Category Archives: seasonal produce

Puntarelle salad

Have you seen this vegetable stateside (or anywhere outside of Italy for that matter)? Known as puntarelle or cicoria di catalogna, this different type of chicory was a big hit with my Big Island cousins when they visited last October. They had never seen or heard of anything like it. For some reason I thought puntarelle had already made a name for itself across the pond, quite like how rucola (arugula or rocket) did more than a couple of decades ago. Side story: I remember the first time my chef boss (this was on Kauai) gushed over tasting rucola after returning from a company trip to Italy. ‘Ro, do you know rucola? It is soooo delicious!’ I mean, she was excited as heck, probably thinking of where to source some for an addition to the menu.

Puntarelle can have a rather long growing season if it’s cool enough. Normally, I see them at the supermarket from October to April. They are commonly sold as a whole head (image just above) with the outer leaves still attached. Or they may be sold with outer leaves discarded (first image up top), known as the ‘shoots’. Described as being mildly bitter, it’s these ‘shoots’ that are used in a fresh salad called puntarelle alla romana. I am putting this up for my cousin, who one day, might actually find puntarelle in a Hilo supermarket.

Puntarelle alla Rowena (serves 4)

Working with a head of puntarelle that has been stripped of its outer leaves, separate the shoots individually and slice lengthwise into thin slivers. Soak in an iced water bath with half a squeezed lemon. They should curl.

Mash or finely chop 4-6 anchovy fillets (if salt-packed, rinse off salt first) with a clove of garlic. Go ahead and use more anchovies if you love them. I do.

Whisk in the juice of the other lemon half and 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust with more salt and also black pepper. Drain sliced puntarelle, toss together with the anchovy-garlic dressing and serve.

Why I’m calling this salad alla Rowena. Well, it seems that instead of lemon juice, white wine vinegar is normally called for in the dressing. My tastebuds felt it was too harsh and had a stand off, hence the lemon juice. I think it tastes lighter and ‘brighter’ in a way. Capisce?