Agretti and Ricotta Cheesecake

June 13th, 2010  |  Published in All, Delectable Dairy, Veritable Vegetables, Weekend Projects  |  10 Comments

The first time I saw tumbleweed rolling down the street was in rural eastern Washington. We were in some small town near the Idaho border whose name escapes me now. It was early, 7AM or so, and my dad and I pulled the truck up to the only place in town that was open, a greasy spoon offering hearty and heavy breakfast. You know the type — where a ‘short stack’ is 5 inches high and omelettes are made with four eggs. We were on our yearly dad/daughter camping trip and had spent the previous day driving 10+ hours from Seattle. We would eat a hearty breakfast, stock up on whatever supplies we still needed, and head out to the woods.

The tumbleweed rolled and tumbled down the windy street as we sat in the diner. Little plumes of dust swirled in its wake, lit by the morning sun. I remember watching the tumbleweed as I ate my breakfast, thinking… where *are* we? I felt like I was in some eerie, abandoned Old West town, but my dad kept things light by making Wile E. Coyote jokes and doing voices from Looney Tunes because that’s the kind of guy he is :)

Who’d have thought that more than ten later I would open up my Mystery Box of vegetable from Mariquita Farms and find a close cousin of that tumbleweed. And furthermore, that I would cook it up into a cheesecake and write a post about tumbleweed and cooking.

But that’s far enough down memory lane. Let’s talk agretti!


A bunch of Agretti

Please do not judge agretti by its appearance. It hardly looks like a vegetable, but rather a strange grass you might find growing at the edge of a pond or an oasis in the high desert. When eaten raw, agretti is the slightest bit lemony, reminiscent of sorrel, and when you bite into it, has the tendency to pop, a little like a juicy grape. Cooked, it loses its pop but retains its flavor. Raw or just barely cooked it has a brilliant green color, which darkens after about 5 minutes of cooking.

When confronted with this vegetable I had never seen before in my life, I was a little… intimidated. The internet offered few ideas, and it isn’t mentioned even once in my LARGE stack of cookbooks… what to do? But of course! Cheese, eggs, herbs, more cheese, bake… this combination rarely fails me.

I’ve yet to see this vegetable anywhere besides vegetable boxes from Maraquita farms, but if you do happen to come across it, I encourage you to pick up a bunch and try out this unusual vegetable!

Agretti and Ricotta Cheesecake
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks

1 large bunch Agretti, rinsed and dried
2 medium shallots
5-6 cloves garlic

8 oz. neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese)
2 c. ricotta, drained for 10 minutes
a large handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used a mix of tarragon, sage, and parsley)
1/2 c. grated parmesan
2 eggs

1/3 c. goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 325. Oil a 7 inch spring form pan*.

Trim the bottom 1-2 inches from the agretti stems and discard. Chop the rest into 1-2 inch pieces.

Heat about 2 T. olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots, cook 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the agretti and very generously season with salt and pepper. Saute until the agretti has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original size. Allow to cool, then transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Put the neufchatel into a large bowl and whip either with a fork or an electric whisk to soften. Add the ricotta, herbs, parmesan, and eggs and mix until well combined. Fold the agretti mixture into the cheese. Pour into the spring form pan, place on a baking tray, and bake for 1 hour.

Sprinkle goat cheese over the top of the cheesecake and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until goat cheese has softened. If desired, place the cheesecake under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then release from spring form pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: if you don’t have a spring form pan, you may use a regular pie plate. Keep an eye on the cooking process though, as the depth of the cheesecake is quite different when using a pie dish versus a small spring form pan. You will likely need to cook the cheesecake for less time.

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Responses

  1. Erin says:

    June 14th, 2010at 11:33 am(#)

    This looks fabulous! I think I need to track down some agretti. Soon.

  2. Jen says:

    June 14th, 2010at 11:48 am(#)

    Erin – You’re such an adventurous cook that I am sure you would find all sorts of uses for agretti! The Chowhounds might know where you can get some up near you…

  3. Carla says:

    June 15th, 2010at 10:29 am(#)

    Hi Jen! I came to your Website via LinkedIn – I’m a recruiter and stumbled upon your profile. But at heart I’m just a foodie amazed by both simple and rare ingredients. So forget the search, I’m just a fan now, keep up the great work :)

    This cheesecake looks amazing and I can’t wait to get my hands on some Agretti!

  4. Jen says:

    June 15th, 2010at 12:04 pm(#)

    Hi Carla! Thanks for stopping by! If only I could find some way to combine software engineering and foodie-ism… :)

  5. Denise | Chez Danisse says:

    June 15th, 2010at 1:07 pm(#)

    Jen, This looks amazing! I know about agretti from Mariquita too. I haven’t bought a Mystery “Box” (mine was usually a bag) in a while, but I do recall really liking agretti. The Mystery Box is a fun concept. I always enjoyed digging in and seeing what surprises were inside.

  6. Jen says:

    June 16th, 2010at 8:31 am(#)

    Denise – another Mariquita fan! I love both their CSA and mystery boxes. They introduced me to so many things — cardoon, agretti, lacinto kale, bacon avocados… I’m currently on the waiting list for their CSA (of course the only full pickup site is the one near me!) and must sustain myself with mystery boxes…

  7. deb says:

    June 22nd, 2010at 11:49 am(#)

    Agretti has become a favorite in our home, thanks to Andy and Julia. Delicious raw sprinkled on a salad, mixed into some pasta, and now…cheesecake!? Oh, how I hope there’s a hearty bundle of this stuff in Thursday’s box!

  8. Jen says:

    June 22nd, 2010at 1:49 pm(#)

    Hi Deb – Thanks for commenting! Besides agretti, they also introduced me to cardoon which has become an absolute favorite. If you’re in SF, you might want to check out Slow Club soon — I was there about a week ago and they had agretti on the menu (as a bed for fish, I think?)

  9. LimeCake says:

    December 30th, 2010at 2:36 am(#)

    The idea of a savoury cheesecake is completely new to me. This looks delicious! I’m waiting for the perfect opportunity to make it!

  10. Tumbleweed is Edible! Spinach Alternative | The Foodie Gardener™ says:

    July 25th, 2013at 11:50 am(#)

    [...] a mouth-watering  “Agretti and Ricotta Cheesecake” recipe I discovered on [...]

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