My friend Jess wrote me recently to tell me that puntarelle has appeared at my beloved Booth’s, at Spa Terminus near Maltby Street, in London. Puntarelle is a variety of chicory grown in Italy with an unusually brief growing season, a traditional method of preparation, and a fanatical following. It is wonderfully bitter, and very crunchy. In a classic puntarelle salad, the stiff inner spears of the vegetable are julienned into narrow strips, and simply dressed in a garlicky anchovy dressing. In Rome (or so I have read, on this wonderful blog post), during puntarelle season, it is in markets everywhere. Some Roman vendors sell a taglia puntarelle, which simplifies the process of slicing the puntarelle, or you can buy it pre-cut. In London, I would julienne the puntarelle myself, put the strips in a bowl of ice water to curl, and warm some minced garlic in olive oil just until it became fragrant. I whisked this with a generous amount of chopped salted anchovy fillets, lemon juice, and plenty of salt and freshly-ground black pepper. This simple salad is one of my favorites.
Puntarelle is difficult to find in the United States, as it is grown primarily on small farms and sold locally. This salad, tossed with my own Caesar dressing, is my homage to the puntarelle I love so much in London. I made this salad with Tuscan (lacinato) kale, chicory, toasted hazelnuts and shaved aged parmesan, but the dressing, made with plenty of lemon juice, anchovies, and garlic, will complement any greens, including, of course, hearts of romaine and garlicky croutons, and especially bitter greens like chicory, escarole, or radicchio.
There are a couple of tricks to keep in mind. First, the egg should be gently coddled, which makes the dressing emulsify better. Second, the garlic should either be finely grated on a microplane or pulverized into a pulp in a mortar and pestle. It should not be chopped or put through a garlic press, as it needs to blend completely with the rest of the ingredients. In my not-so-humble opinion, this dressing has just the right balance of salty umami anchovy, garlic, and lemon. Measurements, accordingly, are in grams, for precision.
For the salad:
One large bunch (about 20 stalks) of Tuscan (Lacinato) Kale, leaves stripped from stems and sliced into narrow strips
½ head of chicory, puntarelle, or escarole, or one whole radicchio, torn into bite-sized pieces
55 grams (about two ounces) toasted skinned hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
For the dressing:
3 grams fresh garlic (about one large clove), pulverized into a paste with a mortar and pestle or finely grated on a microplane
1 medium egg
10 grams finely minced flat salted anchovy fillets in oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
100 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
14 grams (1/2 ounce) finely grated aged parmesan, plus an additional 14 grams shaved with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife
1.5 teaspoons salt
Prep the salad ingredients, setting the nuts aside.
To make the dressing, first immerse the egg in boiling water for two minutes. Do this by putting the egg in a cup or small bowl, and pouring the boiling water over it. Crack the egg into a larger bowl in which you’ll mix your dressing, add the olive oil and garlic, and whisk until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the lemon juice, anchovies, parmesan and salt and pepper, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. This recipe makes approximately 220 ml of dressing.
To serve, either toss the greens in the dressing, plate individually, and garnish with chopped hazelnuts and shaved parmesan, or toss all of the ingredients together as a salad.
Makes approximately four main course servings, or six to eight side salad portions.
This salad sounds so yummy and healthy, Susan. I haven’t made a salad in weeks.
Thanks Sharyn. I love anything with anchovies. This winter I’ve been on a real salad kick.
Just when I was ready to welcome salad season, Old Man Winter stages a comeback with another snow tonight and tomorrow. I’ll just put this salad on hold for a couple days. It’s too good to let go, Susan. 🙂
Thanks John! I was in two minds about posting a salad, but since this is one of my favorites decided to go for it. Let me know what you think if you try out the dressing. Stay warm! 🙂
Wow, looks fantastic! You know, I never really thought about it, but I’ve never eaten chicory outside of Italy. I’m going to have to hit up the farmer’s markets and see if I can get some.
Thanks Gene! 🙂
The Central Co-op sometimes carries chicory, as does Whole Foods, and I’m sure you can find it at Seattle farmers markets (and probably at Frank’s, in the Pike Place Market) later in the spring.
I don’t think I’ve ever had puntarelle. Will have to keep a lookout for it. I love the idea of the little curls in cold water! This has been the Winter of the Salad here, too. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve made some variation of fennel and orange salad. Oh and a Brussels sprouts salad, too. Your dressing sounds wonderful. Must try.
I adore fennel and orange. And Brussels sprouts. If you like bitter lettuces, you’d love puntarelle. For me it was an instant passion. Although many people discard the outer leaves, they are wonderful sauteed or roasted.