Spending four years in the Eternal City of Rome afforded me many chances to eat. One of my favourite dishes was a salad of puntarelle (a form of chicory with a mildly bitter flavour). The lure of this dish was in the fact that it was very seasonal, so when it arrived I would binge on it for weeks, knowing that it would soon be gone. It is also a very classic Roman peasant dish, and I adore food that really represents a region, it’s like eating a piece of history. Is that physically possible? What would be the wine match for history? I digress….
What makes this dish so addictive is the dressing with which it is traditionally served. A pungent and zesty vinaigrette flavoured with anchovy and garlic. It is rare that you’ll find puntarelle in Canada, which is why I unsuccessfully attempted to grow it three summers in a row. However, there are great substitutes that work wonderfully with the vinaigrette. Try sautéed escarole, rapini, dandelion (which I have shown in the photo), Swiss Chard or for a less bitter option crisp Romaine lettuce. If using any of the bitter greens simply blanch until tender in salted water, then toss with some Anchovy Vinaigrette.
6 anchovies or 2 tsp (10 mL) anchovy paste
2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup (80 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled
pinch of salt
- Purée all of the ingredients together until mixture is completely smooth.
- Serve with cooked bitter greens or sturdy lettuces. Add a bit of vinaigrette at a time until you have the desired amount lightly coating your vegetables.