Puntarelle: Love at First Sight
At the supermarket, I normally don’t buy any pre-packaged vegetables as I’d rather pick them myself for a lower price. But there was a packaged vegetable that caught my eye: White and green, firm with leafy shoots. It looked delicious, fresh, crunchy, almost thirst-quenching. Nah! I won’t get them. I don’t know how to cook them. I don’t have the time to figure it out.
The brief vegetable affair was over. Or so I thought.
At work, my colleague told me about a restaurant she went to the previous evening. She described a dish to me with an ingredient that I had never heard of: Puntarelle. “What is it?” I asked. In a failed attempt to describe it to me, we looked it up on Google. Butterflies. We meet again. But now, I learn your name: Puntarelle, Italian Chicory.
How was it served? What does it taste like? Is it really as refreshing as it seems? Tell all.
My colleague had enjoyed a Puntarelle salad, a dish any Roman would be proud of as it is more commonly consumed there. If you ask a Northern Italian what it is, they may have heard of it but probably never tried it. A classic Roman puntarelle salad usually consists of the raw, crunchy, white and green shoots sliced lengthwise into thin pieces, served with anchovies and a garlic, vinegar and olive oil dressing.
What Does Puntarelle Taste Like?
If eaten raw (within two to three days of the purchase), they’ll be crunchy and pleasantly bitter. If you are a fan of rocket salad (rucola) or fennel, I’m almost positive puntarelle will be your next veggie obsession.
How Do You Prepare Puntarelle?
If you buy them prepackaged, there’s not much preparation to be done. If you get them whole, you’ll need to trim them down, cut off the hard bits of the stem and the head, and pick off the longer leaves until you are left with the shoots. Keep the long leafy bits to steam and eat separately or to add to a quiche or a dish that’s similiar.
Once you have your shoots, soak them in cold water with ice for at least an hour. This is to get rid of some of the bitterness.
From here, it’s up to you how you want to prepare them. Some steam them or pan fry them. Most people usually eat them raw in a salad, though.
So Many Health Benefits
A good reason to eating them raw is that you benefit from all the
- vitamin A
- low calories
- detox effect as it has diuretic and depurative qualities.
ItalianBelly’s Puntarelle Salad
I’ve come up with a variation of the Roman style salad and served the sliced shoots on a bed of Valeriana leafy greens along with half a mozzarella and anchovies. The salad was lightly salted (considering that the anchovies are already salty) with a bit of pepper over the mozzarella and then dressed with extra virgin olive oil.
ItalianBelly’s Puntarelle Zola Appetizer
This appetizer was invented by mistake. I wanted to make the salad and completely forgot to get the anchovies and mozzarella. Brava. I still wanted to eat my mouth-watering green shoots so I started to cut them in halves. I noticed that they were hollow in the middle. *lightbulb* perfect for filling with….cheese. Gorgonzola cheese.
I placed the ‘puntarelle zolas’ in front of my husband and didn’t say anything. He ate them and said, “hey, these are good!” They passed the test. Anything with Gorgonzola is good, really. Here, it dilutes the bitterness a bit and contrasts the crunchiness with its creaminess.
I hope you can find these Italian Chicory wherever you are. If not, you’ll have to book a flight to try them in Italy!