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Italian Dandelion Chicory - Cthulhu Vegetable?

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I found the most beautiful vegetable at the supermarket (see pictures - one has a 10" pumpkin for size comparison) and of course bought it, not knowing how to cook it or really what it was. I searched the Chow world and the internet for the three clues I had:

-according to the produce man, it's Italian
-it was labeled with some Italian or latinate variation of the word "dandelion"
-it was labeled with some Italian or latinate variation of the word "chicory"

I found NOTHING that looked like what I bought! Not a single picture or explanation!

Some of the offered specimens at the market had more dandelion leaves sprouting out of them did the small one I chose for experimentation - I tried to feature the dandelion leaf (as with the salad) in one of the pictures. The pretty cylinders with green tendrils are hollow tubes with walls about a quarter of an inch thick.

Can anyone help me identify this vegetable and, better yet, give me hints on how to use it? If no one responds I will have to resort to sautéing it in duck fat and pouring in chicken broth to deglaze as that's all I know how to do with something that weird looking :(

Thanks!

 
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      1. Puntarelle?
        http://jmarchinifarms.com/products/pu...

        Some cultivars are quite bitter and taste better eaten raw (after slicing and rinsing with cold water) and appreciated for their crunch rather than cooked.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Melanie, thank you so much, that's obviously it! I will give saladry a try.

          1. re: Sarah Perry

            You chose such an interesting camera angle. I'd never really looked at puntarelle from the top down, usually only sideways. So I wasn't entirely sure until I could find a similar photo on the web!

            It's not hard to find in Northern California when in season. I've linked below some of the discussions that mention restaurant dishes to spark your imagination. When I buy it at the farmers market, I always ask if I can break off and taste a bit of it first. It's not inexpensive and I need to be sure that it has a tolerable level of bitterness for my taste buds.

            http://www.chow.com/search?query=punt...

            http://www.notonlypizza.com/2010/04/0...

        2. Not surprisingly, Melanie nailed it. It is puntarelle. In Italy it is not called dandelion, but rather la catalogna (puntarelle, a plural, is not standard Italian -- or wasn't until some years ago -- but rather Roman). In English it's Catalonian chicory. It some parts of Italy it is cooked, but in Rome we remove the outer leaves (of which there are none in your picture) and trim the stalks painstakingly into thin strips. These are put in cold water to curl, then drained and dressed with an anchovy and garlic dressing. It is probably the only salad in central Italy with its own proprietary dressing and the only salad I know of in these parts whose dressing is made separately and poured over the salad, as opposed to being mixed right on the salad in the serving bowl. In Rome they are only available in the winter and one chooses one's market vendor on the basis of the skill with which the puntarelle have been trimmed. Occasionally my husband, an engineer, likes to do it at home, and his are fantastic, but he gets bored after a while so the quantity is always less than optimum.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mbfant

            How nice to cross paths with you, Maureen, and so helpful to have this info from you. Could it really be 18 yrs ago that we "met" on CIS?

            I've also seen puntarelle called Roman chicory in California. Was almost inspired enough to head to the farmers market this morning to find some . . . but 35 degree weather changed my mind. :0

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              18 years! I didn't even think I'd been using a computer for 18 years. Time does fly.

              Roman chicory makes sense as nomenclature, certainly more than Catalonian, even though the latter is official. The plant is used elsewhere, but its greatest moment (la morte sua, in the local vernacular) is in Rome as puntarelle. Terminological analogy: romaine lettuce. In Rome it is simply lattuga, elsewhere lattuga romana.

          2. I have no idea what it is, but I have to agree with its resemblance to the Great Old One.