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An Ode to Agretti

Agretti, Agretti, how do I love thee!

I’m sure the neighbors think I’m crazy.  I’ve been waltzing around the house proclaiming my love to this deletable vegetable in song.  But if ever a vegetable deserved to be serenaded, it is agretti.

I stopped by our village vegetable market on  my way to picking up some milk and Fontina from the neighbor’s raw milk vending machine, and I about jumped to the ceiling in joy when I saw that they had agretti.  Agretti mean it’s nearly spring.  Agretti also mean that I get to eat agretti, which is pretty much the best thing this gal could ask for.

What are agretti?  They look like grass, and are a succulent plant that grows in Italian bog land.  They have skinny red roots, and when you steam them, they taste like salty lemons.  I learned to cook them from my friend Stefano Zonca (one of the best chefs in Italy, and I had the opportunity to work with him in his restaurant two years ago).  You can do a lot of things with agretti…. they make an incredible tortellini stuffing, and are good eaten raw, but I like them best steamed and tossed with a bit of lemon and olive oil.

Yesterday I bought some infused organic extra virgin olive oil from a farmer at the market… two bottles.  One infused with lemon rind, the other with truffles.  I have a feeling a dab of the truffle olive oil will be divine on my little agretti friends.

I also found some pleurotus mushrooms at the market, and they turned into a creamy mushroom soup to accompany the agretti.

If you can somehow find agretti where you live, they can be found from early February until the first days of June.  They are easy to clean, just snap off the red roots, and rinse the dirt off of them.

Snap the red roots off like this

In a heavy bottomed pan (I love using a copper one) that has a lid, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil, and toss the damp agretti around in it.  Squeeze in half a lemon, and cover the pot for 3-5 minutes, until they’ve reduced but are still ‘al dente’.  Drizzle with olive oil (even better if it is a truffle or lemon infused olive oil!) and sprinkle with fleur de sel.  Enjoy hot!

This is my favorite pot for cooking agretti.  It is encased in copper and has a stainless steel lid.
What agretti should look like when they are ready.
Agretti, I love you

Great used as a side dish, or as a base of a main course.  They are absolutely delicious topped with cannellini  bean dishes, such as polenta crusted white bean balls (I’ll make a post on how to do that later!) or a roasted garlic white bean puree.

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