Last year about this time Steve and I went to Rome and not surprisingly we loved every minute. A few of our “When in Rome” highlights: a close-up of the Pope ; the Borghese Galleries ; tracking down Bernini sculptures in some lesser-known churches ; and the Diocletian Baths .
And of course, the food, the food, the food! Armed with recommendations from friends we felt we did well for ourselves. Sora Marghertia , (old school Roman-Jewish) Pizzarium Bonci  (modern take on pizza sliced to order, priced by weight), Pier Luigi  (simple fish in a fancy setting), Vecchia Roma  (classic), L’Archangelo  (d’avangardia classici) Gelateria dei Gracchi (ex. persimmon, chestnut, stracciatella), and our favorite, Da Felice  (friendly, locals-love-it deliciousness).
December is prime puntarelle season and we partook as often as it was offered. Puntarelle is a robust variety of chicory. It’s prepared as a crunchy cold salad with the bitter leaves stripped off, the crisp, juicy stalks sliced into elegant curls.
Which requires a specialized cutting tool. Sign me up!
You needn’t speak Italian (I sure don’t) to get the gist in this video . But you can also make thin long slices with a sharp knife; they’ll still tangle up nicely in the ice-water bath.
Cutting into strips is more than a style choice. According to Italian Family Dinin g (Edward Giobbi and Eugenia Bone), the stalks can be too bitter if chopped cross-ways. “But sliced lengthwise, their bitterness is transformed into a taste delicately sharp and peppery. Italians believe puntarelle, like chicory and chard, cleans the stomach, and is good for the blood. It is high in iron and vitamins A and C.”
Actually the only hard thing about making a puntarelle salad is finding it. I tracked mine down at Eataly. Check out Italian neighborhoods. Grab it when you see it, the season is short.
Puntarelle alla Romana
Italian Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing
1 bunch fresh puntarelle
1/2 can anchovies
2 cloves of garlic
juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Optional: 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese (somewhat heretical but very good)
- Cut off the bottom of the puntarelle and separate all the stalks and shoots.
- Tear off the dark green leaves along the sides and at the tops of the stalks.
- Using a slicer (if you’re lucky enough to have one) or a sharp knife, cut the stalks into long, thin strips.
- Place the strips in an ice-water bath for one hour or until they curl up.
- Put the garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and olive oil into a blender; emulisfy. Add the pepper and cheese (if you’re using it) and whir again to mix.
- Drain the puntarelle. Dry in a salad spinner.
- Toss the puntarelle with the dressing, serve very cold.
NOTE: Depending on the size of the puntarelle, you might need to make a double batch of dressing. The puntarelle curls, undressed, keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.