Ah, puntarelle. Another unfamiliar leafy green that has recently come to my attention in the market. I bought it assuming that it was just another term for dandelion greens but oh how wrong I was. A bit of research revealed that puntarelle is a variety of chicory, picked while young. But frankly, it looks fairly similar to dandelion, no?
Apparently the traditional roman preparation is a puntarelle salad with an anchovy dressing, which I'm told mellows the bitterness of the greens. However, as much as I know liking anchovies is the sophisticated thing to do, I just can't get there. I'm working on it, and may get there eventually, but for now I'll have to settle for being a food bumpkin in this respect.
So I picked up some bacon, the bumpkin version of anchovy, as visions of warm salad dressing wilting the greens danced in my head.
I washed and trimmed the leaves and let them soak in a bowl of ice water for an hour, as one is meant to do in the anchovy preparation. This, by the way, is a genius little trick. My semi limp puntarelle immediately perked up and looked like new again. And I found that the bitterness had indeed abated somewhat, which I believe is the point of soaking in the first place.
I set to work making my warm bacon vinaigrette, then when it was ready tossed it with the crispy puntarelle, scattered my bacon bits and a bit of blue cheese throughout, and I had quite the satisfying meal. Maybe there is something to these obscure vegetables after all.
Puntarelle With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
1/4 pound puntarelle
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon mustard
salt to taste
blue cheese (optional)
Trim and wash puntarelle. If stalks are thick, cut lengthwise. Drop in bowl of ice water and leave to soak 30 minutes to an hour.
After puntarelle has soaked, remove to colander to drain. Once drained, place in serving bowl. Saute bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel. Pour all but two tablespoons of remaining fat from pan. Remove pan from heat and add vinegar and whisk in mustard. Pour over waiting puntarelle. If necessary, sprinkle salt over the salad and continue to toss (depending on how salty your bacon is, this may not be necessary). Sprinkle bacon bits over salad and, if using, crumble blue cheese over greens and toss.