Friday, June 07, 2013
In Season NW: Agretti! (Gesundheit!)
When I wander the aisles at a farmers' market, it's like I'm on a treasure hunt. I'm always scanning for things I've never seen, for the oddball fruits and vegetables that farmers are growing to try to capture shoppers' (and chefs') imaginations.
Groundworks Organics stand at the King farmers market. It was something I'd seen on menus around town, but I'd never come across it in the store or at a market or cooked with it at home. Would this be my discovery of the day?
Knowing the internet is always in my hip pocket and would provide guidance, I picked up a bunch and, sure enough, a little searching led to information as well as uses for this pretty gem. Turns out it's a succulent, Salsola soda, known also as Friar's Beard ("Barba di Frate" in Italian) and is grown in saltwater-irrigated land in the Mediterranean. It's often chopped and used fresh both for its crunchy texture and slightly salty character, but it can also be cooked and added to soups, stews and pasta dishes.
Since dinner that night was still an open question, I decided to combine it with cherry tomatoes, anchovies and garlic for a twist on a favorite pasta dish. It not only added wonderful color and crunch, but made a great conversation starter around the table. I call that big win for what started as a chance discovery.
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic, Anchovies and Agretti
1 lb. pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jar or tin of anchovy fillets (2 oz.), drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 bunch agretti, chopped in 1" pieces
1 c. parmesan, grated
Bring pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook till al dente.
Head oil in skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add garlic cloves and sauté till slightly browned. Remove skillet from heat and gradually add anchovy fillets, crushing them with the back of a spoon until they dissolve. Return skillet to heat and add tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes collapse and sauce thickens. Remove from heat and add agretti, stirring to combine and slightly wilt the agretti.
Drain pasta and put into large serving bowl. Pour agretti sauce over top and toss gently to combine. Garnish with grated parmesan and serve with more grated parmesan at the table.