Pasta with Ramps

It’s been two weeks since I last posted?! It’s not from a lack of cooking, but I haven’t made anything new or blog-worthy recently. Ironically, I have spent much more time working on this blog than usual over the last couple of weeks, you just can’t see the results yet: I’m putting together an index of recipes. I also thought I’d spice things up by truncating some of my database tables! Wooo! That wasn’t the first time I’ve had to congratulate myself for backing things up nightly, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Anyway, hopefully I’ll have that up soon if I can manage to do it without destroying everything…again. It’s been interesting categorizing all my recipes; I discovered trends I wasn’t expecting. I apparently cook a lot of Mexican food?

In the meantime, brace yourself for the same old story: Northern Virginia, grrrr! I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH LONGER I CAN LAST HERE. My office is 10 miles from my house. Sometimes I mention that to someone who does not live in this area and they respond, “oh, so you’re close to work; that must be nice.” I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or punch the person in the face when I hear that. It’s normal for my commute to take an hour. If I’m very, very lucky, it’s 45 minutes. Sometimes, though, it’s even more than an hour. Today it was TWO AND A HALF HOURS. To go 10 miles. It’s the sort of thing that can drive (no pun intended) a person crazy. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I weren’t able to read books on my phone. I read a few hundred (yes a few HUNDRED) pages of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White while sitting in traffic (iPhone pages, yes, but we’re talking about 20% of a rather long book), and it kept me incredibly calm. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I recommend The Woman in White for reading-while-driving, by the way. It’s a peculiar kind of reading that not all types of books are conducive to, but I’m really enjoying this one. (Wodehouse is also good reading-while-driving material. Zola, not so much. By the way, everything I read on my phone is free from Project Gutenberg.)

Anyway, after nearly three hours in traffic, with a headache and cramps, I was tempted to skip the grocery store visit I had planned to make, feeling justified in just wanting to go home and curl up in the fetal position. I rationalized that I’d feel better about life if I managed to accomplish the task I’d set out to do, though, so I forced myself to stop at Wegmans. And I was rewarded with ramps! Rather overpriced ramps, but ramps nonetheless. Pasta with Ramps was sounding like the perfect antidote to my miserable afternoon. It wasn’t until after I’d already written up most of this post, made the dinner, took the photographs, processed the photographs, and then tried to upload the photographs that I realized I posted almost the exact same thing last year. I really should have known this considering I spent several hours this weekend categorizing all my past posts! Anyway, I’m posting this one even if it is a near-duplicate.

This is Mario Batali’s recipe. The internet pretty much agreed it is the best ramp pasta recipe, and it was so simple (and vegan!) I didn’t see reason to mess with it. I did scale it down to two servings, however.

Pasta with Ramps

8 oz dry pasta of your choice
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 oz fresh ramps
1 tsp – 1 Tbsp red chili flakes, depending on the heat level of your chili flakes and your love of chili flakes
kosher or Maldon flaked salt, to taste
1 Tbsp breadcrumbs

Boil a big pot of water. I don’t always salt the pot when I cook pasta – it depends on what I’m doing with the pasta – but it matters in this dish, so once it’s boiling, add about two tablespoons of salt to the pot, then add the pasta, cook until al dente, then drain.

Wash the ramps very well. They are dirty little things. Line the root ends of a few at a time up and trim them, then repeat for the others.

Line all the ramps up and slice the greens from the white parts.

Chop the white parts.

Roughly chop the green parts.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the white parts of the ramps and saute until soft.

Add the chili flakes and the salt and cook a minute or two.

Add the green parts of the ramps.

Cook, stirring, until they wilt.

Toss in the pasta and stir until coated with the oil and ramps.

Sprinkle with bread crumbs to serve. I served it with some asparagus, which I grilled then drizzled with lemon juice + lemon zest, some smoked Maldon, fresh pepper, and a tiny bit of olive oil. I peeled the asparagus after seeing this survey on The Kitchn and being completely confounded by the very idea of peeling asparagus. (Note: I don’t intend to do it again.)

A final comment about this dish (until I make it again next May and try to post it a third time): LOVE the pasta you choose. I was totally not wild about that kamut and quinoa stuff I used tonight. I love trying alternative grain pastas, but some are better than others, and this just didn’t work well with the ramps. You really need a very pasta-y pasta.

