03 March 2012

Friar's Beard (Agretti) Salad with Anchovy & Lemon Dressing


My first thought when I was shown a bunch of agretti prior to being cooked for lunch was, "Oh God, they eat grass in Italy."  

Like so many new vegetables and fruits I encountered in this country, agretti are one of those that made me feel quite "uninformed" in the subject.   I gape, I ask and I learn about the best preparation of a vegetable, stories attached to it, what season they are eaten, and the conversations continue.   In a country that treats a vegetable as a conversation piece, it's an endless journey anywhere, anytime and with anyone about learning the genuine gastronomy from the local people.  



Where else can we learn the authentic way of cooking the local food but from the people themselves? It's everyone's passion that puts the popular topic of calcio (football) at the backseat.   It doesn't matter if you are female or male, if you are 3 years old or 100, or where you are.  Everyone speaks up when someone says the magic word.  Food.


When I bought these agretti at the market, the vendor was asking me if i wanted some puntarelle (chicory) because they are already in season.  I said I will fix myself a big puntarelle salad as soon as I finish all the fresh things I bought from her.  She advised me to try the puntarelle pie and embarked on a step-by-step procedure on how to go about it.  From the way her face lighted up and the speed of her gesticulation, I understood that I have to try it.  It's good, she promised.  


But for now, with the opening of spring, the agretti are everywhere.  They look like grass and they have a reminiscent taste of grass with a twist of spinach.  There is also the unmistakable earthy flavor.  In spite of the unattractive way I am describing them, they are very good especially when blanched and dressed with lemon, oil and anchovies.  Its a side dish that goes perfectly well with fish and some meat dishes. 

Buon appetito!




Friar's Beard (Agretti) Salad with Anchovy & Lemon Dressing

Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil   
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  
  • 1/2 lemon 
  • ground pepper 
  • about 200 g. agretti (two bunches)
Directions:
  1. Put the anchovies in a mortar & pestle.  Pound them until you have a paste.  
  2. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk with the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil & pepper.  Adjust the lemon and anchovies according to your taste.  Set aside.
  3. Cut away the hard part of the agretti leaving just the green part.  Clean under the tap.   Set aside.
  4. Boil some water in a saucepan.   Prepare a big bowl of ice and water that can accommodate the agretti.  When the water boils, add some salt.
  5. Blanch the agretti for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to the bowl of ice and water.  Make sure that they are submerged in the water.  This way, you trap the color and freshness of the vegetables. Once cold, drain well.
  6. Transfer the agretti to a serving bowl and pour the dressing.  
 
 
 

14 comments:

  1. Oh my - I just got back from Italy and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't buy some seeds of this plant. I first encountered it when we lived in Rome and have never seen it in the states.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ciao Linda. I think it's available in the US but hard to find. It's a good idea to plant them yourself. I do that to the vegetables & fruits that are hard to find in Italy. You should be able to find the seeds at the internet. Good luck!

      Delete
  2. I think anything dressed with lemons and anchovies is tasty but I admit, the agretti are beautiful and interesting enough on their own. What a unique salad!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I agree. One of my favorite combinations is lemons & anchovies, like your blog's name. Salty & sour together just makes me drool. I love this salad so much. It's a pity they're seasonal.

      Delete
  3. It's so admirable that Italians really understand how important food and la cucina is not only for ones well-being but also for a person's identity and culture. Germans generally don't get too excited about food (guess they are too busy complaining about everything and nothing).

    I admittedly have never heard of agretti before or don't even remember seeing something resembling it but chives maybe. However, I'm truly intrigued and will keep my eyes peeled now.

    Cheers,
    Tobias

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do resemble chives so much from afar but once you are up close, you would think they are beautiful, healthy grass from the garden. Haha! Look out for them at the markets. This is their season. They can also be sold "cleaned" already, without the roots and soil.

      Delete
  4. Wow! I have never seen this before. Looks beautiful plated with the lemon. The bunches look similar to onion sets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're not so common outside Italy I guess (not sure). I have never seen them before either until the time I moved here. It's one of my favorite seasonal vegetables.

      Delete
  5. i lived in Italy during the 60's/70's and came to know and love agretti / the closest we come to it here in the desert is baby tumbleweed ! / picked when it first appears, young and tender, tumbleweed seedlings are just like agretti and are served dressed with olive oil and lemon

    si mangia bene / Caterina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good that you found an alternative. As much as I love agretti, sometimes, I forget that it's in season and lose the chance to have it. The I have to wait for the following year again! They disappear fast.

      Delete
  6. So different; I love it!

    Like you I have never heard of this before I am now officially on the hunt for the seeds to see if I can grow this in my garden this year :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually buy the seeds of my tropical plants online, in the UK. I saw that agretti seeds are available online. Good luck in looking for them.

      Delete
  7. We have just discovered your blogs and they took our breath away. They are witty, charming and informative. And the photographs! Oh, my!!! We will be revisiting many times!!

    Kathryn & Allan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the wonderful note! Hope to see you back here again. Cheers!

      Delete

I would love to read what you think!