What’s a Puntarelle you ask…this was a new for me too! It is a salad ingredient from the chicory family and seems to be unique to Italy. It is sometimes known as asparagus chicory and indeed when a local at a nearby table could see me trying to work it out with the waiter in a mixture of broken French, Italian and English, he stepped in and said this is similar to asparagus. Puntarelle has leaves like a dandelion and bulbs resembling fennel (in looks only not in taste) with the top shoots of the bulbs like asparagus, and a taste similar to chicory – so a bit of a mix of a lettuce type thing is the best way to describe it – see photos below…
Taste of Savoie was on tour and on a recent trip to Milan we ate dinner in a wonderful little Osteria on the Via Marghera in the Wagner area of Milan. L’Osteria Al Fuoco Di Brace. How do you choose a good authentic Italian restaurant in Milan when Trip Advisor tells you there are over 6,000 to choose from? Why ask a local Milanese… and luckily enough we had one on hand to ask!
Why ask a local Milanese… and luckily enough we had one on hand to ask! Next ask your friendly knowledgeable waiter what we should eat. He came up with 2 salads, one was made with puntarelle which is where my curiosity grew about this strange looking lettuce type thing! Having eaten the salad,which was delicious; a crisp, fresh bitter flavour with a great quite strong tasting dressing made with anchovies and capers, I was invited into the kitchen and Mama told me how to prepare the puntarelle. The other salad was equally delicious and fresh tasting and was made with fine slices of fresh artichoke and mullet roe (bottarga di muggine)
Our whole meal was simple good Italian food, a specially prepared seafood pasta dish, good home made desserts and all cooked really well in such a friendly atmosphere full of locals. The wines that we were recommended were also good and the dessert wine frmo Sicily was divine!
The following morning I made a second trip into the mercato communale in Piazza Wagner, what a wonderful place, I couldn’t keep away! There was fresh italian produce everywhere, the aromas and buzz was infectious. Wonderful cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, every type of fresh pasta you can imagine, in all shapes and sizes.
Ready made Italian dishes, Italian breads spilling over the counters and fresh fish and meat stalls. Everyone I spoke to was so passionate about their produce all offering morsels of deliciousness to taste!
So seeking out a great fruit and veg stall I found again this incredible looking puntarelle and bought one! Now back in The Taste of Savoie Kitchen I have to put into practice what Mama had told me about its preparation.
Puntarelle Salad – a la L’Osteria Al Fuoco Di Brace
Puntarelle in insalata con battuto di acciughe e capperi – translates as Chicory salad with chopped anchovies and capers
I head of Puntarelle
5-6 anchovies (anchois)
1 tablespoon capers (capres)
3 garlic cloves
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper and sea salt
To prepare the Puntarelle you first have to pull off the outer leaves to reveal lots of small hollow bulbs. Separate the small bulbs keeping the smaller leaves and then cut the bulbs lengthways and slice. Put the sliced bulbs and inner leaves into a big bowl of iced water and leave for at least an hour, the slices will curl.
To make the dressing:
Crush the anchovies, capers and garlic together in a pestle and mortar with a little sea salt. Add the vinegar to this mixture to cover. Then whisk in about the same quantity of olive oil until you have a thick emulsion and add the black pepper.
Drain the puntarelle and toss together with the dressing. Serve with lots of fresh focaccia bread!
This salad dressing would work really well with any strong bitter lettuce and especially with endive/chicory.
Bon Appetit or as they say in Italy – buon appetito
all photos are copyright ©Caro Blackwell
No visit to Milan is complete without a visit to The Cathedral. This Gothic cathedral took six centuries to complete and is the second largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.