In other news, I finally got to see the Julia Child kitchen display at the Museum of American History. Mark and I occasionally take advantage of our proximity to the nation’s capital and visit some of the Smithsonian museums.

I like Julia Child’s kitchen because it’s totally my style. Which is pretty much hanging stuff everywhere! I will never have a sleek kitchen with all my tools hidden away. For one thing, I have too many tools. And for another, I like them to be accessible. And what’s more, I like LOOKING at them. I couldn’t have worked in Julia’s kitchen because she had all of her counters raised 5″ to accommodate her height, but I love the peg boards and the super homey feel. You want to BE in Julia’s kitchen. People seem to want to be in my kitchen as well. People often tell me they love my kitchen, which I always find weird because it’s a rental house and basically I’m just making do with what I have. But then again, my kitchen IS about as awesome as a rental kitchen can be, mostly because it’s mine. It is, however, much smaller than Julia’s, although hers is not humongous.

And with that, goodnight and thank you.

 What? Kittens? Sigh. You’re so insistent. Okay. I needed an updated picture for things like my new About page. So I took some photos of myself. Some of the outtakes are amusing. This is a frequent happening:

I walk around the house like a pirate with his parrot half the time.

This morning BOTH cats jumped on my shoulders AT THE SAME TIME. I wish I’d been in front of the camera for that.

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Ramp Gratin

I have a nice tale for you. About this time of year, I start reading a lot about ramps on many the food blogs. Ramps are leeks that grow wild in the American Northeast, down at least as far as Virginia, yet I’ve never had them. I’ve never even seen them in person. But as they are touted as tasting like a mild cross between onion and garlic, both of which I adore, and as I live in Virginia, where they are native, I’ve always wanted to find and consume ramps. I knew my best bet was the farmer’s market, and I love farmer’s markets, I really, truly do but they all occur at some ungodly hour of the morning on weekends. Some of them actually close before what I deem an acceptable waking hour. I may, after weeks of feeling guilty, manage to drag myself out of bed early enough to hit up the farmer’s market mid-summer, but ramp season is very early and very short and ends before I’ve reached that point. This year more than any other, though, I’ve been wanting to try ramps.

So I did some research yesterday and learned there are FOUR farmer’s markets in my immediate area on four different days of the week. If I can’t make it to at least one of them, there’s simply something wrong with me. Furthermore, one of them takes place on Wednesday mornings directly on one of the two possible routes I can take to work. Wednesday – today – was the very next day. I had no excuse. Not only that but this morning the clouds parted and the rain relented and that glowing, glorious orb I think we used to call the sun shone down upon Northern Virginia, greeting us with its warm embrace after 40 days and nights of our soggy misery. I put the top down on my convertible and drove merrily off to the market.

There were only a few stalls today’s market, probably because it is so early in the season. I did, though, manage to snag some utterly gorgeous strawberries, and some fabulous asparagus, and some nice lettuce, and some plump tomatoes. I even got some lovely spring onions. What I did not get were ramps. There was a distinct lack of ramps at this market. Foiled! Nonetheless, I was pleased with my purchases and motored on into work in the bright sunshine.

After work, I had to go to the grocery store, for I had a shopping list a mile long. I puttered around the produce department at Wegmans, picking up items for my latest project (you’ll be hearing more about this shortly), when what to my wondering eyes should appear but ramps!!! At the grocery store!! My grocery store!! It’s difficult for me to put into words how much I love Wegmans. Anyway, I gathered as many ramps as I could stuff into a bag and finished my shopping with a beatific smile that didn’t leave my face even when it took three cashiers 20 minutes to find the code for ramps so I could be greatly over-charged for something that grows wild upon our land.

Returning home, I started some brown rice cooking in the rice cooker and contemplated what the heck to do with these elusive ramps. After a bit of googling, I realized most vegetarian ramp dishes involve either pasta, which I didn’t want for dinner and anyway I’d already started cooking rice, or potatoes, and for some reason none of the 80 pounds of produce I purchased today included potatoes. Then I found this recipe for ramp gratin, which I adapted for vegan tastes and served with that lovely asparagus and the aforementioned rice. And I share with you!

Ramp Gratin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
10-12 oz ramps
2 slices bread (I used one large chunk of homemade sourdough French bread)
1/4 cup Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, or your favorite vegan cheese
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
6 Tbsp water
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tear the bread into chunks then put in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s in crumbs.

Place the bread crumbs in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring or tossing frequently, for about 3 minutes or until beginning to brown.

