Sunset at the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Any time of year, I look forward to the newly fresh produce on offer at local markets. I recently learned that all of the Barba di frate, aka Monk’s Beard or Buck’s Horn Plantain, in our local markets here come from the marshes around Venice.

Just knowing this conjures up visions of sunsets on the Grand Canal, fresh seafood from the Adriatic, and dining al fresco. Who wouldn’t be curious about a veggie named after the facial hair of monks?

I’d never tasted the slightly salty, slightly acidic Buck’s Horn Plantain before coming to Europe, but nowadays, I enjoy it snipped over a salad or into an omelet, or stirred into a lemon risotto. In days gone by, this herb was put to medicinal as well as gustatory purposes, even worn around the neck as an amulet…I like it because it is good to eat.Yesterday, when I got home from the market, I headed to The Silver Spoon, with its recipes for authentic Italian home cooking, and one of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration. Dinner would be Buck’s Horn Plantain with Pancetta (Barba Di Frate Alla Pancetta), atop a plate of pasta.

Unwrapped, the bundle of earthy greens deposited dirt from Italy on my kitchen counter and released a whiff of straight-from-the-marshes fresh and earthy. It didn’t take much to get the ingredients together. A bit of chopping, and stirring, and I found myself in spring-time Venice. It was a lovely place to be.

San MarcoThanks to the folks at Laughing Lemon in Zurich, I always know what is absolutely freshest in our local markets in any season. A look at their list of “fresh this month at the market” page practically builds my produce shopping list unattended.

Thank you Jack and Silvia! Thank you Silver Spoon!

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  1. Anita, your photos are fantastic! Having not yet been to Venice, I want more than ever to go, to have my own vision of the Grand Canal, taste the fresh seafood of the Adriatic, the Monk's Beard, and know the smell of the marshes. Also, I love the "Laughing Lemon" and had not heard of anything like that, although I assume such sites exist elsewhere. Keep blogging, please, these are marvelous!


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