Sunday, April 22, 2012

more ramps...

The weather of late has been so mild, it's almost easy to forget it's only slightly past mid-April, and still officially Spring. The recent bounty of ramps and spring greens is a good reminder, and happily last night and this morning are nicely cool, the way a Spring morning should be. It's motivated another ramp-inspired dish from inside the oven, this time calling up one of my favorite ways to use leftovers.

In short, a leftover saute of kale, garlic, and ramps were mixed up with eggs, veggie broth, and cornmeal, with just a little salt and cayenne, then baked until it puffed. Yes, another take on the frittata, but adding the cornmeal gave it a nice heartiness that suits this morning's chill, and goes nicely with a late morning second pot of coffee.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Spring Ramp-age

Spring continues to bring more and more out of the gardens, and luckily for those of us who love them, that still includes ramps, both cultivated and wild. And as crazy as it sounds, when there are several local Tailgate Markets that happen well within reach of my home or studio, my time and budget have not allowed me to venture into one of them yet this season. Thankfully, I have one other option, and that's studio delivery of delicious eggs and vegetables from a local farm, Mudluscious Pottery & Gardens.

Today's delivery: eggs, ramps, kale, and shiitake mushrooms. And I'm still on my budget. I'm allowing myself $20/week toward the market veg, when I have it and when I can get to the market, and this delivery came well under that and will be a part of meals throughout the next week (ramps and mushrooms in more egg dishes, and in a soup, kale chopped thinly for a nice raw salad base, egg salad for a light lunch at the studio ... and more I'm sure!), along with pantry stock.

Tonight was a quick frittata using a bit of everything in the bag, plus a small local sweet potato and some dried thyme from my old spiral garden. I find that when I cook this fresh and seasonal for myself, I barely season at all, so I can really enjoy all the immediate and earthy tastes of things recently harvested. I've just finished a few bites of frittata, and I'm enjoying the resonant flavors of the ramps, the mild musk of the shiitake, the tangible green taste of the kale, all enveloped in a silky mix of fresh eggs ... paired with a nice Pale Ale, and dinner is served.

My enthusiasm for the dish is illustrated by the way I practically hacked it out of the pan, remembering too late the pretty picture I intended to take for the blog. I also fully intended to measure amounts, but was more hungry than analytical when I got home with my bag of goodies, so these are educated guesses, feel free to tweak as you please:

Frittata with Ramps, Kale, Shiitake, and Sweet Potato

2 TBSP extra virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, smashed & chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 1 TBSP fresh leaves)
1 cup chopped ramps (bulbs & greens)
Approx 6 medium size leaves of kale, taken off the stem and chopped
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 small sweet potato, cut into quarters and then thinly sliced
5 eggs, beaten
2-3 TBSP almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Use an oven-safe skillet and heat olive oil over moderate heat. Saute the ramps, garlic and shallots lightly, then cover and let simmer 2-3 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste, then add sweet potatoes. Stir to mix, cover and let simmer another 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and kale, stir to mix and let cook, covered, another 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk/beat the eggs with salt, pepper, nutritional yeast and almond milk. Uncover the saute pan and pour the eggs over as evenly as possible, shaking the pan lightly to distribute. Immediately place the pan in the pre-heated oven and cook until eggs puff (you can switch it to a broil as it sets if you want to brown the top more) and set, 4-5 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and carefully remove. You can also try loosening the entire frittata by running a spatula around the sides and under the bottom, then inverting the entire pan onto a plate. For serving, if you do it this way, I suggest you then invert it again onto another plate to show off the prettier side. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ramps, and Local on a Budget

I said there'd be ramps, and here are some. I picked up a bunch at the local market and quenched my cravings for a good breakfast ramp dish:

Sweet potato hash w/ramp bulbs & greens,
ginger & tart apple under poached eggs

Nothing fancy recipe-wise. I let the thinly sliced ramp bulbs soften slowly in olive oil over med-lo heat, then tossed in the greens and sweet potatoes and let it all cook down slowly, adding only a bit of salt and a splash of veggie broth. I added in thinly sliced ginger and tart apple toward the end, and let it continue to cook until they were softened. I poached the eggs till the yolks were a creamy soft (I admit - I got distracted making coffee and forgot about them until they almost boiled over, but they were just about perfect). It's a very local affair - the ramps, sweet potatoes, and ginger were grown locally. The olive oil came from the Greek olive tree farm of a local family, and the eggs are from my favorite 'farmers who will deliver to your studio'. The budget it tight this week, so my $22 in groceries that included the ramps and sweet potatoes will stretch to cover the next 10 days or so with what's in the pantry, and there will be more ramps!

Budgets are a big consideration for many these days, and it brings to mind the perception that eating locally or organic is too expensive. It can be, but it doesn't have to be, and I'll likely mention that often as we go into this new market season. As I do, please keep in mind that I'm speaking from my own perspective - I'm not feeding a family, but I'm also not brimming with disposable income. My 'day job' is that I'm a full-time studio potter & instructor, in a new business venture that's still relatively young. If you've ever started (or, as is my case, re-started) a small business, you know how long it takes before the 'money out' column finally gets shorter than the 'money in'. It would be very easy for me to stock my pantry with inexpensive, processed foods, or fruits and veggies from big box stores that have low sticker prices.

But little as I make, it's up to me to track the quality and nutritional value of the foods I eat. And because I can't write big checks to social and/or political causes I may support, my financial contribution and my voice comes in where I do spend my dollars. So I choose to carefully support local farmers and producers, and local small businesses. Yes, there are steady menus of PB&J at times, but with planning I can enjoy the bounty of what is available to me locally and seasonally, and will share it here (maybe not so much the PB&J, although there are some delicious options when you grill them, so maybe you will see them here).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

catching up...

Thank goodness I didn't actually make a resolution to post every week this year (and thank goodness I don't believe in resolutions!). The intention was certainly to examine different and delicious ways to enjoy local, seasonal fare throughout the year, and I have been DOING that, but the sharing of experiences and information here did not fare well after January.

I did enjoy local and seasonal fare through February and March, although life, the universe, and everything seemed to stand in the way of much documentation or posting.

In February, I continued to enjoy local winter squash and sweet potato based dishes, focusing on curries and stews like the Chipotle Curry I did in January, but with the more mild weather upon us already, I lightened it up by using the newest flavor of Asheville-produced Roots Hummus: Thai Coconut Curry (you can use the same recipe linked above, and change veg to your taste).

March brought even more warming weather, and happily earlier appearances of spring greens, so it was easier to lighten meals, one of my favorite ways being a lovely chopped salad of sorts: julienned kale, collards, red cabbage, romaine, and tart apples, with some grated carrot. Mixed up with a light vinaigrette or your favorite creamy dressing and toss in a handful of sunflower seeds. It made a great side as well as the perfect mid-day snack to keep going. No pictures of that one, but it will make another appearance as we move into the heart of farmer's market season.

I had a little culinary indulgence as well by attending the Blind Pig's Escoffier dinner. I apparently had the wrong settings on my camera, and the picture above of our table and beverages was practically the only one to be deciphered. It was a fine evening, one that may get a closer look back in a future post, but you can see more images of it at the Blind Pig site, along with a few that I collected from other attendees and posted on our facebook page.

And here we are in mid-April. Ramps abound and if you want to indulge yourself, you can take part in a local Celebration of Ramps later this month. I'll be taking a more moderate approach, still living with the distractions of the aforementioned life, the universe, et al. But there shall be ramps. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's Getting Closer

There's a light at the top of the stack ... a little further up, a little more iron, a few more inspections, and it'll be time to fire!