Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fried Eggs, Bacon and Ramps!

     Fried Eggs, bacon and what?  They look like scallions, so why are you calling them ramps?  Because they are ramps...  More on that in a minute.  My family is aware that I can do some crazy things in order to procure a certain ingredient.  Normally, it entails scouring the Internet or trying to get friends to send me certain products.  Who cares that the five jars of French mayonnaise only cost about $5 and cost about $35 to ship?  I gotta have that mayo!

     I first learned about ramps about a year ago, while walking on my treadmill binge watching the PBS show, "Chef and the Farmer."  The show chronicles the life of a chef in rural North Carolina.  While I am normally not into reality tv, I find this show a bit addicting but I am learning something.  On one episode, the chef travels to Tennessee where she accompanies the chef from the famed Blackberry Farms as he searches for ramps.  They dig up a bunch and then have an impromptu ramp party on the hillside.

     So, you are still wondering...what are ramps?  Evidently, they are related to leeks and shallots. Some people call them wild leeks.  They only grow wild, along hillsides and only for a short period of time in the Spring.    The minute it gets hot, they disappear.  Their growing season is only about three weeks.  Wow, now that is a seasonal crop!

     A bit more research and I learned that ramps grow quite well in Western Pennsylvania.  In fact, there are several Ramp Festivals that take place in April and May.  Unfortunately, I could not make it to any of them but perhaps that is an adventure for next year.  Ramp ice cream, anyone?

      Earlier this month at a local restaurant, I finally had my first taste of ramps.  The chef had wrapped the leaves around a piece of fish...and from there I cannot remember the rest of the dish.  It was tasty but frankly, I wasn't sure it deserved the hype.  Then last week, I received an email from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance indicating that they had ramps.  Ok, this must be a sign.  I have to try it.

     So I put in an order and here is where it gets a bit crazy.  On Monday evening, I take Dear Daughter to swim practice and then head the car in the direction of Pittsburgh.  Thirty-five minutes later, I park in front of the Children's Museum, enter the building and find my contact in the cafeteria.  He crosses off my name on the list and hands me my box of produce.  I did figure that if I was going to drive all that way, I should get more than just ramps.  I am not that crazy.  Then I drive the now forty-five minutes (due to rush hour traffic) back to the pool and pick up my daughter as if nothing had ever happened.

     Here are my ramps.  

     Now what to do with them.  I found that you can substitute the bulbs for garlic or use the leaves to make a pesto but that seemed to ordinary.  I wanted them to be the star of the show.  Then I came across this recipe and I knew it was the one!  Since it had bacon in it...I couldn't go wrong!  Dear daughter loved it and I managed to save a few ramps to make a great escabeche - recipe to follow tomorrow.  For now...

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Fried Eggs, Bacon and Ramps
From Serious Eats

This serves two people but you can easily increase the ingredients to serve as many as you want.

2 large eggs
3 strips high quality bacon
6 ramps
1/2 cup water
2T butter

Cut the bacon crosswise into lardons, place in a skillet with the water and cook until the fat has rendered, the water has evaporated and the lardons are crisp.  Remove the bacon to bowl.  Drain all but one tablespoon of the fat and add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan.  Add the ramps and season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 1-2 minutes until the ramp leaves have wilted.  Remove to the bowl with the bacon.

Fry the eggs in the same skillet.  Plate the cooked egg, scatter bacon and ramps around it and spoon some of the butter mixture over the top.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Pan Con Tomate

     I have written about my favorite breakfast, which we began having during trips to Spain.  A wonderful online food purveyor, La Tienda, sells this wonderful tomato sauce.  Very light and mixed with just a bit of salt, garlic and oil, it makes for a very luxurious start to any morning.  I have found myself recently having this for a light lunch coupled with a few slices of jamon iberico.  We have been wondering recently if we could make the tomato sauce. With such few ingredients, it could not be hard.  Several recipes I found called for grating fresh tomatoes.  That seems to be a lot of work and it isn't tomato season yet.

     Then I remembered the six jars of crushed organic tomatoes that my CSA had been selling at the end of the season.  Now most of the work had been done for me.  I added two cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of very good quality olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Combine and taste.  I wanted a bit more garlic so I minced another large clove and added a bit more salt.  You do not want to add too much salt as when you make the dish, you sprinkle it on the top anyway.

     From Whole Fields, I have found very good Portuguese rolls.  Slice one and set it under the broiler for a minute or so to toast.  Plate the toast.  Then drizzle with a bit of olive oil and swirl it around the bread so that the bread can begin to soak in the oil.  Now Dear Daughter and Dear Husband add a bit of salt to the bread at this stage.  I wait until the end.  I add a few teaspoons of the tomato mixture and then sprinkle the salt on top.  This is a great breakfast or light lunch, while sitting out on the deck with the sun streaming over you.  If you are adventurous, have a glass of Cava and dream of being in Spain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Greek Orzo and Grilled Shrimp Salad with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette


This is one of my all-time favorite pasta salads.  One of the best things about this salad is that you can make it a day ahead of time.  Again, you can customize it to your particular tastes.  I would write more but it is a beautiful afternoon and I am on my way to the river to kayak!

Greek Orzo and Grilled Shrimp Salad with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bobby Flay

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Ingredients for 4 servings

1 pound orzo, cooked to package directions
1 large cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3T Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Combine orzo, cucumbers, green onions and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Place dill, vinegar and mustard in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and blend until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and stir well to combine.  Gently fold in the feta cheese.

