Puntarelle (poon-ta-REL-lay) is a member of the chicory family and is a typical cooking ingredient used in some regions of Italy. Its mildly bitter flavor blends the spiciness of Arugula with the sweetness of Fennel. This chicory has pale white and light green shoots that look like short, large asparagus surrounded by dark green, serrated leaves that have the appearance of dandelion leaves. The Puntarelle shoots are the main feature of this chicory and can be eaten boiled, sautéed or raw in a salad. The dark green leaves of Puntarelle, which look similar to dandelion leaves, are edible as well and can be eaten raw in salad or sautéed.
A Brief History
Puntarelle is a variety of Catalonian chicory. The word “puntarelle” translates as “little tips” and until fairly recently, there was a certain amount of discussion outside of Rome as to what is Puntarelle. In Italy, Puntarelle is traditionally eaten during Sunday lunch and other large meals between one rich course and another, a custom which has a valid nutritional reason. The aromatic components of Puntarelle stimulate the function of bile and therefore help digestion. Puntarelle Alla Romana is a well-known recipe that features raw Puntarelle with garlic, red wine, olive oil and anchovies. This salad is gently bitter and crisp and is an all-time favorite in the old county.
How to Select:
Look for Puntarelle shoots that are short and stout with outer leaves that are deep in color.
How to Store:
Place Puntarelle in the crisper of your refrigerator wrapped in plastic. It should last about five to seven days in the refrigerator.
How to Prepare:
Always rince your produce under cool water before using. Peel back and remove the leaves to reveal the shoots. One by one, finely slice the shoots lengthwise from the base and cut into about four to six parts. After all the shoots are cut, soak them in iced water for about an hour or until they curl and crisp up. Then spin them until dry. From here you may dress them with the traditional romana dressing or sauté them.
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