I went to the Farmers Market to see what’s new. To my surprise “puntarelle” are here! To be honest it is a little early for this plant, the right season would be Feb—May, but they are probably in high demand since they are the new “niche” produce in Italy.
Puntarelle or cicoria catalogna or cicoria asparagus (because the tips look like the tips of the asparagus), is a variant of chicory, (common chicory, Cichorium intybus, a perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family Asteraceae.
That’s it with unpronounceable Latin names, I promise 🙂
‘Puntarelle’ are picked when they are young and tender and may be eaten raw or cooked. Often used as a traditional ingredient in the Roman salad called by the same name, they are prepared with the leaves stripped and the shoots soaked in icy-cold water until they curl.
The salad is served with a dressing of anchovy, garlic, vinegar, and with olive oil.
I like to saute them in butter with garlic, that I then remove. They cook fast and easy, just remove them before they become mushy. Cooked they loose their slightly bitter taste, and they are good next to meat, or a choice of cheeses, especially the soft ones, like crescenza or stracchino.
Puntarelle, Artichokes, and Parmesan Salad
The “IN” thing in Italy is to eat them is raw, with artichokes, and flakes parmesan, and this makes a very nice appetizer.
You just need a couple of small artichokes, the very small and young ones. Again, in Italy the “greengrocer” prepares them upon request, but I’m sure that neither Trader’s Joe nor Whole Foods would have a “greengrocer” anymore. In any case, the outer leaves need to be removed and the tips cut (about an inch). The tips and the outer leaves are though and bitter. The stems also need to be cut away and keep just about 2 inches. or less. With a potato peeler you also need to “peel” the stems, so that only the most tender part is there. Once done, immerge the artichokes in water and lemon to prevent them from “darkening.”
All this “cut away” is not wasting. Artichokes are sold with long stems, and outer leaves, to preserve its freshness, in fact, if you put them in water like a bouquet of flowers they keep well for a couple of days, but once shortened and “peeled” they must be used immediately.
That done, dry your artichokes “flowers” with a paper towel, and slice them as thin as you can, ideally with a mandoline slicer (don’t slice your fingers!). Set them in a dish, mix them with the puntarelle also sliced as above—which we assume they have been cut and they are waiting and curling in icy water—dress them with a citronette, add the parmesan flakes and serve.