Cookery is often like a journey rediscovering the specific and peculiar flavours of traditional recipes or regional dishes, often well suited as an accompaniment to more substantial dishes: today we suggest a Roman-style bitter leaf salad. Distinguished by their freshness and simplicity, the Italian bitter salad leaves are favoured especially in the traditional cuisine of Lazio and Campania: made simply, and raw, they are for just this reason ideal for providing a touch of lightness to lunch or dinner. With this dish you will also be reviving the flavours of a recipe that has its roots deep in the culinary heritage of the Italian countryside, adding to the bitterness of the salad leaves some extra depth from the garlic and anchovy. To avoid any mistakes, and thus making sure you serve something tasty and crispy to your guests, follow our recipe carefully!
Prepare the salad leaves by removing all the external stems (the longer ones), but don’t throw them away! It would be a waste: they are very good sautéed with a little garlic and chilli. But that's another story, back to the current recipe: now you should have in your hand the heart of the salad leaf plant. Remove them one by one from the base and rinse under running water. Now cut them into vertical strips, leaving out the toughest part near the base. Fill the sink with cold water and leave to soak for ten minutes so that the cold water firms up the stems. In fact, the salad leaves harvested between January and February are longer and, according to tradition, the skins should be removed so that the cold water curls them. But I prefer not to remove the skin because I like the texture and taste. Do as you prefer! Now prepare the unsalted dressing, mixing oil and lemon juice (I usually use the "bottles" that you see in the picture gallery, which are really practical both for emulsifying and for pouring the dressing). Coarsely chop the garlic and anchovy. Remove the salad leaves from the water and dry in a salad spinner. Dress the salad leaves with the chopped anchovy and garlic, the lemon dressing, and salt to taste.