They taste especially delicious with monk’s beard

FOOD BLOG OSTBRÖCKLI

This tempting herb grows on salty grounds and is perfect with spaghetti

The monk beard is back! A delicious change to our winter vegetables. Barba di frate evokes feelings of happiness and cheers us up always in a different preparation in the kitchen. Spaghetti with a monk’s beard is a classic.

It’s a feeling of happiness every time you can finally buy a monk’s beard from us again. It’s like waking up in early spring – sometime when winter isn’t quite gone and spring isn’t quite here yet.

There always comes a point when even the most sophisticated recipes for savoy cabbage, carrots, parsnips and the like are exhausted. Then we are in the mood for other flavors. Then comes the hour of the peculiar but exquisitely flavored monk’s beard, or – melodically flattering – barba di frate. The name probably once again refers to the monks’ culinary skills and enjoyment of pleasures, the latter not always above all religious suspicion.

The monk’s beard can be found in the “Italian”

Monk’s beard, which is in season now and into May, grows wild in salt flats near the sea. It usually comes to us from Italy, where it is also grown. You can find it in weekly markets, for example in St.Gallen, “Italy”, but now also in well-stocked supermarkets.

The herb looks like a chive, but its stems are fleshy. It comes out in bunches. Barba di frate has an earthy-sour taste, which, depending on the origin, also has a salty note.

Claudio Del Principe, who should know, writes in his cookbook “a casa” (Verlag): “Long live the trendy beard! That a niche product like Barba di frate is suddenly gaining popularity is a blessing. Finally, the Agretti, as they are called, can no longer be found only in Italian markets, but also here as a monk’s beard…»

A niche product or a trendy vegetable – monk’s beard can delight us in the kitchen in more and more different preparations and in more and more different combinations. The classic is spaghetti with a monk’s beard, or linguine, which has been reserved on the menu in our household for years.

The basic recipe is as simple as it is excellent: trimmed and washed monk’s beard is boiled and mixed with spaghetti for the last few minutes and served drizzled with olive oil.

It goes very well with fried fish, scallops or prawns. Elisabeth Bronfen, a professor of English language studies at the University of Zurich and an enthusiastic cook, wrote in her inspiring cookbook “Besessen. Meine Kochmemoiren» (Echtzeit Verlag) made the basic recipe a little more complicated with some other ingredients:

Spaghetti with monk’s beard for 2 people

  • 250 grams of spaghetti
  • 250 g armed monk beard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • some chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Salt, pepper, butter, some cherry tomatoes

preparation

  • Prepare and wash the monk’s beard.
  • Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente according to the package instructions, add the monk’s beard 3 minutes before the end of the cooking time. At the end, put some cooking water aside, then drain the spaghetti together with the monk’s beard and pour it into the pan in which the sauce was prepared in the meantime.
  • For the sauce, put the olive oil on medium heat and stir in the anchovy fillets, add lemon juice. Then briefly fry the garlic and capers. Carefully add the chili flakes. The whole thing should be a creamy sauce.
  • Once the spaghetti and monk’s beard are in the sauce, add some of the reserved cooking water and a pinch of butter. Mix well. If necessary, season with salt and pepper.
  • Garnish with cherry tomatoes that have been warmed up in a separate small pan.

Vegetable straws also taste good in and on top of risotto, in frittatas or quiche, and finally as a vegetable or salad. Claudio Del Principe writes “a casa” that he “prefers to prepare delicate vegetables as a warm salad, a very stimulating appetizer”.

It also cuts a fine figure as a vegetable side dish

Preparation is also easy. He twirls the monk’s beard in heated olive oil to which he has added finely chopped garlic until it sags a little but still has a bite to it. The plate is seasoned with salt and pepper, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar emphasize the culinary pleasure. Monk’s beard could also be served as a vegetable side dish. Del Principe prepares it the same way, mixing it later with spaghetti or linguine.

Monk’s beard salad for two people

  • approx. 150 g monk’s beard, armed
  • 1 white and 1 small red chicory
  • some walnut kernels
  • 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
  • walnut oil
  • white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Salt pepper

preparation

  • prepare a salad.
  • Toss monk’s beard in heated olive oil for 4-5 minutes until wilted but wilted. Allow to cool slightly.
  • Arrange the salads in a circle on a wide plate with a monk’s beard nest in the center.
  • Garnish with nuts and pomegranate seeds.
  • Mix the vinaigrette with walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad.

A feast for the senses begins with setup

Before dealing with barba di frate, two things should be noted. Its taste is earthy and peculiar, yet sensitive. When preparing it, it is worth being careful when adding strong spices: never too much garlic or chili, never too much anchovy or lemon, etc. But in fact, you should always work with tact in the kitchen.

And before you can get to those nuances, monk’s beard requires careful preparation – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the quality in which it is available. It is best to cut off the root section generously first. Then you should also pick the thicker parts of the stems, so that there are still stems that ripen evenly.

All that remains is to rinse the vegetables. Elisabeth Bronfen considers this procedure “a bit annoying”, but something good can also come out of it: “At the same time, there is something sensual in this work,” she writes in “Possessed” magazine, “but this very dark smell, these bushes are already opening.”

That’s the beauty of cooking and eating: a feast for the senses. And it can certainly start with the preparation of vegetables – and hopefully end with a grand finale at the table.

Gourmet editor Urs Bader makes spaghetti with a monk's beard.

Gourmet editor Urs Bader prepares spaghetti with a monk’s beard.

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Text: Diana Hagmann-Bula, photos: Donato Caspari

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