Posts Tagged ‘ramps’

Shrinking Violets Need Not Apply

Stinkin' Pizza

On the drive to work the other day, I was catching up on my feed reading with my iPhone (as passengers are wont to do) and came across a post on Mark Bittman’s new slog (that’s salon/blog to the newbs) about a dare he threw down to Ed Schneider to make a ramp pizza.

At the precise moment I was reading it, the Everyman happened to ask me what I was reading about, but when I told him he seemed non-plussed (though I was extremely intrigued) so I knew I’d have to file this one away for some future solo supper.  Of course, ramp season only lasts for so long, so I knew it would have to be sooner rather than later.

Several days later an opportunity presented itself, so the morning of I mixed up a batch of plain pizza dough using my handy dandy Bittman app.  That night, I started by following Ed’s general instructions by separating ramp leaves from the bulbs and sautéing them individually in a little beurre noisette.  I had rummaged around in our fridge and freezer for other things to put on the pizza and came across some errant artichoke pesto cubes, so once the ramps were cooked I melted the pesto into them too.  To finish the stinky, vegetal sauce I thwacked in a dollop of creme fraiche, then set to work trying to spread the mess onto half a ball of pizza dough.  Once it was mostly dressed, I showered it profusely with shredded mozzarella and tried to artfully snap the pie off my pizza peel with a flick of the wrist.  Let’s just say that part’s a work in progress.

A good while later the dough had reached my desired degree of doneness in the meekness of a 500* oven, and the ramp greens had acquired occasional spots of char as I had hoped for, so I fished it out and set to work cutting and munching it.

It would certainly have been better if I’d had a blazing hot pizza oven that could cook a proper pie in closer to 2 minutes than the 20 or so this one took, but otherwise, the flavours worked astonishingly well together.  Make no mistake though, this is not a pie for people who are on the fence about ramps, because even with the pesto and creme fraiche to temper them this is clearly a dish where their funky, pungent flavour is the primary star.

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I Came, I Saw, I Ramp-ed It Up

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ah, ramps.

What has this year been debated as one of foraging’s most overrated bounties are nonetheless one of my most cherished harbingers of spring.

There’s no doubt that I also adore other seasonal offerings like fiddleheads and asparagus, but in my overall stratosphere they aren’t really locally accessible just yet.  Ramps typically come first, signalling my springtime appetite to perk itself up a bit.

And so, I continue to content myself with ramps until others come along, their pungent edible bulbs so funkily sweet and tender.

As I mentioned on Monday, my first ramp preparation of the year was a fragrant ramp butter mixed into a batch of saltwater potatoes.  Delicious as it was, I was confident that even better dishes were yet to come, I just wasn’t certain what those dishes would be yet.

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Not Too Late To The Party

Leaves Of Plenty

Though it’s not yet May, this year I’ve often worried that I might have missed the window for Ontario ramps and wild fiddleheads.

With a warmer than normal March and April, these edible delicacies have been popping up much earlier than usual, which leaves me without farmer’s markets to buy them from, since all of the markets in my area don’t start up until mid May or June.  Last year we found them at The Cheese Boutique several times, but given my tendency to grossly overspend every time I cross their threshold, I wasn’t keen on the idea of heading over there just to get a couple pounds of ramps.

But then, on the way home from the Green Living Show yesterday, the serendipitous happened.

As I was walking along Dundas West, huddled against the wind and the rain, I noticed a lone sandwich board announcing a grand opening.  It turns out that Provenance Regional Cuisine has rented out some space in the existing Palmerston Cafe and is now a mini pop-up style grocery store.  I walked in to investigate, but since the Everyman and I were about to hurry off to a Cowbell brunch, I only made the most cursory glance of the products on offer.  Promising the counter staff that I would return, several hours later the Everyman and I did.

And what a bounty we found.  Not only is the place gorgeously curated, but it finally offers a place to buy local, sustainable meat that’s only a 3 minute walk from our house, as opposed to the 20 minute jaunt it takes me to get to The Healthy Butcher.  After a few minutes I managed to procure a bundle of ramps, as well as some homemade crostini, dried cranberry beans, sweet potato flour and more.  With the ramps firmly in hand, all that was left was to devise how to use them. (more…)

Turning Winter Into Spring (Or Why I Would Never Survive On The Atkins Diet)

Combining The Seasons

Firstly, I apologize for having such a one track mind lately, but I’ve really, really, really been enjoying messing around with the new pasta maker.  Heaven knows I already loved pasta a great deal before I started to make my own, so fresh made has only managed to amplify that passion further.

