Friday, April 18, 2014

Eat The Season - Ramps, Three Ways

Thus begins Neurotic Kitchen's Third Annual Ramp post. Be sure to relive our other ramp adventures HEREHERE, and HEREThanks in part to their short season once per year, these deliciously garlicky wild leeks enjoy some major hype. This also means you've got to grab up your ramps as soon as they hit the green markets (often in the middle of April). They're around for just four to six weeks so we made sure to get cooking right away. The result? Three meals using ramps and one very happy week.

Lemony Ramp Pasta With Rock Shrimp & Fried Capers, Photo: NK 

To start, we whipped up some Ramp Pizza. To make it, simply prep your homemade pizza and chop a few ramps (white and green parts) into half inch pieces. Sprinkle on top of your sauce and cheese and bake. Easy enough, right? If you'd like to get a bit more daring (but still prep dinner in under a half hour) we're sharing two easy ramp recipes for you to enjoy! As a rule, use versatile ramps wherever you might choose scallions or leeks, and you'll be a ramp believer before you know it. Enjoy!

Lemony Ramp Pasta With Rock Shrimp & Fried Capers
Inspired by Giada de Laurentiis
Serves 2-3 as an entree 

1/2 Pound Spaghetti
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus an additional Tablespoon)
2 Tablespoons Capers, well rinsed and patted very dry
A bunch of about 12 Ramps, cleaned and sliced into 1/2 inch slices (white & green parts) +1 to 2 Ramp Greens cut into ribbons for an optional garnish (chiffonade)
1/2 Pound cleaned Wild Rock Shrimp (or regular Shrimp sliced into 1.2 inch pieces)
3 Heaping Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmigiana Cheese
Zest of 1 Large Lemon (organic if possible)
2 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

1. For the Spaghetti, set a large pot of salted water to boil. 

2. In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, warm the Olive Oil a minute or so until it is shimmering. Add the Capers (be careful because they may spit) and fry for about 2-3 minutes until browned (but not burnt) and crisp. Remove Capers with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towel. 

3. Allow remaining oil to cool a minute before pouring into a heat-proof metal or ceramic bowl. Add the Lemon Zest and Lemon Juice to the bowl and stir. Set aside. 

4. Once water is boiling, prepare Spaghetti according to package instructions (al dente please :)).

5. Add another Tablespoon or so of Olive Oil to the skillet you used for the capers. Heat oil over medium-low heat. Add the Whites of the Ramps and cook, stirring for one minute. Now add the green parts of the Ramps and cook, stirring another 2-3 minutes. Move the ramps to one of the skillet and add the Rock Shrimp. Allow to cook untouched for 2 minutes, then flip them and let them cook another minute or so until opaque and cooked through. 

6. Once Spaghetti is finished, drain and return it to the pot. Add the Ramps and Shrimp Mixture to the Spaghetti, and then toss in the Lemon and Oil Mixture. Toss for a full minute. Add the Parmigiana Cheese and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add a tiny bit of Salt if needed (the Capers will provide salt as well) and Black Pepper. Plate the Pasta and top with equal portions of Fried Capers. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Next up - our rampy answer to fried rice - also starring Mr. NK's favorite - bacon. Thanks to my religious use of instant rice (I have limited patience, as you know), this meal comes together in fifteen minutes! I'd also call this a pretty casual recipe so I'll be presenting it as such. Use your imagination and add or subtract as you see fit.

Fried Brown Rice Bowl With Cucumber, Ramps & Bacon, Photo: NK 

Fried Brown Rice Bowl With Cucumber, Ramps & Bacon
Inspired by Food & Wine Magazine
Serves 2  

1 Medium Unwaxed Cucumber, well scrubbed and cut into thin slices (peeling optional)
16 ounces pre-cooked Brown Rice (we use Uncle Ben's Microwaveable Ready Rice - fast!)
6 Slices Organic Bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
About 8 Ramps, White and Green Parts sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 Dried Red Chili, sliced
Black Sesame Seeds

1. In a large, heavy skillet (we used cast iron), cook the Bacon slices until crispy but not burnt - about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove Bacon to drain, reserving the fat in the pan. 

2. Pour off all but about 3 Tablespoons of the Bacon Fat. Add the Ramps and cook over medium heat, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sliced Chile and Cucumber Slices. Toss until Cucumber softens a bit, about another 1 minute. Add the Brown Rice to the skillet and continue to toss over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add some Sriracha to taste and toss again. You may need a bit of extra Salt and Pepper but you can decide that once you incorporate the already salty Bacon.

3. To Serve - plate the Rice, Ramp and Cucumber Mixture.  Top with portions of crispy Bacon and a good sprinkle of Black Sesame Seeds. If you have fresh Ramps left over use one or two for a nice green garnish. Serve with extra Sriracha and enjoy! Note: If you'd like to make this more of a true fried rice crack an egg into it before adding the bacon and stir until it has incorporated and fully cooked.  

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