When spring begins to show my mind starts to race…Asparagus, morels, artichokes, peas, fiddle head ferns, rhubarb, fava beans, ramps!!! Let us not forget the ramps. I can go on but I will contain myself. It is just that I get so thrilled about all these new and special fruits and veggies when they finally decide to make an appearance.
Living in the Pacific North West I have come to notice that we are extremely fortunate to all of these items and the fact that they can all be found locally here. Growing up in New Jersey and spending a decade in Phoenix I saw my fair share of wonderful local produce. But in Seattle and the surrounding areas there are fantastic forgers. They show up at the markets with different findings each week and it is amusing to try and guess what they might have from week to week.The findings of spring are very exciting in contrast to that of the other areas I have lived. I admit that I never had a ramp before living here, let alone one that was sourced within miles of where I now call home. Walking through one of the farmer’s markets this past week one of the stands had bags and bags of ramps available. I scooped them up, cradled them in my arms, and thanked the vendor for their work.
If you are not familiar with a ramp it definitely has it’s own complex identity. It has quite a strong (when fresh) aroma of garlic. It has a thin white base similar to that of a scallion, but the top is leafy and green. The ones I picked up had their roots still attached and were very gritty. I filled the sink up with water and washed them well. The roots were trimmed, the outer skin of the white base easily slipped away, and the leafy tops were brushed to rid of any remaining dirt. Once the cleaning was done I started in on my dinner. These ramps deserved something special to be parred with!
I purchased these huge globe artichokes a day prior and this was the perfect paring for the ramps. I peeled, trimmed, snipped, and scraped away at the artichokes. Steamed them in the oven and made a wonderful ramp puree to brush and drizzle on the cooked artichokes. In the puree I added some Romano cheese and fresh mint, I was afraid that without the mint the garlic tone would be way too pungent against the artichoke. When it came to plating it all I served them over a bed of millet pilaf and sprinkled them with toasted hazelnuts. The whole dish was fantastic. The tender sweetness of the artichoke was a great duet with the bold and bright ramp puree. As we finished our plates and licked our fingers (yes, you need to eat artichokes with your hands), this meal left us grinning, and now I am just wondering how many more times I can make this before the season of ramps and artichokes are gone till next year?!?
Ramp Puree (yeilds about 1 1/2 cups)
2 - 2 1/2 cup ramps, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup grated Ramano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
sea salt, to taste
Place your ramps and mint in a base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse it all to begin to break it down. Adding a little bit of olive oil at a time while processing to emulsify it all together and bring it all together into a smooth paste. Fold in the Ramano cheese and season with sea salt to taste.
Arichokes (serves 2 - 4)
2 large gloobe artichokes, stem intact
2-3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper
Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, trim the bottom of your artichoke stem and cut back the top inch or 1&1/2 inch off the tip of your artichoke. Remove the outer most leaves by pulling them off (about the first 3 layers), and then with a pair of kitchen scissors cut the top half of the leaves off all the way around until you see the leaves are a lighter shade of green. (This is to remove the majority of the most rough and fibrous parts of the leaves.)
After, the leaves have been fully trimmed, carefully slice the artichoke length wise from top to bottom of the stem. With a spoon or knife, gently carve out the choke center until the fuzzy center and sharp leaves pull away cleanly. Using a vegetable peeler strip back the outer layer of the stem and the bottom outside half of your artichoke. This is to reveal all the tender eatable parts of the vegetable. Place the trimmed and carved artichoke in a bowl full of water with one lemon cut and juiced into it. Repeat with the remaining artichoke.
When both artichokes are prepped, place them cut size down in a baking dish large enough to hold them all. fill the baking dish with about 2 inches of water. Slice the remaining lemon and and place it around the artichoke. Drizzle the olive oil over it all and season it with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes depending on size of your artichoke.
Before removing the artichoke from the oven test to see if they are done. If a knife easily pierces the flesh of the artichoke it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes before serving.
Millet Pilaf (make 2 cups)
1/2 cup of millet
2-3 cups of vegetable stock
1 tbsp of butter
1 carrot,chopped small
1 large shallot, chopped small
First, place the millet and two cups of the stock in a medium pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes.
Next, add the shallot and carrot to your pan along with the butter and stir well. Continue to gently simmer until the millet it cooked though. You might need to add another cup of stock or water to your liking.
Finally, when the millet is tender and liquid is absorbed remove from the heat and serve.
To Plate and Serve: Ladle a bit of your pilaf onto the center of your plate. Place the artichoke over this in the center of the plate and drizzle the top and stem with your Ramp Puree. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and serve.