Wash the ramps.

Trim the bottoms off.

Chop them up, both the onion-y bulb and the green tops.

Zest the lemon, then juice.

Heat the skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil, then the garlic.

After a minute, add the ramps.

Sauté until the ramp greens are wilted.

Stir in the bread crumbs, uncheese, and lemon zest.

Add the sour cream and water.

Add the salt and pepper and let it thicken for a few seconds.

Move the skillet to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes.

For the asparagus, I mixed together about a tablespoon of olive oil, some of the lemon zest (before I added it to the ramps), 2 pressed cloves of garlic, some salt, and one or two tablespoons lemon juice.

Then I rubbed my hands in the mixture, then rubbed each stalk of asparagus with the vinaigrette before placing on the George Foreman grill.

Serve with a grain.

So, were ramps worth the wait? I’d say so. Let’s put it this way: if you like onions, you’ll like ramps. I’m looking forward to trying them in other variations.

In other news, Mark and I visited the parental homestead on Sunday, both for Mother’s Day and to see my parent’s brand-spanking-new renovated kitchen, which I found very exciting. I was the first person to cook in the kitchen! Neither of my parents enjoy cooking, so it was fitting that someone who does was on hand to inaugurate it. My mom requested I make spaghetti, which I think is sort of an amateur dish, but a safe one (my parents aren’t very adventurous eaters) and because it’s so easy, one that allowed me to relax and just have fun in the new kitchen. I put Mark in charge of photography, which was a bit of a mistake because he takes extremely unflattering pictures of me. And we somehow managed to not take any that really show off the beautiful new kitchen, but never fear, my aunt and I plan to do a post from the new kitchen soon so you can see it then.

As Mom is still in the process of unpacking all the items she’d packed away before the old kitchen was torn out, we spent a lot of time looking for stuff, like this:

Behind Mum’s head you can see the large built-in bread box, which I envy so badly. But she’s not even using it for bread! It’s stuffed with tea supplies!

Here I am looking for more stuff. All the lower cabinets have pull-out drawers, which is handy.

To my surprise, I found a cast iron bacon press!

“Hey, can I have this?!” I asked, having recently put a grill press on my wish list.

“No!” Mum retorted, “You don’t eat bacon!” But she doesn’t use it for bacon either!

I had brought with two bags of foodstuffs, which I spread out on the island. “What is all of this…what do you call this stuff?” my father asked. “Um, ingredients?” I said. “Yes, that’s the word: ingredients. I’ve never seen so many ingredients before.” “What do you people eat?!” I exclaimed. I still don’t know, but apparently it doesn’t involve ingredients.

I also brought my own knife, as well as several other utensils. My mother did have much better knives than Smucky did, but I learned my lesson in Australia and I now travel with my trusty chef’s knife.

While I prepared dinner, Mom continued to unpack stuff and Dad stood around holding dogs. The white blob in this picture is one such dog.

Although I LOVED my parents’ new kitchen, the one thing I didn’t love was the stove, which is a glass-top electric stove. I don’t like electric stoves to begin with, but I really dislike glass tops because they seem very fragile. I’m sure I would break the glass in about a day, and I don’t know that cast iron is good for them. Not only that, but a little bit of water boiled over when I was cooking the pasta and when the stove top cooled down, we realized it wasn’t coming off. WATER wasn’t coming off the stove top. Mom tried to wipe it off and it wasn’t budging. Dad said they’d have to use the special cleaner. What? Special cleaner to get WATER off? The only reason they got a glass top stove was because they said nearly all models of electric stoves sold today are glass top; it’s hard to find non-glass top electric stoves. So of course I’m convinced this is all a marketing ploy. The manufacturers are only selling glass top stoves because it costs so much money to replace the glass and it’s a GIVEN you’re going to break the glass. Not to mention the ridiculous cleaning products you’re supposed to buy. Lame, lame, lame. I guess I’d better be careful not to break my electric stove if the only thing the landlord will be able to replace it with is a glass top! I rather doubt he’s going to follow up on my request to have a gas line laid so I can go back to having a gas stove, which I much prefer.

How Mark got himself kicked out of the kitchen:

And here’s Sophie being incredibly cute. She doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about the new kitchen.

Finally, how awesome is my new logo?! My friend Travis made it for me! Coming soon: my mom gives me an awesome and timely family heirloom, and I cook Colonial.

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