P(l)atter Recipe No.1 — Puntarella Alla Romana in Her Best Dress
Words and recipe by Zsuzsanna Toth
Eating and cooking are ultimately acts of transience. You can experience time pass by through the lens of food, when adding heat, movement and chemical (in)balance to a dish. It transforms, it evolves, it is ready in various ways for various purposes at various stages. And most undeniably you will experience the passing as soon as a meal is served, and it is conversely and simultaneously serving your appetite. Once on your plate, it catches fragments of your conversations around the table. It moves through the unique trails between your mouth and your plate – and it is gone – leaving the aftertaste of both the process of the preparation and the joys of the flavours you combined.
This salad is a colorful ode to the process, watching the strips of the puntarella curl up, and the passing of a season, ironically dramatic colours of winter celebrate the soil and the time endured, opening the doors to spring and your hungry eyes. It is perfect for an uplifting lunch and happily brought to an outdoor picnic with friends, hopefully soon to be enabled and enjoyed, wherever you are.
Puntarella (cicoria asparago or cicoria catalogna cimata) is a chicory type hailing from central Europe. With its bitter (hence very healthy) outer leaves and its hollow core, it does need a little time tenderness to prepare and enjoy in the best way. In Rome “puntarella alla romana” – puntarella with a garlicky anchovy dressing – is common on most menus. It can be enjoyed on its own, as a side dish to pasta or even as an addition in a panini. Here, they curl and cuddle up with the prettiest winter salad, Radicchio La Rosa del Veneto, purple sprouting broccoli and blood orange.
Ingredients (for two)
— Puntarella ( ½ head of a big or 1 head of a small)
— 3 little heads of sprouting broccoli per person
— ½ blood orange
— Extra virgin olive oil
— 1 garlic clove
— 4 anchovies, drained
— Blend of your favourite nuts, pine nuts and pistachios were used here
— Optional: 1-2 soft boiled eggs
1. A few hours ahead, fill a large bowl with ice water. Remove the dark green outer leaves of the puntarella and set them aside. Cut the bulbs in the centre and the inner white stalks lengthwise, as thin as you can with a sharp knife. Put into the ice water and let them rest for 1-2 hours or until they curl up.
2. Meanwhile first blanch the puntarella greens and sprouting broccoli in slightly salted water for just about 1 minute. Add a good glug of olive oil in a pan and sear the greens with freshly ground pepper.
3. For the dressing, mix the anchovies, olive oil, the juice and zest of your blood orange, pepper and one small garlic clove with a blender or (the way I prefer it) with a pestle and mortar.
4. Lightly toast your nuts in a hot pan for 30 seconds and set aside.
5. Drain your puntarella curls with a sieve.
6. Mix the fresh radicchio leaves with the greens, the curls, and the dressing in a bowl.
7. Add in your salad bowl of choice, top with the toasted nuts and some extra zest.
8. Put a soft boiled (6 minutes is my preference) egg on top and enjoy with a slice of toast as a main, serve as a side salad, or layer with extra pecorino or mozzarella in a bun.
9. Enjoy the bittersweet goodbye!
Zsuzsanna Toth is a Berlin based editor, writer and chef. She explores food through the lens of thoughts and words through the (un)predictability of cooking, baking and eating. @zsubidu
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