Long, thin and spiked in appearance, this vegetable is a common Italian ingredient in a variety of foods. A member of the chicory family of greens, Puntarelle develops white stalks at the base of the plant that produce a green serrated leaf, much like a dandelion. The flavor of this vegetable green is similar to chicory and endive with a somewhat bitter and peppery-like overtone. As a fresh vegetable the shoots are tender and crisp textured, tasting much like fennel. When cooked, the bitter taste and texture softens as the flavor mellows. It is suggested that slicing the stalk and leaf into strips lengthwise and then soaking for several hours reduces the bitterness as well as makes the green more moist for use in salads. Puntarelle Chicory is most often served as a fresh salad green or as a vegetable that is stir fried with other ingredients. It is often paired with an anchovies or an anchovy dressing, olive oil and garlic when serving as either a fresh or cooked vegetable.
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