I’m always happy when on a free morning in Venice I can go for long walks by myself, exploring our neighborhood, looking around for new food trends and marveling at groceries, bakeries and pastry stores that obviously never tire of new ideas.
My favorite season for doing exactly that is late April or early May when Venice is still scented with wisteria. A few days ago, I went for my usual walk to shop for vegetables at the “Floating Market” – vegetable barge moored at the one end of Rio di Sant’Anna in the Venetian sestiere of Castello.
Afterwards, I would be off to the Serra dei Giardini, a nearby garden center and coffee house, to enjoy a cup (or two) of tea in the mild sun rays on their leafy terrace. There are a few pastry stores along the road, one of them is an outlet of Pasticceria Majer’s. That’s my first stop for lemon tea and a soft buttery apricot pastry (pastina pasta frolla all’albicocca).
Maybe you wouldn’t expect to find such a lively market district on the eastern end of Venice. There are two little fish markets next to an vegetable barge, overflowing with fresh produce from the Lagoon and estuary. There are also small groceries around, a few bakeries and pastry stores and more market stalls. The bars and restaurants lining the street make it such a nice place to stop. Bar Pasticceria Alle Colonnette, opposite the vegetable barge, is probably my personal favorite for coffee and a warm cornetto (brioche, Venetian-style).
On that mild spring morning, I was looking for Lagoon herbs – un mazzo di erba di laguna – a must ingredient of the season. On the vegetable barge, they change the offer every day, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mostly, you get bruscandoli (young hops sprouts) or erba di frate (salsola soda), another emerald green succulent spring herb. What I found though, exceeded my expectations as you can see in the picture below.
Bruscandoli are our favorite choice. We love making vellutata di bruscandoli, the bruscandoli cream soup, or pasta ai bruscandoli e crema di limone e senape, that’s pasta and bruscandoli seasoned with a creamy lemon-mustard sauce. I quickly bought my bunch of herbs, took some time off at the Serra dei Giardini and returned home quickly, as bruscandoli need to be cooked fresh in order not to lose their taste.
At home, you need to unwrap your bruscandoli immediately and put them in a vase, just as if they were flowers – they keep well about 2-3 days without losing taste – still, make sure you eat them in time.
To prepare plate of pasta ai bruscandoli, cut a handful of bruscandoli in small pieces and cook them in a pan in a little water for about five minutes. Prepare the pasta (we use conchiglie pasta). Simultaneously, in another pan, melt 2 cups of ricotta in a bit of olive oil, add 5 spoonfuls cream, 1 heaped tea spoon mustard powder and the juice of half a freshly pressed lemon. Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes, then heat all ingredients in the pan for about 2 minutes and stir to obtain a thick sauce. Carefully stir in the bruscandoli, add the cooked pasta and garnish with cooked bruscandoli, freshly grated pecorino, taleggio or parmesan cheese, a few drops of chili-flavored olive oil and a fine spruzzata di pepe – freshly ground black pepper.