntarelle chicory is just becoming available in America; past experience suggests that its day will come as it did for other Italian vegetables: arugula and radicchio. If you want to grow it, seeds are available from The Cook’s Garden, Box 535, Londonderry, VT 05148.

Ingredients

  • A to 2-pound head of puntarelle chicory
  • Ice cubes
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, lightly mashed with a knife handle and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, preferably the ones prepared at home, chopped very fine
  • Black pepper ground fresh

Method

  1. Pull off all the outer green leaves of the chicory, exposing the inner clump of gnarled, white stalks. Put the green leaves away to use as described in the Note at the end of this recipe.
  2. Detach the white stalks from their base and cut each lengthwise in half. You will see that the stalk is hollow. Keep cutting it lengthwise to obtain strips ¼ inch wide.
  3. Put several ice cubes in a large bowl, fill with water, and put in the puntarelle strips. Let them soak in the ice water for at least 1 hour. Do not refrigerate. The strips will curl into ring-like shapes.
  4. Put the mashed garlic and vinegar in a very small saucer.
  5. When ready to toss the salad, drain the puntarelle and shake them dry in a salad spinner or gathered up in a dry towel. Put them into a salad bowl; add the vinegar, holding back the garlic, a pinch or two of salt, the olive oil, the chopped anchovies, and liberal grindings of black pepper. Toss thoroughly, taste and correct for salt, vinegar, and oil, and serve at once.

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