In the winter, puntarelle (a type of endive typical in and around Rome) begin to pop up in the markets. The long, young, crisp leaves and shoots are dressed with a garlicky anchovy sauce and are the perfect accompaniment to a plate of salumi. The slightly bitter, crunchy leaves contrast well with fatty, silky soft prosciutto and salami.
While in Rome, puntarelle can be purchased prepared, the rest of us need to shred the leaves ourselves and soak them in ice water until they curl. A special puntarelle cutter is sold which is a wooden frame with wires criss-crossing it. The puntarelle are fed through the wires to shred them.
Puntarelle alla romana (winter chicory salad with garlic and anchovy dressing)
750 grams puntarelle chicory, washed and dried
1/2 garlic clove, small, peeled
1 anchovy fillet
1/2 lemon, juiced
75 mls extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper, freshly ground
Place the garlic and anchovy in the mortar and grind it with the pestle. When it has formed a paste, add the lemon juice to mix.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Cut the leaves from the puntarelle and begin to slice off the tender stalks from the puntarelle and cut into matchsticks either with a knife or using a puntarelle cutter. Discard the hard woody part of the puntarelle. Add the puntarelle to the ice water to leech the bitterness out. Add the puntarelle to the ice water and soak until it curls up, about 1 hour. For an illustrated step-by-step guide, see here.
When the puntarelle are ready, strain in a colander, and spin them dry in a salad spinner or dry with tea towels. Place the puntarelle in a salad bowl. Grind the garlic mixture again to emulsify and then pour in the olive oil. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the puntarelle and toss to evenly coat the puntarelle and serve.
What is your favourite winter salad? Please share below.