Puntarelle with Anchovy Dressing (Puntarelle con la Salsa)
Only a few years ago, the word puntarelle was practically unknown outside the Eternal City. Winter visitors to Rome returned home with tales of a fascinating salad of fresh bitter greens with anchovy dressing. Summer visitors never found out what they were talking about. Today, pale green puntarelle, a variety of Catalonian chicory, with long, spiky, dark leaves, are still available only in the colder months, but they are now well known throughout Italy. In the off-season, some Romans pair other salad greens with the salsa. Crisp frisée is probably the best substitute when puntarelle are not available.
- 1 head puntarelle, chicory (curly endive) or frisée
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 salt-packed anchovies or 3 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
If using puntarelle, remove the leafy external stalks, then separate the inner stalks that have buds on top. Discard the tough lower part of each stalk. Cut off the buds and slit the lower part of the bud all around, to create a daisy effect. Peel away the outer fibers of the remaining stalk, then cut the stalk lengthwise into 4 or 5 strips, each about 1/8 inch wide. Rinse well. Immerse the pieces in ice water until they start to curl, about 30 minutes, then drain and dry well. If you are using another variety of chicory, tear the leaves into bite-size pieces, rinse and dry well. Place the greens in a salad bowl.
Cut the garlic clove in half lengthwise, remove any green shoot, and then coarsely chop and place in a mortar. Using a pestle, grind the garlic. If using anchovies packed in oil, add to the mortar. If using salt-packed anchovies, rinse each fish under cool running water, trim off the dorsal fin, and then open the fish out flat and remove the backbone. Rinse the fillets under cool water, set 1 aside for another use and add the remaining 3 fillets to the mortar. Pound the anchovy fillets to a rough paste. Mix in the vinegar and then the olive oil.
Just before serving, pour the contents of the mortar over the greens and toss to coat the leaves evenly. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Rome, by Constance Snow (Oxmoor House, 2005).