Monk's beard, what a strange name!
It's the common name of salsola soda, a beautiful plant that grows in my country and is known to like salty environments (think: growing very close to the sea and don't minding being irrigated with salty water).
For ages it's been a very humble plant used more for soap and glass production than for its taste while nowadays it's a real delicacy - one quite difficult to find here in Holland!
Thanks to a lovely colleague of mine who brought me a beautiful bunch of agretti (the other Italian name for this beautiful little plant) I was able to have my students of the "Basics of the Italian Cuisine" cooking course prepare it and enjoy it.
We served it cold, like a salad, and we used a recipe I found on an old Italian cooking magazine, slightly adapted to my own taste.
It's a lovely salad, very tasty also thanks to the use of Taggia olives (the very small, dark black olives from my birth region Liguria), perfect as part of a light Spring menu.
If you want to know more about barba di frate take a look at its very own Wikipedia page. :)
Barba di frate marinata
1 bunch of monk's beard (about 300-400 gr.)
60 gr. black olives, preferably Taggia
1 organic lemon
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of capers in vinegar, rinsed
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil
Chop the parsley leaves after discarding the stalks and the peeled garlic clove.
Grate half the lemon zest and mix with the parsley and the garlic.
Chop the capers and the olives very coarsely and add them to the parsley mixture.
Add the juice of ½ lemon, a pinch of salt and 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
Blanch the monk beard for 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water.
Drain and stop the cooking process by dipping the monk's beard in ice cold water. Drain well.
Put the monk's beard into a bowl and pour the dressing on it.
Allow some time to marinate in the refrigerator and take out the fridge half an hour before serving.