The market stalls are awashed with new spring vegetables, some are completely new to me. My new found obsessions are agretti (salsola soda) and fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers). Both very different vegetables with different ways preparing them.
Agrette (at the bottom of the picture) is quite unique as they appear to look like chives but with thicker leaves, commonly found in Italy (also known as Barba di Frete). I was told in the market, they normally serve them as a contorno (side dish). Simply boil them in salt water. Afterwhich drain them, add olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Another suggestion was to cook them with pasta, tomatoes and cheese. They taste in fact like spinach.
2 large tomatoes skinned, deseeded and sliced
– Make a ‘x’ incision at the bottom of the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to boil. drop the tomatoes into the pot and cover for about 2 mins, drain and soaked them under cold water for another 2 mins. Peel the skin off. Deseed and slice the tomatoes thinly into strips.
250 g of taglioni, or linguine
1 pip of garlic thinly sliced
1 bunch of agretti (cut the root ends off , washed several times – to get rid of the dirt/sand)
salt and pepper
50g ricotta or freshly grated parmaggiano
On a separate pot, boil the water with salt , once boiling, throw in the agretti for about 3-5 mins. Drain and leave aside. Cook the pasta according to instructions. Heat the olive oil & garlic in a pan, add in the slice tomatoes , salt and pepper. Add in the pasta and agretti and toss well . If you are using ricotta ,add the cheese last and stir well. Serve on a plate with freshly grated parmaggiano and chopped parsley.
Fiori di Zucca (Zucchini flowers)
Wash and pat them dry. Coat it with flour, then dip into a bowl of beaten egg (1 egg) and roll over some breadcrumbs.
Heat up the peanut oil for deep frying. Drop the zucchini flowers into hot oil, about 1 min or when golden brown, lift them up to drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with salt and a bit of pepper before serving. Serve while warm and crispy.
** some recipes have them stuffed with anchovies, fish meat, before frying them.