Another funky Roman vegetable, le puntarelle. It is a little early for good puntarelle, they are best in January and February, but we found some at our fruttivendolo and brought them to the in-laws because you can’t find them in Liguria.
Puntarelle is a a variety of the chicory family, which explains the bitterness of the green, it has serrated leaves that grow out of light-green hollow stalks which have the same crunchiness as celery.
As far as I know there is only one way to prepare puntarelle, cut into thin strips and soaked for a number of hours in cold water. This makes the puntarelle curl up and also takes out a bit of the bitterness. They are then tossed with an anchovy-lemon dressing.
Puntarelle alla Romana
1 head of puntarelle, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water until very curly (a few hours)
2 cloves of garlic
5 0r 6 anchovy fillets packed in salt, if available
juice of half a lemon
good olive oil
Mash the garlic and the anchovies together until they form a paste, this can be done by hand with a mortar and pestle or more easily in a blender or a food processor. Once you have created the paste, stir in the olive oil and lemon juice, pour over the curled puntarelle and toss well. You should leave them for at least 10 minutes for the veg to absorb the sauce.
My mother-in-law left them to “cook” in the dressing for a few hours, it was still delicious, but made the punterelle less crunchy (remember, Neapolitans don’t like crunchy vegetables)