Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing (Insalata di Puntarelle alla Romana)

I had always believed that I don't like bitter vegetables.  I just realized that I actually like some of them because when I encounter them in the market, I excitedly put them in my cart without any second thoughts.  I surprised myself when I saw a cleaned and sliced pack of puntarelle (chicory) the other day and actually drooled all the way home imagining the delectable dressing that goes with it.  It is a traditional salad of the region of Lazio, where Rome is.  The inner and tender shoots of the chicory are cut into strips, curled by bathing them in iced water and dressed with anchovy, garlic, vinegar & extra virgin olive oil dressing.  It is simple, delicious (if not a bit bitter) and well.... healthy. 
To be honest, I never bought a full head of chicory to prepare this dish because it is laborious and requires a significant amount of time.  So I take the shortcut and I always buy the cleaned and sliced ones in the supermarkets.   It makes life easier, I'm telling you.

I love making the dressing strong to cover slightly the bitterness of the salad.  Give me a little break here.  I still don't know why I am eating this salad in the first place, bitterness and all.  There are just some things we don't understand about ourselves sometimes.  Like it or not, we can't place ourselves on a decisive position.  And here I am, a complainer of my kids' fickle mindedness on food when I am actually like them too.  Let me be conclusive.  For now and for the past decade, I have loved this salad, still love it and will always love it.  


Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing

Insalata di Puntarelle alla Romana

Serves 2
  • 250 grams chicory or puntarelle
  • 6 fillets salted anchovies preserved in oil (adjust amount according to your taste)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • pepper

To clean the chicory:

  1. Rinse the whole head under the tap water to take away the dirt. Discard the hard & fibrous leaves. 
  2. Take the tender shoots from the head.  With a small knife, cut away the hardest part of the shoot located at the end.  Cut in half lengthwise and continue to make 4 or 5 strips from each half, depending on the thickness.  
  3. Put the chicory strips in a big bowl of water with ice for at least an hour.  The coldness of the water will make the strips curl and take away some of the bitterness of the vegetable.  
  4. See this video on how to cut the chicory into strips with a specialized instrument or go to this site with pictures of step by step procedure on how to cut them to strips. 

To make the dressing & to prepare the salad:

  1. Using a mortar & pestle, pound the garlic, anchovies & oil together.  
  2. When the mixture becomes liquid, mix in the vinegar & pepper then pour on the salad.  
  3. You can also add some chopped pieces of anchovies to strengthen the taste as an option.   
  4. Serve immediately.