In a nutshell: If you're addicted to a puntarella salad, you'll need this special grater found in every serious Roman kitchen.
Puntarella (cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago) is a type of bitter chicory commonly found in Rome's markets, like the Campo dei Fiori, already prepared in plastic bags for home use. Between October and March, you can see the stall-holders sitting on stools pushing the cut stalks through a special grater into buckets of iced cold water which help them curl. Half the fun is in preparing this vegetable and for that you need this special grater found in every Roman kitchen store.
When you buy a head of puntarella, the thick finger-shaped stalks in the middle are surrounded by dandelion shaped leaves. Don't discard these outer leaves as they can be boiled until tender then dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
We are addicted to puntarelle and regularly visit friends like Elina Deminska and her friendly crew at Puntarella & Co in Bermondsey's Spa Terminus Market to buy heads of this wonderful vegetable. London branches of Natoora are also a good place to find it.
How to use:
- Strip the outer leaves and reserve to use in a boiled salad simply dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
- Push the shoots through the grater and soak in iced cold water until they curl.
- For the dressing, add 1 or 2 peeled garlic cloves and 3 anchovy fillets into a mortar and pound to a paste. Add 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir to combine the dressing.
- When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing over the puntarella and serve.
Details: Wooden and metal grater