Puntarelle, Cedro Lemon, Mandarin Orange & Caper Berry Salad
Oh, those beautiful Puntarelle- I simply can't resist them! It has been a couple of months since I last ate any and after the over-indulgence of Christmas and the holidays, a little something lighter is not a bad idea- especially if it can be as delicious as this!
The big, Roman brother of those little white chicory/endives that are available the world over, these really are something altogether more wonderful! They are so juicy, crispy and wonderful in there bitter freshness, that when it comes to salads, for me at least, they are a pretty tough show to follow! They deserve every bit of the limelight that I shine on them!
To make this refreshingly Mediterranean salad, I needed a head of puntarelle, 1 cedro lemon (larger than a grapefruit), a mandarin orange, 3 caper berries, some fresh parsley, salt, pepper, honey and good olive oil- very plain and simple, but so very, very good!
If you can not get puntarelle, you could make this salad using regular chicoree or endives, or even fennel... it will not be quite the same (nothing is!), but it will still be as crunchy and refreshing.
The first step is to peel the fruit, making sure to shave off a little zest from each and to cut it into fine strips to scatter over the finished salad. Next, trim the stalks from the caper berries and slice them as finely as possible.
Finish peeling the cedro, cutting away the zest only, as it is the remaining white "pith" of the lemon which is the eating part. Cut away the peel from the mandarin right down to the point where you can see the exposed fruit.
Trim away the white part of the cedro and cut it into small, bite-sized sticks and cut the filets out of the mandarin using a sharp knife.
Squeeze the juice from the cedro and the remaining pulp of the mandarin into a bowl and add salt, pepper, olive oil and honey to taste. Add the finely chopped parsley and there you have a dressing that is both sweet and tangy, but also has the neutral freshness of the parsley to blend the other strong flavors of this salad together.
Cut the puntarelle, or whichever of the other options you may have decided to use in the finest slices you can manage... The Romans have a cool, "mandolin-like" gadget that they use for slicing their puntarelle... but I am a Sicilian, so I used a knife and a little skill- hehe!
Simply arrange the ingredients of your salad decoratively and drizzle generously with dressing before serving- remember to add that zest to make this really come to life!
Should you taste it and find it to still be too bitter for your liking, (I love bitter foods, but of course not every one does), simply add a little drizzle of extra honey... make this salad and this dressing your own!
I may be craving soups and stews and indeed I will be enjoying them too in the coming months. But there are enough lovely Winter salads like this one, which can make it less of a sacrifice and a challenge to eat a little more lightly... at least for a while. Because the Spirit of Christmas Past is still sitting around my waistline- and it is time to move on and get started with the New Year! Thank goodness for dishes like this that make it a little easier!