Roman Puntarelle Salad (Chicory Salad with Anchovy-Garlic Vinaigrette)

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PRESENTATION

The Roman Puntarelle Salad is a vibrant and tantalizing side dish, cherished in the Lazio region and parts of Campania in Italy. This dish is a true culinary delight, especially for those exploring authentic Italian cuisine. Puntarelle, the star of this dish, is a type of chicory, known locally as 'cicorione' or 'cimata chicory'. The preparation of puntarelle involves specific cleaning techniques, unveiling its unique, slightly bitter flavor that is reminiscent of asparagus. This raw vegetable was a staple in ancient Roman cuisine, celebrated for its distinct taste.

In the U.S., where diverse Italian dishes are widely appreciated, puntarelle can often be found in specialty Italian markets or well-stocked supermarkets, sometimes even pre-cleaned for convenience. Dressing them with a traditional oil and anchovy emulsion transforms the greens into a delightful salad. Although cleaning puntarelle can be labor-intensive, it's an engaging activity that can be shared with friends or family, making the process more enjoyable.

This salad pairs wonderfully with various Italian-American favorites. Consider serving it alongside classic Roman-style fried cod in batter, a popular choice during the Christmas season, or as a refreshing addition to your Easter feast, complementing the rich flavors of traditional dishes.

For those adventurous in the kitchen, puntarelle can also be enjoyed cooked. Experiment with it in dishes like pasta with cooked puntarelle or legume casarecce with cooked puntarelle and olives. And don’t forget to try it with other Italian-American staples like breaded cutlets or Saltimbocca alla romana.

INGREDIENTS
Chicory 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
Anchovies 4 - fillets in oil
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp (30 g)
White wine vinegar 2 tsp (10 g)
Garlic ½ clove
Fine salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Preparation

How to prepare Roman Puntarelle Salad (Chicory Salad with Anchovy-Garlic Vinaigrette)

To prepare the Roman puntarelle salad, start by thoroughly cleaning the Catalonia lettuce head, weighing approximately 1.5/2kg (3.3/4.4lbs), from which you'll get about 800 g (1.7 lbs) of puntarelle. Make sure there are no traces of soil. Remove the tougher and fibrous leaves 1, gradually reaching the shoots 2 3, which are the puntarelle.

Trim the outer leaves and then the base of the puntarelle 4 5, then cut them in half 6.

You'll need to obtain very thin strips 7. You can also use a peeler and do it by hand, without a cutting board, but it will certainly take more time. Soak the puntarelle in ice water for at least an hour 8, making sure to change the water at least 2 times 9 during this time. This step will give the typical curly appearance of puntarelle.

Crush half a clove of garlic 1, remove the skin, and chop the clove 11, then mash it with a knife 12.

Once it's almost reduced to a cream 13, transfer it to a small bowl along with the drained anchovies 14 and extra virgin olive oil 15.

Also, add the vinegar 16, then mix to dissolve the anchovies 17. Emulsify, then adjust with salt and pepper 18 to taste.

Mix again until you achieve a homogeneous emulsion 19. If you prefer, you can leave some crumbled anchovy pieces. Drain the puntarelle 20, place them on a dry kitchen towel, and pat them gently 21. This step is important to dry them well without breaking or flattening them excessively.

Place them in a large bowl, drizzle with the emulsion before serving 22 23, and if you like, add a sprinkle of pepper. Your Roman puntarelle salad is ready to be served as a tasty side dish or appetizer 24.

How to store

Puntarelle are very delicate, and it is recommended to clean, wash, and dry them carefully but gently before consuming them immediately.

You can store them unseasoned in the refrigerator for a maximum of 1 day, but they could spoil.

We do not recommend freezing them.

Tips

There is a special tool for preparing puntarelle that resembles a small grid (called "tapù") where you insert the entire puntarella, and it is cut.

It is usually recommended to season the puntarelle 1-2 hours before serving so that they can absorb the vinaigrette well. According to local dialect, it is said that you should "ammalvare" them.

Nothing goes to waste with chicory: the leaves can be boiled and sautéed, and you can even make a delicious cream soup.