Eating Sea Urchins in Apulia
"Buy the sea urchins!" This exclamation can be heard every morning at more or less the same time. When the fishermen are back with their booty. Have you ever tried these spiny sea animals? If not, Apulia, the "heel of the Italian boot", might be the perfect place for an introduction. Sea urchins can be found along the whole of the stunning Puglian coast, and you will hear that cry everywhere you go.
It is commonly said that fruti di mare (seafood) are best savoured during the months containing an "r", therefore mainly in the winter, for freshness. You will however have no trouble finding sea urchins while on holiday in the summer. It might even be fun to go and collect some yourself, but be careful not to walk on them! The spikes breaking into your flesh will be very painful, and it takes a long time for them to come out. Use thick gloves or tongs to haul the ricci di mare out of the water, and put them straight into the large bag you will have taken with you.
If you purchase them, the fishmonger will show you how to open the sea urchins or do it for you. It might be a good idea to learn the proper way if you are having a go on your own. As the edible part is nesting on one side only, it would be a shame to destroy it by tackling the wrong part. Special pliers dedicated to that job exist and you will get the best results that way, but a pair of sturdy scissors or simply a sharp knife can also be used for that purpose.
Once open, you will marvel at the delicate orange colour. The edible part, called the roe, can be rinsed with fresh or salt water first. You can also skip that part: Just tip the shell to drain it and start eating with a knife or a spoon. Its foamy consistency is surprising at first, and then the salty, subtle taste hits your taste buds. Add a piece of fresh bread to the equation and you will get one perfect combination of food heaven.Continued on the next page