Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salicorne (Pousse-Pierre)

I've got salicorne on my mind.  We recently had dinner with friends from Colombia, who were passing through Paris - so I went to the market on Sunday morning to see what I could find for dinner that night.  At the fish shop sat a pile of fresh salicorne.  Cool!  I don't see that often, and so I eagerly asked the fish guy to give me a few handfuls.

So, what is salicorne exactly?  I tasted it for the first time in the marshlands of Brittany many years ago while visiting a fleur de sel "farm", just off the Atlantic coast.  It's a green plant, a sea vegetable, that grows wildly along the salt marshes.  We picked some that day & ate it on the spot, guided by an expert from the region.  It was salty, immensely crunchy & very moist!  An explosion of sea in your mouth, without it tasting too salty, oddly enough.  I immediately liked it. 

Salicorne goes by many names...I don't think I've seen anything called so many different things!  My favorite is sea asparagus because, well, they kind of look like mini asparagus (to me) & they  taste like the sea!  Other names include slender glasswort, sea beans, sea pickle, and samphire.  Isn't Google great...It also clarified for me that it originates off the coasts of Europe but can also be cultivated and found in other parts of the world, including the coasts of North America, South Africa and South Asia.  Many high end restaurants use it on their plates because it is surprisingly good & beautiful.

It can be eaten raw, pickled, and sautéed....

I served it raw on Sunday night as part of the entrée froid (cold 1st course):  Ceviche de bar, mariniére de coquillages aux aromates et salicorne (Sea bass ceviche, shellfish & aromatic vegetable salad with sea asparagus).

Here's how I prepared it:

I gave it a brief soak in fresh water and then painstakingly cut off the ends of each mini stalk, where it had browned ever so slightly & I didn't think that would look so appetizing on the plate (see middle photo above - cutting the ends off so meticulously is probably not necessary unless, of course, they've started to go's just my preference to eat them looking pristine, so that's why I did it that way...)  Then I tossed them with a vinaigrette, added some freshly ground pepper, and DID NOT salt them!  They're plenty salty as it is, which by the way, you might want to leave them to soak in water a bit more than I did to desalinate them more...  Anyway, next I simply added the seasoned salicorne to the plate, as a decorative garnish.  That's all.  Not everyone will like the texture or taste, but it's certainly a discovery & well worth trying.  It's at the tail end of the season, so if you come across it, don't be afraid to give it a try!

Hope you enjoy it!

ps.  It was great to see you again, Patricia & Philippe!


Maggie Lewis said...

Thanks for these ideas...I am going to add it last minute to a fish "stew" with fennel, mushrooms, monkfish pieces, served in a parsley veggie broth...fingers are crossed the guests will enjoy.

girlcookinparis said...

Thanks for your comment, Maggie! Your fish stew sounds great. Love fennel with fish. I think the salicorne will add a nice texture and complimentary flavor. Please let me know how you and your guests like it. all the best, diane