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.

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