Heat grill to high.  Brush shrimp with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for approximately 2 minutes per side or until just cooked through.  Divide salad among four plates and top with shrimp.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Tortellini Salad with Fresh Herb and Tomato Vinaigrette

     It was another beautiful Sunday and we spent a good part of the day at the lake relaxing and occasionally kayaking.  Dear Daughter attempted to take a swim but quickly changed her mind when she dipped her toes into the icy waters!  It was really nice to hang out together and these little adventures are a perfect way to begin the week.  Back in our neighborhood, lawnmowers were blaring before we left and were continuing well after our return.  I miss our European ordinances, which outlawed lawnmowers on Sunday.  Actually, any loud noises on Sunday were not allowed. Sunday is a day of rest and they take this very seriously.  Oh well, it was quiet and peaceful at the lake.

     Dear Daughter is not a sandwich eater so our picnics usually consist of charcuterie and cheese or salad.  But every once in a while, a good pasta salad hits the spot.  I have two that are very easy to make and super delicious.  They also can be customized to your particular tastes.

Tortellini Salad with Fresh Herb and Tomato Vinaigrette
Adapted from Michael Chiarello

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2 lbs cheese tortellini
2T olive oil, plus 1 1/4 cups for dressing
4 cups diced tomato
4T chopped tarragon leaves
4T chopped basil leaves
2T chopped parsley leaves
2 minced shallots
6T lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-in thick
4 cups arugula
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook tortellini according to package instructions.  Drain and toss with 2T olive oil.  Cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, herbs, shallots, lemon juice and remaining olive oil.  Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper.  When tortellini has cooled, add to bowl and toss with vinaigrette.

To serve, line the perimeter of a serving platter with overlapping slices of mozzarella.  Spoon tortellini salad in the center and scatter the arugula leaves over the top.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fettuccine Alla Panna

     I am completely afraid of the dentist.  It is not rational, I know.  It is not that I am actually afraid of the person.  Frankly, I am afraid of the noise.  And the potential pain even though the entire side of my face is totally numb.  I have a very good dentist and I think that somewhere in my file, it probably states that I am a total nut case and to tread lightly.

    So even though the side of my face was numb, I was in need of comfort food yesterday afternoon.  In every Italian restaurant in Germany, there was always Tortellini Alla Panna on the menu.  It is a very simple dish:  pasta, butter, cream, Parmesan and Prosciutto.  With ingredients such as these, it is obvious that the dish is absolutely delicious.  While I did not have tortellini, I did remember that I had fettuccine in the refrigerator.  With already cooked pasta, the dish took all of 5 minutes to create.  While I must have looked ridiculous eating from one side of my mouth, it did make me feel a whole lot better.

     No worries about a definitive recipe.  Here is what you do.  Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a sauce pan.  When it is melted, add a few strips of prosciutto and swirl in the butter.  Pour in about 1/2 cup of cream and as much grated Parmesan as you want.  Bring just a boil.  Add the cooked pasta and cook for a minute or two.  Place in a warmed bowl, top with additional Parmesan and pour yourself a glass of red wine.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fettuccine with Truffle Butter Sauce and Mushrooms

     Do you get on these food kicks where you make something so good that you just want to keep making it over and over again?  I am currently experiencing this with mushrooms.  I used to absolutely detest mushrooms but over the winter, I learned how to cook them and now I cannot get enough of them.  They are so versatile.  My recipe for creamed mushrooms can stand alone as a dish, makes a great topping for pizza and served on toasts, it is an elegant hors d'oeuvres or first course.

     I am taking a break from my pork article celebration.  Did you realize that I have been publishing only pork recipes lately?  I have another article due soon about a local bread company so perhaps in the future, I will go a little bread crazy.  I can tell you that I received two loaves after my interview and the bread is so delicious that it is hard not to get up, walk to the kitchen and slice off a little piece!

     But back to mushrooms.  Back in February, I published Ina Garten's super easy, super delicious and super classy Fettuccine with Truffle Butter Sauce.  Yesterday while shopping, I came across some beautiful looking oyster, baby portobellos and shiitake mushrooms.  Knowing that pasta was on the menu, I wondered if the mushrooms would go well with the cream sauce.  The answer is...unequivocally...YES.

     I did do a little Internet research and it seems that Ina also makes this dish with mushrooms - so great minds think alike.  Ina adds her sautéed mushrooms directly in the  skillet with the sauce and pasta.  I preferred to plate the pasta and top off the dish with the mushrooms.  Either way, it is delicious!

Fettuccine with Truffle Butter Cream Sauce and Mushrooms
Adapted from Ina Garten

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Ingredients for 2 servings

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 oz white truffle butter (I have also used black truffle butter.)
8 oz fettuccine
3 T fresh chopped chives
3 oz Parmesan
5 oz mixed mushrooms (not button!)
1T butter

Bring a pot of water and 1T salt to a boil.

In a medium saute pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.  Add truffle butter and 1t salt and 1/2t pepper.  Heat over very low heat, swirling the butter around in the pan until it melts.  Keep warm.

In a separate skillet, melt butter with 1/2T olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Saute lightly about five to eight minutes until mushrooms have released their liquid and are softened.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain, keeping one cup of the pasta water.   Add the drained pasta to the truffle butter cream sauce.  As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add a bit more pasta water, if necessary, until the dish is very creamy.

Transfer to warmed pasta dishes and garnish with chopped chives and shavings of Parmesan.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Top with a spoonful of mushrooms.