Samphire (also known as marsh samphire, salicornia, or sea asparagus) is a salt tolerant plant that grows near the sea. In Italy it is called asparagi di mare (sea asparagus), although I don’t think it tastes like asparagus. Samphire is crunchy and has a fresh and salty taste. At La Perla in Calasetta in Sardinia the antipasti also included a very simple but delicious salad of blanched samphire with tomato and olive oil. So far I had only prepared samphire sautéed. I noticed that blanching it removes some of the salt, which is nice. Mixed with good tomatoes, this is a very simple yet still special treat as samphire is not usually on the menu. It is easily available in the Netherlands at fish mongers under the name of zeekraal.
For 2 servings
225 grams (.5 lb) samphire
225 grams (.5 lb) tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
Bring a pot with about 1 litre (4 cups) of water to a boil. Do not add salt to the water, as part of the reason for blanching the samphire is to reduce the amount of salt. When the water boils, add the samphire and blanch until tender but still slightly crunchy, about 2 minutes.
Shock the samphire in (ice) cold water to stop the cooking.
Drain the samphire well and pat it dry with paper towels.
Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and remove the seeds with your fingers (or a small spoon). Then cut into small pieces.
Season the tomatoes lightly with salt (optional). This helps to balance out the flavor between the samphire and the tomatoes. You may want to taste the samphire and tomatoes together before doing this, as the samphire is already quite salty.
Combine the samphire and tomatoes in a bowl, and add good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Stir until everything is coated with the oil.
Serve at once. (If you put salt on the tomatoes, which draws out liquid from the tomatoes, it will get soggy if you wait.)
A special technique for cooking pasta is to cook it “risottata”, which is pasta cooked in the way of risotto. This means that the pasta is cooked in stock from the start, and more stock is added as needed during the cooking process. This is a great way to prepare spaghetti with red mullet.