Puntarelle salad


Have you ever seen such a beautiful thing?

I was so excited when I went to Montreal a few weeks ago and found my first head of puntarelle. I had been searching for this mysterious vegetable for years, in vain. Chez Nino, in the middle of Little Italy, at Marché Jean-Talon, had several dozens of puntarelle in stock and they told me they would have some for several weeks more.

Puntarelle

Puntarelle is a type of chicory, a cousin of endives, escarole and radicchio,  and it is available at this time of the year. With its slightly bitter taste, its crispiness and its freshness, it is one of the most exciting vegetables I have had the chance to work with. When you bite into it, it reminds you a bit of celery, fennel and chicory all in one. Beautiful!

The preparation, classical, is a bit of work, but it is part of the experience. Take a seat at the table, and start trimming it like an Italian nonna, then let it soak in ice water for at least an hour before using. You can keep the rest in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and it will last for days without discolouring or rusting. The large outside leaves can be blanched in salted water for a few minutes, then sautéed in olive oil with a bit of garlic. For the salad, you use only the interior small buds, as seen below. You can either slice these thinly, or prepare them like a little flower like in the video, whatever you prefer.

DSC_0021-4

I made it the very classical way, with a garlicky anchovy dressing, flavoured with mustard and capers, which is reminiscent of a Caesar dressing and it was absolutely delightful. If the thought of anchovies scares you, simply serve it with a lemon and olive oil dressing, it is also very good.

If you can get your hands on a head of puntarelle and you are in the Ottawa area anytime soon, please contact me, I would love to get some more of these little beauties.

 

Insalata di puntarelle

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1h30 (including soaking time)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 head puntarelle or other chicory
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
2-3 vine tomatoes
2 ribs celery, cut in little batons

1 smallish garlic clove, grated
3 anchovy fillets in oil
1 teaspoon capers in brine, drained
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt

Method:

  1. Prepare the puntarelle according to this method. Let it soak in ice water for at least an hour before using.
  2. Slice the fennel and celery and cut the tomatoes in large pieces and put in a large bowl with the soaked puntarelle.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, reduce the anchovies to a paste adding a pinch of salt to help the process.
  4. Add the grated garlic and the capers and continue crushing until the capers are, them too, reduced to a purée.
  5. Add the mustard and mix well, then add the vinegar and continue to mix.
  6. Add the olive oil in a steady stream, continuing to mix with the pestle  or with a whisk, and finish it with a few drops of lemon juice.
  7. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust for salt and acidity, adding a bit more lemon juice if you like.
  8. Dress the salad using a few tablespoons of the dressing and tossing as you go along, until the salad is dressed to your liking. You may not need all the dressing. Keep it for another day. Serve immediately.

Puntarelle Salad

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