When agretti (other names: barba di frate, friar's beard, saltwort, salsola soda, Russian thistle & barilla plant) starts to appear among the usual vegetables, it's an affirmation that spring is here. Asparagus comes in early too so these two were among the first spring vegetables that I cooked at the start of the season. This is the first recipe where I put them together in one dish. I was hesitant because both are strong in flavors, thinking that they might clash with each other.
I started by blanching them separately then I tasted them together. Even if they share strength in flavors, there was no competition of tastes. I could still distinguish the individual tastes of each vegetable which was what I wanted. I love simply combined dishes, vegetables especially, where you can discern each taste of the ingredient.
Going basic with the dressing, I originally thought of just using extra virgin olive oil and salt but then, it needed something to put all the ingredients together in a non-complex embrace of flavors. My eyes landed on my bottle of balsamic vinegar and I found the perfect missing component.
Eggs go well with asparagus. When I made this, it was around the Easter period when I had more than enough eggs sitting on my kitchen counter. So I grated a hard boiled egg on top of the "nest" I prepared. It was fun! It looked like cheese.
And for a second there, I thought my daughter was going to dig in because she was captivated by my nests. But I think in her little girl's mind, she was actually thinking (or hoping) that a bird might swoop down on one of them. Just to be on the safe side, I secured the kitchen window close. I've already had an episode of cats eating the strawberry tarts that I was waiting to cool down on the terrace table.
Asparagus is low in calories & sodium but high in a lot of nutrients while agretti is rich in fibers, salt minerals and vitamins A & B. It also has a high level of water composition. Of course some of these nutrients get lost after blanching but putting good, healthy ingredients together in a plate is always welcome on the table. Buon appetito!
More recipes with agretti and asparagus:
Agretti & Asparagus Nest with Eggs
- 150 grams agretti or friar's beard, hard part taken away
- 250 grams asparagus, hard part taken away
- 3 tablespoons Monari Federzoni balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP Invecchiatto Etichetta Oro)Monari Federzoni balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP Invecchiato Etichetta Oro) - See more at: http://www.apronandsneakers.com/2014/01/boozy-strawberry-balsamic-vinegar-shake.html#sthash.MiGGzihV.dpuf
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg, hard boiled
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Over high heat, boil a pot of salted water.
- While waiting for the water to boil, prepare a bowl of water with a lot of ice to be used as the ice bath for the blanched vegetables.
- When the water boils, blanch the agretti for 3 minutes and the asparagus for 3 - 5 minutes, depending on the thickness.
- Drop them vegetables in the ice bath immediately after taking away from the boiling water to retain the color and the crispiness. Drain when the vegetables have cooled down.
- Chop the asparagus.
- In a small bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Adjust the amount according to your taste.
- Pour the dressing on the vegetables and distribute well.
- Arrange the agretti like a nest on the serving plate with the asparagus in the middle.
- Grate the hard boiled egg on the vegetables and sprinkle the parsley.