Cooking with Ramps, Radishes and Rhubarb
Spring makes everything old seem new again! Crocuses look like exotic orchids against the remnants of snow or last year’s brown grass and the foods we welcome back in spring are familiar, but so much more exciting after a long dreary winter.
Reinvent ramps, radishes and rhubarb by simplifying the preparation and savoring their intense flavors.
Ramps, or wild leeks, are some of the first things to emerge from the ground once it thaws. If you forage carefully, you may find them in your own forest. The flavor is likened to onions and garlic or a combination of both but to be sure, the flavor is unique and worth exploring. Simply wash, trim and slice the white part as you would scallions into salad, stir-fry and soup or showcase their flavor simply this way:
Wash a small handful of ramps, trim away the stem and the darkest green leaves. Parboil the rest, then add to a frying pan with pastured pork fat (“lard” that is, white gold…) Whisk 6 eggs together and add to the pan and top with a few dollops of fresh ricotta or farm cheese. Cover and cook gently over low heat until just set. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy with a few slices of crusty sourdough bread. The eggs and mild cheese play perfect hosts to the forward flavor of the ramps.
A little known fact: in Germany, a tincture known as “bear’s garlic” is produced from the oil of ramps, harvested in early spring. Brown bears forage for ramps in the forest when they come out of hibernation because the sulfur-active compounds cleanse their digestive tracts of the bacteria that festered in there while they slept.
Sliced crisp radishes with a smear of softened butter and sea salt — few things are better! And don’t ignore the leaves! Toss them into your salad for an intensely flavored wallop of vitamin C.
Here’s a twist: have you roasted radishes lately? Like most root vegetables, they take on an earthy sweet flavor when prepared this way:
Wash and trim a bunch of red radishes. Toss with olive oil, a clove of crushed garlic, chopped parsley, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast in a single layer at 475 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve as is or wrapped in a slice of prosciutto with softened goat cheese as a “perfect bite” appetizer.
Of course a beloved rhubarb cobbler can’t be beat and the ubiquitous strawberry-rhubarb pie is always welcome, but try thinking of rhubarb from a savory point of view and you’ll discover it in a new way:
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups finely chopped rhubarb stalks with one peeled, cored and chopped apple, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Simmer 25 minutes or more while you prepare the pork: brown 2 small pork loins in butter in a skillet on all sides then transfer to a baking dish and finish in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve the chutney at room temperature with the roasted pork.
Try easy rhubarb pickles as a side dish to a pastured ham steak or as an impressive hostess gift:
Wash and slice 1 pound rhubarb stalks. Slice into 2 inch thick discs or 3 inch lengths and pack tightly into pint canning jars. Combine 2 cups apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the salt and sugar dissolve then add 1 teaspoon whole cloves, a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (sliced) and a few small dried red chile peppers. Boil 1 minute. Pour this liquid into the packed jars to completely cover the rhubarb. Let it cool slightly, then cover and store in the refrigerator.
Find more simple ideas for these and other Spring foods (including fiddlehead ferns) in the Food Truth app — free in the App Store!
What are your favorite ways to prepare ramps, radishes and rhubarb?
Photo Credit: Craig McCord
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