Sunday, December 4, 2011

Puntarelle= Poon-ta-rell-leh

Puntarelle when turned into a salad is heaven sent. I first ate puntarelle when I as living in Italy with my husband. It is a famous Roman vegetable available for only 1-2 months a year, usually November and December, many northern Italians have never even heard of it.   This beautiful green is as elusive as the famous white truffle from Alba but won't cost you $2000/kilo. 

I guess I can attune it to a very region specific food like the lobster roll, beignet or (scratching my head to think of another regional American food) etouffee.  Since I am not from Northeastern US or the South, I won't even try to pinpoint what cities/towns/states these foods hail from, I just know they are delicious.
I craved this salad so much after I left Italy, I searched online for the seeds and set out to grow it myself. This is the second year I have had success and here are the results.

This is the plant picked straight out of the ground,  it grows in a cluster with larger leaves around it.  It is in the chicory family but looks like a celery plant, kind of.

The little spear are plucked one by one from the main stem.

The spears which look like fat, leafy asparagus need to be sliced length wise and soaked in cold water (so they can get their signature curl) with a lemon in it so it does not oxidize and turn brown. 

Here the spears have been sliced and they are not as curly as they should be as we were starved.  They can actually be soaked for 4-6 hours or even overnight in the refrigerator.

The dressing is classic and Roman and called salsa di accuighe. (anchovy sauce)  Blend good olive oil with anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and a spritz of lemon on top.