Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crisper Clean Out: Asparagus and Ramps

About two weeks ago, I hit the Union Square green market. You could tell people had spring fever, because every other person was walking around with a bunch of just-purchased lilacs (with a going rate of $7-8 a bunch, you could make a killing as a lilac farmer down here). But those in the know were walking around bunches of other springtime favorites -- asparagus and ramps. So for $10 bucks, just a little more than a bunch of flowers, I grabbed some of both. And they sat in the fridge for a week and a half. I had intended all along to try pickling the ramps. I made a special trip to Penzey's for their pickling spice mix. I got myself a nifty container. But for one reason or another, I did not get around to it until last night. Since you only pickle the white parts of the ramps, I had whole mess of the green leaves leftover. I decided to use some of them in a pasta dish based on a recipe I found online (which, ironically, was originally was inspired by a recipe from Talula’s Table). I crisped a bit of pre-chopped pancetta, and then added a few sliced Baby Bellas and sliced ramp leaves. In lieu of eggs or cream, I (attempted) to melt a wedge of Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese into the pan, before adding the asparagus, which I sliced thinly and blanched, and a bit of cooked lemon pepper pappardelle. Since the cheese did not really melt, I added a healthy amount of grated cheese at the end and called it dinner (by then, it was 9 p.m., my kitchen smelled like ramps and vinegar, and Lost was starting). Still, I was happy to clear two more items out of the crisper.
Pickled Ramps
Inspired by a recipe from Serious Eats
Unless you have a incredibly well-stocked spice pantry, consider buying a pickling spice blend, which will save you some money and time.
Ingredients 1 C. White wine vinegar
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Bottled water
2-3 T. Pickling spice mix (a combination of mustard, coriander, and fennel seeds, plus peppercorns and bay leaves)
2 Lb. Ramps (wild leeks)
1 T. Salt
Set a pot of salted water to boil.
Prep the ramps by cutting off most of the leaves and the hairy root ends; clean well by submersing in a bowl of water and letting the grit settle to the bottom (as you would clean regular leeks). Once the water is boiling, blanch ramps for about 30 seconds, then immediately shock them by adding to a bowl of ice water; drain well and insert into a glass jar; sprinkle with salt.
Add the vinegar, sugar and bottled water to the pot; bring up to a boil.
Add the spices to the pot and leave on heat for one minute.
Pour brine mixture over ramps; let cool to room temperature and then seal glass jar and refrigerate.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Crisper Cleanout: Apple Muffins

I admit it -- I've been letting produce pile up in the crisper. Oh sure, if it gets soggy and/or brown, I'll toss it, but if it has some life left in it, I let it sit, waiting for the right day, right moment, right recipe. But no more. This week, I am using up all of the odds and ends that have been in the fridge drawer for too long. First up: Fuji apples. Shamefully, I've had about 10 small apples lingering around SINCE THE SECOND WEEKEND OF MARCH. Because that's when I bought them at the Hastings Indoor Market. They were starting to look a little shriveled, so I pulled them out on Sunday and made apple muffins. After all, who doesn't bake when it's 86 degrees out? After much deliberation, I chose Ellie Krieger's recipe, which uses apple sauce and raw apples. Since I had so many apples, I actually made my own sauce (which actually was more of a mash, since Fuji's don't break down easily). Making apple sauce is simple, and it does not take much effort (of course, turning on the oven and the stove on a warm day has it's own challenges). But the nut topping is what makes these a standout. Do not omit! Despite slaving over a hot stove/oven and dirtying all of my mixing bowls plus assorted other implements, the end result was worth it. And getting to enjoy breakfast al fresco on my newly madeover terrace made it that much better.
Double Apple Muffins
Inspired by Ellie Krieger's Apple Muffin Recipe
Ingredients 5-6 C. of apples, chopped ½ C. Milk 1 T. Lemon juice ½ C. water ½ t. Cinnamon 2 T. Brown sugar 1/2 t. Cinnamon ¼ C. Pecans, chopped 2 C. White whole wheat flour 2 T. Corn starch 1 t. Baking soda ½ t. Salt ½ t. Cinnamon ¼ t. Nutmeg ½ C. Brown sugar ¼ C. Vegetable oil 2 Eggs 1 t. Vanilla
Method Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer over medium high heat about two-thirds of the chopped apples with a quarter cup of water and a dash of cinnamon, reserving one-third of the raw apples. In the meantime, pour half a cup of milk into a liquid measuring cup. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside. Next, mix the next three ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts) in a small bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and whisk to insure they are well incorporated. In your largest bowl, whisk together the oil and remaining half cup of brown sugar. By now, your apples on the stove should be tender and starting to break down into a sauce (if not breaking down, give it a whirl in the blender). Add apple sauce/mash to large bowl and whisk to cool slightly. Once close to room temperature, add eggs one at a time, and then add vanilla. Add one third of the dry ingredients to the large bowl, mix until just combined. Follow with half of the milk mixture, and then repeat dry-milk-dry until everything is in the bowl. Fold in the remaining raw apples. Scoop the batter into a prepared muffin tin. Top with the sugar-cinnamon-nut mixture. Bake for approximately 20 minutes; allow them to cool before removing from pan.