Every time I’m in Rome I see puntarella on the menu. Of course, puntarella comes to market in early spring, so every time I ask about it in summer or fall I get that look that reeks of “silly American, you should know we don’t have puntarella now!”
But right now you can get it at the Ferry Building Plaza Farmers market.
Puntarella is another bitter type of chicory from Lazio, and a Roman favorite. It goes with strong flavors, and is just perfect with anchovies.
Are Italians and Chinese the only cultures who find bitterness a compelling flavor? I know I do, but mention bitter and people shy away, looking at you like you’re nuts for mentioning it as a flavor rather than a warning taste that shouts, “stay away!”
Ok, so there’s this box of puntarella at the farmers market. “Look!” I exclaim to Martha, “Puntarella!”
I’ve no longer gotten the words out of my mouth when a woman swoops down and starts fondling the puntarella. She’s all over the branches, sliding her fingers up and down like she’s feeling for warts or something. She fondles every danged branch, then starts over. Maybe there’s a secret microphone in there she’s searching for. Maybe she’s heard the next plot on America will coalesce when three swarthy foreigners meet over a box of puntarella to discuss plans to overthrow the government and corner the market on bitter greens.
Why do people have to fondle the vegetables? I’m glad market folks in Italy smack people for sticking their filthy hands in food bins.
So, OK, it’s puntarella season. I made salad. Still, I can’t wait to get back to Italia. What’s wrong with me?