With our non-existent winter this year leaving us and spring just around the corner, this is the time of year that chefs and home cooks can’t wait for. It’s the time of year that fresh food is knocking at the door, just waiting to be placed onto our cutting boards and transformed in to something delicious.
Asparagus, fava beans, fiddleheads, ramps, parsnips, morel mushrooms, watercress, lamb and new potatoes are just a few products of spring. Not to mention they are also my favorites!
Now some people may be scratching their heads on a few of the items I listed. Like parsnips, for instance. Many people think that parsnips are a winter vegetable but they are not! Farmers wait until spring to pick them because parsnips get sweeter when they remain in the ground through the winter.
Another question might be: what is a ramp? Well, a ramp is a wild leek that tastes like a cross between garlic and spinach when the greens are sautéed.
You can also pickle the white ends of a ramp to preserve them for use throughout the seasons. Ramps only grow for a few weeks out of the year, much like fiddleheads, so you have to look out for that window to get them at their peak.
Fiddleheads grow in abundance and can be found all over the east coast during the spring. Preparing them can be a bit challenging but well worth the effort.
What’s “Cooking Beyond the Measuring Cup”?
Last month we introduced Cooking Beyond the Measuring Cup. We’ll follow this guide in the recipes today as well. However, this month I’ll be adding a few new terms.
Keep in mind we are cooking with our senses and how we feel, so instead of following the recipe using measurements like a half cup of herbs, use a handful of herbs. (Now everyone’s hands are different so this would be where you would use taste and preferences, so if you like a particular herb, add more than what you think a handful or half cup is… experiment with adding what you like.)
Other examples include words like a ‘palm’ of garlic; that’s the cup of your palm or approximately a tablespoon. How about a ‘pour’ of lemon juice being about a ¼ cup. A ‘splash’ would be enough liquid to coat a pan or even a product that you are cooking. A new example that will be used below is a ‘strong pour’ which is about 1 cup.
These are just examples, but the wording in my recipes will help you use only your senses for measurements.
Chef Patrick’s Pickled Ramps
Preparation time 15 minutes. Total cooking time about 1 hour.
- 4 handfuls ramp bottoms
- 3 strong pours apple cider vinegar
- 2 pours water
- 2 pours honey
- 1 palm red pepper flakes
- 1 palm whole black peppercorns
- Wash ramps by submerging them in cold water. Let them sit for about 5 minutes to allow the dirt to settle into the bottom of the container. Remove the ramps from the water, then dry them well.
- Cut off the green tops and save them for a different preparation. Place the ramp bottoms (the white part) into a sealable container and set aside till step three is complete.
- Combine vinegar, water, salt, honey and red pepper flakes in a pot; bring to a boil.
- Once at a boil, pour mixture over the ramps and let the liquid cool.
- Once cooled, serve as an accompaniment to any dish.
Sautéed Ramp Greens
Preparation time 10 minutes. Total cooking time 18 minutes.
- 6 large handfuls ramp greens (tops)
- 1 pour olive oil
- Wash the ramps in a container with cold water. Let the ramps to sit in the water for 5 minutes to allow the dirt to settle to the bottom of the container. Once clean, remove from the water and dry the ramps off.
- Cut the green tops off of the ramps and save the bottoms for a different recipe.
- Heat a large sauté pan at high heat, then add the olive oil. When the oil is warm (about 30 seconds), add the ramp greens. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top and toss the ramps in the mixture until the ramps are wilted. This will take about a minute.
- Remove from the heat and serve.
Garlicky Morel Mushrooms
Preparation time 15 minutes. Total cooking time 20 minutes.
- 3 handfuls morel mushrooms
- 2 palms butter
- 1 palm chopped garlic
- 1 fist full of chopped parsley
- Submerge morels in cold water and agitate the mushrooms very gently to remove any dirt or bugs that might be in the pores of the mushroom. Remove from the water and dry them with a paper towel.
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Adjust the heat to high and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft.
- Add the salt, pepper and parsley. Mix until flavors are blended. Serve over your favorite protein, pasta or over asparagus.
If you enjoy cooking, you probably get as excited as I do this time of the year, knowing that with spring comes summer and spring is just a taste of what is soon to come in the following months. I hope you enjoy these recipes. They’ll definitely be accompanying dishes on my table this spring!