Welcome back, Agretti!
At first sight they remind the chives. Then their thicker consistency, the reddish color of the root suggest that we have something else in front of us. Agretti are not so common, they can be found only in this season. Nowadays, sick of so many usual foods, we, tired consumers, like to go to the market just to see if there something we do not know. Agretti is one of these rare delicacies. This particular veggie takes different names: Barba di Frate, Barba del Negus ( Beard of monk, Beard of Negus, Negus grass), Lischi.
Rich of sodium, the Agretti have a weakly acid taste and leave a slightly astringent sensation in the mouth.
Elegant both in shape and flavor, they match well with a well balanced sour-oily condiments. In order to maintain their unique texture – thick and pleasant at the byte – it is enough to boil them in salted water for three minutes. The best is to steam them.

Ingredients for 4:

600 gr Agretti
12 quail eggs
80 gr fish roe
60 gr extra virgin olive oil
The juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
Coarse salt for the water

Clean the Agretti cutting off the root. Rinse them carefully.
Bring to boil a pot of water. Salt it with 10 gr coarse salt. Bring to boil another (smaller) pot of water.
While waiting, prepare a vinaigrette whisking olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slice the fish roe.
Cook the Agretti in the boiling water for 3 minutes and drain ( at this point you can optionally immerse the Agretti in iced cold water to stop the cooking. I don’t, as I like this dish still lukewarm). At the same time, immerse the quail eggs into the smaller pot with a holed spoon, so that they do not break in the impact. Cook them for three minutes: the white part will be completely coagulated and the yolk will be still soft. Take the eggs off and put in cold water.
Make four nests with the Agretti: big fork and big spoon would be useful. Place three quail eggs on top, distribute the slices of fish roe and dress with the vinaigrette.
This is a simple warm salad, but the details in preparation are what makes the difference: a longer cooking of the Agretti would change their color and texture; a hard-boiled quail egg would loose its velvety flavor. Also the wine to pair is very important: it must be brilliant enough to stand the acid idea of the vinaigrette and not strong enough to not cover the delicacy of all these tastes. My first choice goes to Gavi de’ Gavi. This wine, “cortese” both for the name of the grapes and its own characteristic – “cortese” means gentle - , balances the fatness of the fish roe and the light sourness of the lemon vinaigrette. Nice pairing surprises would come also with wines like Lugana di Lombardia and with La Favorita delle Langhe.
If you chose the sparking version of the Gavi de’ Gavi, due to the presence of fish roe and eggs, this easy appetizer would be a perfect aphrodisiac….