The other night I intended to finish the rest of a batch of semolina dough by trying my hand at ravioli, so I’d carefully rolled out sheets and set them aside as we waited for someone to pick up a set of keys.  I hadn’t wanted to start cooking on the off chance that we’d be sitting down to dinner just as they decided to show up, so I’d only started my prep. Of course, the visitor ended up being late, and staying much longer than expected, so by the time I got back to the pasta, most of the edges and ends were dried out and brittle.  Lesson number one with pasta; always cover the dough when you’re not working on it.  Since we’d been waiting so long to eat neither of us wanted to wait any more, so we ended up getting some takeout that night instead.  Not that it mattered at that point, because I was significantly non-plussed by the whole situation.

After we were sated, I decided to try and salvage what was left of the supple dough and work it into a pasta for the following day’s lunch.  I had a rather large bag of frozen chunks of braised oxtail in the freezer that wasn’t getting used as quickly as I would’ve liked, but given that my grocer had delivered a 5 pound bag of oxtail when I’d ordered them and I’d braised the whole lot because it sounded just as easy to do 1 pound as 5, it was understandable.  Nonetheless, I knew oxtail would form the base of the sauce.  Peering around in the fridge, I also came across the flesh of a roasted acorn squash I’d been meaning to use, and some leftover fennel fronds.  Rooting around a little bit more, I unearthed a jar of pickled ramps from last spring that astonishingly had not been opened yet.  Grabbing a tub of creme fraiche for good measure, I started tossing all of the disparate ingredients together into a pan to warm up.  In the time that it took for the sauce to heat and come together, I cut the pasta dough into rough noodles, and dunked them into the pot of boiling water.  After their quick bath, I retrieved them and tossed in the pan with the sauce.  Adding a sprinkling of chopped pickled ramps and fennel fronds to the top, I portioned it up for lunch and put it away.

The next day at lunch, as I took the first bite I marvelled at the clever combination of bi-seasonal ingredients.  Standing in for winter was the oxtail and acorn squash, giving body to an otherwise lightened dish.  The fennel fronds and ramps practically sung of springtime and the creme fraiche managed to tie everything together.  It probably wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever made in my life, but at the time in that moment, with the warm sun beaming down on me through my office window, it was pretty damn fantastic.

I would suggest you try just such a combination to help usher in spring.

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Market Meals May

New This Week

I went to the market again this evening (as I do most Tuesdays once May rolls around) in search of my friend Seth from Forbes Wild Foods. I was hoping he’d have more dried elderflowers since I burned through them rather quickly over the weekend.  Unfortunately that was not in the cards today, though he did promise me a bag for next week’s market.  As a consolation prize I helped myself to some of his other tasty edibles; maple syrup, more ramps and some garlic scapes, with not an inkling of what I would do with any of them.

One of the things I love about market days is not planning out what’s for dinner.  I’ll arrive at the market and let what’s fresh and in season inspire me towards inner deliciousness.  This evening I prepared our second real market meal of the season, a sparkling green pasta with flecks of rosy guanciale.

Seasoning The Pan With Garlic Scapes

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Mother Always Said You Have To Eat Your Greens

The First Fruits Of Spring

I’m a bit of an odd duck.

Ever since I was a child I’ve loved to eat my greens (with the exception of green peppers, which I think are absolutely repulsive).  In fact, I’ve never met another person who prefers green vegetables more than any other kind (like I do).  I might even go so far as to say that I’d choose them over fruit.  Astonishing, I know!

Which is exactly why spring just happens to be one of my favorite times of year.  Sure, over the winter months you can get your fair share of (greenhouse) microgreens, broccoli and heartier leafy varieties (like kale, cabbage, chard and brussels sprouts) but none can compare to the pungent sweetness of the first ramps, fiddleheads and asparagus of the season.  For the other 10-11 months that asparagus is not in season I have extremely vivid dreams of nibbling on those pencil-thin nutty stalks and spears.  Clearly I’m slightly obsessive.

Earlier in the week our organic delivery service brought us a pound of fresh fiddleheads and a deuce of asparagus, plus I had the leftover bounty of topless ramps from the farmer’s market, and the clock was literally ticking for them to get used before they went bad.  Another thing to note about fresh, new spring greens; they have a shorter shelf life than your typical root vegetable.  But, if you just treat them simply, they’ll be the star of your meal (and possibly give you funny smelling pee!)

Over the weekend the Everyman and I returned to Czehoski on a desperate search for more of those divine tamales, (which we were unable to procure, by the way).  After 2 meals out (both at Czehoski, no less) in 72 hours, I felt the need for lighter, spring-inspired fare to combat the decadent cheeseburger and fries with bacon gravy I’d wolfed down at lunch.  The pile of green veg hanging out in the fridge seemed the perfect antidote to grease, bacon and fat, so I set to work cleaning the lot of them.

