June 11, 2009


Before the full-on arrival of summer, I want to speak of agretti. Agretti is a fabulous marsh grass that I look forward to seeing in the outdoor market of Sant'Ambrogio in Florence every spring. It's the only time it's succulent green fronds are seen. Slightly salty, it derives it's name botanically from 'Salsola soda', latin for Salsus, meaning salt, as it doesn't mind growing in seriously salty soil and is even irrigated with salt water. Funny then, it should be related to the tumbleweed. This vegetable is anything but dry and tumbling.

I am attracted to agretti, the same way I am sea vegetables, as if my bloodstream is standing on end saying, yes! Choose that one! Please, oh please! Dare we say liver cleanser as well? We can safely say, delicious. Carefully cleaned and stemmed, the agretti is dropped in lightly salted boiling water for roughly 5 minutes. The color shifts into that glistening green and the fronds soften like cooked spaghetti. Some people actually call it 'green spaghetti'. Personally, I like to shape it into a nest, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, and put a poached egg on top sprinked with cumin and cracked black pepper. A crumble of Pierre Cusseau's 'Grande Sale' ( Brittany salt mixed with pepperoncino )and a new drizzle of e.v.o.oil, makes the dish. Or is it the fresh egg cooked to perfection that releases it's golden yolk into the nest like a soft yellow blanket?

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