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Farmers market report: Puntarelle is in season. What it is and how to use it

Farmers market report: Puntarelle is in season. What it is and how to use it
Puntarelle is an Italian member of the chicory family. Use its celery-like core in a classic Roman salad, or add to a salad or roast or grill. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

What's in season: You may have seen puntarelle at farmers markets without knowing quite what it is: The vegetable looks kind of like Tim Burton grafted a bunch of dandelion leaves onto a massive head of bok choy. Rather, it's an Italian member of the chicory family, which includes endive, escarole and radicchio. We recently spotted beautiful mounds of puntarelle at the Garden of ... stand at farmers markets in Santa Monica and Hollywood, where helpful staff informed curious customers about how to use the stuff. Strip away the outer leaves to reveal a celery-like core of hollow stalks, which are classically used in a Roman salad lightly dressed with an anchovy vinaigrette. You can also find puntarelle at Kenter Canyon Farms stands for at least the next few weeks.

What's on the horizon: Look for slender asparagus and artichokes.

What to cook: If using the puntarelle raw, soak the greens first to get rid of some of the bitter flavor. Separate the inner stalks, cutting them into strips and soaking them in ice water for an hour or so until the pieces curl before draining and adding to a salad. Or try cooking the greens, lightly dressing the inner stalks with oil before roasting or grilling.

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