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Score!

Killer Finds

I was bummed that I didn’t get my ‘nduja meats yesterday, but it inadvertently allowed me a chance to get to the first farmers market of the season at Trinity Bellwoods park last night.  The market was relatively small, what with being so early in the season, but that certainly didn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile.

I love the conviviality of an outdoor market setting.  It’s so much more relaxed and comfortable, and you get a chance to talk to the purveyors one on one.  Like the ramp guy I chatted up last night, for instance.  I zeroed in on his stall as soon as I saw the giant basket of ramps, ecstatic that I’d get to have a few more before the season was over.  While I was waiting for him to finish up with another customer, I started perusing the other offerings on his table.  Lo and behold, didn’t I find a jar of jellied elderberry!  Since it appeared to be the only one, I clutched it in my hot little hand while waiting for my turn, not willing to give up this golden find to anyone.  They also had saskatoonberry compote, which is another wild-ish fruit I love, so I grabbed a jar of those too.  They had lingonberry and cloudberry and dozens of other things I would’ve loved to take home, but I knew I had to restrain myself, or else I’d have bought the entire tables’ worth of preserves in one fell swoop.

When it was finally my turn, (still clutching my elderberry jam) I asked for a pound of ramps and then inquired whether they ever carried the elderflowers (which I’ve been searching for in vain for a few months now and are supposedly amazing for making cordials and cocktails, etc).   Like some sort of crazy dream, the guy at the Forbes Wild Foods table grinned a megawatt grin, reached into a cooler under the table and pulled out a bag of dried elderflowers.  I’d been initially hoping for fresh, but considering this was the first time I’d even seen them in person anywhere, I wasn’t going to press my luck.  I happily caressed the bag, imagining all the panna cottas and other baked goods I could prepare with such a giant stash.  He was so taken by my sheer joy at finding them that he decided to cut me a deal on my whole purchase too, and you can’t argue with that!  By the time I arrived though (almost 6:30) he was already out of fiddleheads (the other wild food on my wish list for the evening), but promised there’d be more next week.  Incidentally I found out this morning that my organic delivery service is carrying them this week, so I can get my fiddlehead fix elsewhere.  I strolled home from the market with a bag full of goodies and a mind whirring from all the newly created possibilities.

When I got home I decided to make the ramp tart for dinner again because sometimes you can’t have too much of a good thing.  And again, it was delicious.  But it made me realize, while I love ramps as a whole, I think I actually prefer the less used but still delicious leaves more than the lily white bulbs.  When I was sauteing the ramps for the tart I looked at the pan that contained both leaves and stems and felt a little sad that there weren’t more leaves.  So I cannabalized most of the rest of the bag, and now have 3/4 of a pound of ramp bulb and stems sitting in my fridge instead.  Silly foodie!  I’ll have to come up with some other worthwhile use for them during the next few days (other than more pickled ramps) before they get a chance to go bad.  Yay spring!

Until next time…

He Gets Too Hungry For Dinner At 8

Gyoza Stuffing

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last few days, and consequently have spent less time messing around in the kitchen than I would have liked this weekend.

Since reading about my first Daring Bakers project on Friday, I’d been pondering the likelihood of accomplishing the task at hand.  From what I understand, the modus operandi is to constantly challenge yourself and work outside your limits.  I joined mostly because I think my baking skills are much poorer than my cooking technique, and I thought this would be a neat way to improve them (and also prove useful for monthly blog fodder).  Their website also hosts a monthly cooking challenge called Daring Cooks, and once I get a few of the baking challenges under my belt, I might just sign up for that one too, just for fun.  I can’t share with you the content of this month’s challenge right now (but please check back on May 27th to read all about it) but I can definitely say that had I not signed up for this, I never would have bothered to attempt the recipe at home.  I spent the better part of my afternoon today preparing it, and ever since, the Everyman has been rather greedily enjoying the spoils.

And since I was unable to gather all of the materials I needed to make my various cured meats this weekend (though an extremely generous offfer of supplies and help did come my way), I needed to find something else to occupy my time.  While Tastespotting from my sickbed yesterday I came across a photo posted by my favorite America’s Test Kitchen guru, Kenji Alt.  It was a beautiful picture of a homemade gyoza, one of my most favorite Asian delicacies.  Better still, it was a pork and ramp dumpling, and I just so happened to have a small container of sauteed ramp leaves left over from my previous tart-making adventure.  The only snag was that the Everyman pretty much wholeheartedly dislikes all Asian cuisine (which is why you never see any reviews of Asian restaurants on here) with the exception of his affinity for sweet and sour chicken balls.  I knew that if I wanted to make gyoza for dinner (and I did), I’d have to tweak the recipe a little bit, to account for his somewhat fussier tastes.

