Another question for LA hounds: I need something to go with my carbonara (see posting from last night). I love my local farmers market (the small one in Plummer Park, West Hollywood, Mondays), and find a plethora of bitter greens especially from Asian farmers, many of which remain nameless for me but make their way to my kitchen and belly.
But I am wondering if anyone has encountered anyone growing and selling puntarelle in Los Angeles. This is a famous Roman salad green, related to chicory I think, and perhaps seasonal to the colder weather months. The Romans soak it in ice water so that it curls up like wayward spaghetti, or pig's tails, and crisp and delicious it is bathed in a garlic and anchoivy dressing. It is one of my other favorite things.
Before I moved here from NY, some had started to sell it in the Union Square farmers market, and some Manhattan restaurants had started to serve it, making my foraging trips to Bensonhurst a thing of the past. I figure someone has to be growing this in California?
i don't know of anyone growing it in socal. it is a winter crop. there's a big radicchio grower in the monterey area who was growing puntarelle as a project, but i don't know if that is ongoing. i don't think i've ever seen it in a fm.
I just searched the SF board. THEY seem to be able to buy it up there...In the winter, like you say. I'm sad. LA is greens paradise, no? Is the issue that my paisans are up there, not down here, in numbers, I wonder? But I thought Los Angeles loved all things really Italian. I'm sure puntarelle would catch on here.
No one has seen them at the Santa Monica or Hollywood farmer's markets?
I have enjoyed it in SF restaurants (Olivetto and others) and seen it in Ferry market and have never seen it at our markets. It is a terrific green. I saw it once on a menu last winter at Campanille, maybe? Not sure.
The closest seasonal aprox. is probably curly chicory mixed with dandelion.
This is wild Roman Chickory (so Judi's rec would work well) and it is a late fall eary winter green. You will see a fantastic version of this salad on the menu at Vincenti Restaurant starting late October - February.
My understanding is that they are farming this as a new type of crop in Northern California - Fresno area which is why it gets to the SF markets first in the fall. My understanding from farmers is that they started to bring limited amounts of it in to the LA markets last fall. So keep watch.
the flavor of puntarelle is kind of like a chicory or dandelion, but the texture is not. puntarelle is very crisp, in fact, it's the stems that give it the character. for that reason, the best substitute in my mind would be celery. this works really well with the classic dressing of anchovies and olive oil. i think the biggest grower of puntarelle is still european vegetable specialtiies, which is based in salinas. here's some info
I emailed European Vegetable specialities. I was told they sell it to the "produce market" in LA (what is that?), and that it is indeed only available from them from October through March. They encouraged me to let my grocery store know about them and about the vegetable, and see if they will order it for me from them. I will try this fall ...