I now make a drive-by through Eataly, the Italian emporium on 23rd Street in Manhattan, (http://www.eatalyny.com) about once a week checking out the produce section to see what new, unusual, hard-to-come-by products might be found there. And, I always find something that I need to try. For years, I had known about puntarelle but had only tasted it years ago in Rome (its found almost nowhere else in Italy) but the other day on a walk-about through Eataly I found bunches of it stacked in the produce section so, of course, I had to bring some home to test.
Puntarelle is an Italian chicory that is quite bitter and its preparation can leave a cook with more than a little bitterness at the time it takes to make a simple salad. You don’t seem to eat the leaves, only the tender shoots which must be split, lengthwise, one at a time, into thin strips. The strips are then placed in acidulated ice cold water to soak for about an hour. The icy soaking makes the long straight strips curl up into wiggly shoots. Apparently, prepared puntarelle curls are now available in Roman markets – even traditional Italian cooks are looking for an easier way to put dinner on the table.
Puntarelle is classically served with an anchovy dressing but since Steve is allergic to fish, I pounded and mashed some sun-dried tomatoes (you’ll need plump, soft tomatoes, not those that are dry and wrinkled) which I frequently use as a replacement for anchovies and made a thick, creamy mix to toss into the puntarelle. The color didn’t look so hot so Steve refused to photograph the finished salad. You’ll have to be content with a photo of the whole head.
Sun-dried Tomato Dressing for a Bitter Green Salad
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, well-drained and chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste
About ½ cup green, grassy extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice in a mortar and work them into a well-blended mash with the pestle. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper if necessary. Serve over any bitter green salad.