Starting by slicing up the sauteed ramps, I chopped in some leftover sweet and sour shallot confit I found hanging out in the fridge, along with a few of my recently pickled ramp stems (which turned out deliciously, by the way).  I sauteed a bit of ground pork in a pan with a splash of sesame oil, some oyster sauce and a tiny bit of nam pla.  Once cooked through, I stirred in the ramps and shallot confit, and a glug of homemade chicken stock to loosen everything up.  This was reduced down until the whole mixture was smooth and slightly sticky, then allowed to cool.  Once the stuffing could be handled, it got bundled into a plethora of wonton skins (35 in all) and I even got a bit fancy with it and turned them into pope’s caps (which is the English translation of a form of Italian stuffed pasta).

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Return Of The Ramps (Once Again!)

Close Up Prior To The Oven

Last night the Everyman and I embarked on a new road map to deliciousness.

After pickling ramp stalks on Sunday night, I was left with a gigantic colander full of wild leek leaves, with nary a plan in my head.  Following some careful consideration (for all of about 30 seconds) it occurred to me that a warm spring tart might be in order.  I’d tried to procure a lump of puff pastry whilst at Cheese Boutique, envisioning a wild leek puff pastry adventure, but once they were cleaned and the leaves separated, it seemed to me that I did not have enough to make both.  Difficult decisions had to be made, and the pickled ramps won.  Still left with a rather large bundle of tulip-ish leaves, I started to consider my options.

Tart Filling

A quick taste was all it took to decide that a wilted preparation similar to spinach or kale was all that was required.  The leaves were sautéed in nothing more than butter, coffee olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  After allowing them to cool a bit, I popped a few vol au vent shells into the oven to puff.  Next, several small lardons of guanciale were finely diced and set aside.  Then a few small rings of pickled red onion were plucked from their mason jar.  Once the pastry was ready, the tops were popped off, the sautéed greens placed on the bottom, followed by guanciale nuggets, red onion slivers and grated parmagiano.  For a brief moment I considered adding some finely chopped preserved lemon peel, but on second thought decided against it.  Back into the oven they went to crispen the shells and slightly toast the cheese.

The tarts were a hit, with the Everyman especially.  Part of that is probably due to his love of puffed, buttery pastry (a la crescent rolls), but at the end of the meal when he commented that wild leeks were awesome, I knew for sure that I’d won him over.  I may mourn the fact that I did not get a chance to get all the ramps I wanted or deserved, but I will always remember this meal for it’s delicious simplicity.  And that will remind me to stock up doubly so in order to make it again next year.
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Gypsies, (T)ramps And Thieves…

Mission Tramp Pickle Complete

I’d like to point out that the longer the Everyman and I have been together, the more his predilection for terrible puns is rubbing off on me.  It’s cheesy, I know, but at least it keeps things somewhat interesting around here.

It just so happens that it’s ramp season in Toronto right now.  Tasty, tasty ramps.  If you aren’t familiar with the humble ramp, perhaps you know it as a wild leek.  Whatever you want to call it,  it’s here and it’s delicious.  Now get off your ass and go get some before they’re all gone.  On second thought, don’t.  That way there’ll be even more for me!

Tender Tendrils

We happened to discover them while we were on our way to the cottage yesterday morning to spend some time with the Everyman’s parental units, during a pit stop at the Cheese Boutique to gather lunch provisions.  As soon as we passed through the archway into the store proper, I saw a massive bowl brimming with the slender and vibrant green, white and lavender stalks.  I’d had a short list of items I wanted to suss out for further home experimentation while we were there (hot Italian chillies for ‘nduja among them), but when I saw the ramps I let out a string of curses under my breath.  I knew if I purchased them then, they’d be dead by the time I got home, and I didn’t have the equipment or time necessary to dispatch with them at the cottage.  This meant leaving them behind, all the while knowing that this could be the only time I’d see them this year.

On the drive back home from the cottage this afternoon I managed to flex my feminine wiles and coerce the Everyman into stopping at the Cheese Boutique again.  I made sure to call ahead beforehand and confirm that ramps were left, and when we arrived, I was not disappointed.  It took me all of 5 seconds to make up my mind and buy up all the ramps they had left on display, which only amounted to about 420 grams; a bit of a luxury at $13 for the bag, but definitely an affordable one.  On the drive home I mentally plotted what I planned to do with my newfound spring bounty.  The primary goal was a jar of pickled ramps to be used for garnishing various meaty dishes, but the secondary agenda would be a sautéed ramp, bacon and parmagiano tart nestled in a puff pastry shell.

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