Archive for the ‘At the market’ Category

At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)

26 April 2012

       

I get excited about strawberries in June, quinces in October, and clementines at Christmas. So naturally, some years ago when I discovered ramps, the very first greens to appear at farmer’s markets here in spring, I talked about them a lot. Few of my family and friends in Europe knew ramps, and I somewhat precipitously made the connection with ‘ail des ours‘ in French and ‘bärlauch‘ in German. For years I’ve been talking about ramps, you know, ail des ours, bärlauch.

Well, Wikipedia has just informed me that I was wrong. Ramps are Allium tricoccum, and they are native to America, while the French and German (and English) ‘bear garlic’ is Allium ursinum. They are closely related but not the same thing. So the ramps we foraged in Haute Savoie last spring were not actually ramps, which explains why they felt different. If my memory serves me well the leaves were a little harsher, the taste a little coarser. In any case, that answers the question of their origin: ramps are Northern American. They are foraged and it is commonly assumed that, like wild mushrooms, they cannot be cultivated, but this appears to be a myth.

Ramps are sometimes called ransom (the common name of the European allium), but also wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic, which gives a good idea of their taste, unmistakably in the onion/garlic family.

I’ve baked ramps with potatoes into very good and very pretty gratins; for Easter I tossed a potato salad with ramp pesto; just yesterday I made a ramp risotto with rosé wine that wasn’t half bad; ramps can also be woven into egg nests for breakfast; they can even be pickled. The pleasures are many, but the season is short — take advantage!

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Ramp pesto

I started out with saenyc’s Wild Ramp Pesto on Food52. I found that raw ramps made the pesto too garlicky, while blanching them all made it too mellow, so I added a few raw ramps to give the pesto just the right kick. I also reduced the amount of walnuts and parmigiano and added parsley for a more vibrant taste.

1 bunch (about 28 to 30) ramps

2-3 sprigs parsley

5 whole walnuts

1/3 cup (20 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1/3 cup (100 ml) good extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps lemon juice

Good pinch sea salt

3-4 grinds black pepper

*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare another bowl with ice water.

Trim off the roots of the ramps, rub off any loose skins around the bulbs, and wash the ramps in cold water. Wash the parsley and cut off most of the stems.

Set aside 2 to 3 of the smaller, more tender ramps, and chop them coarsely. Blanch all the others in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the blanched ramps to the ice water. Take them out and squeeze them to remove excess water.

In a blender or food processor, purée the ramps (blanched and raw), the parsley, walnuts, and parmiggiano, pouring in a steady drizzle of olive oil. Blend thoroughly to form a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend again, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Use as you would any other pesto: with pasta, potato salad, smeared on bruschetta and topped with fresh goat cheese, etc…

Note: As is, this pesto will keep just one or two days. To increase its longevity, add some olive oil and/or freeze.

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Related posts

Spaghetti with ramp pesto, walnuts, and parmigiano

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

At the market in Brittany | Artichokes

21 August 2011

I don’t know how better to describe a field of artichokes than as a shimmering sea of silver green plants growing dinosaur eggs – they are at once beautiful and funny.

Because somehow it’s hard to take an artichoke entirely seriously. The legendary French comedian Coluche famously derided artichokes as “the only dish that, when you finish eating it, there’s more on your plate than when you started.”

When we eat an artichoke, we eat the bud of a domesticated thistle, cynara scolymus, which comes from the Mediterranean and dislikes frost. It is therefore ideally suited to the mild maritime climate of Brittany, where it is never terribly cold and – have I mentioned this before? – rarely particularly hot.

While the artichoke bud is still very small, the whole head is edible. Later, as pictured above and described below, it is still a bud but only the fleshy part of the leaves and the heart can be eaten.

To eat a globe artichoke you pluck a leaf, scrape the flesh gently but firmly with the bottom front teeth, discard the leaf, and repeat, working your way toward the tender heart. The very soft central leaves can practically be eaten whole, then onto the choke – the inedible part called “hay” in French, to describe its prickly quality. The choke must be removed carefully to reveal the heart, which most consider the prized part of the artichoke, though most children find eating the leaves much more fun.

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Steamed globe artichokes with butter lemon sauce

Traditionally artichoke leaves are often dipped in a simple vinaigrette or a hollandaise sauce, but in my opinion this simple butter lemon sauce far surpasses both.

1 artichoke per person

2 Tbsps butter per artichoke

1/2 lemon per artichoke

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

***

In a pot large enough to hold all the artichokes, bring 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) of water to boil.

Just before using, cut the stems flush off the artichoke. **If this is done in advance, rub some lemon on the bottom so the artichoke doesn’t oxidize.**

Place the artichokes in the pot. **It is also possible to use a steamer, but not necessary. The bottom artichokes will touch the water slightly but the result is the same.**

Steam the artichokes for about 40-45 minutes. The artichokes are cooked when an outer leaf peels off easily and a knife slides into the heart (bottom part) of the artichoke.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan, squeeze in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice if desired.

To serve, place one artichoke on each plate with the sauce in a little pot on the side, and a large bowl on the table for the discarded leaves.

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Related posts

Mussels with shallots and white wine

In Brittany | Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine bakery in Morlaix

At the market | Rhubarb [Compote recipe]

At the market | Quinces

 

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

27 June 2011

I could have spoken about rhubarb two months ago, when it first appeared at the market as the very welcome distraction from the last winter apples and pears; rhubarb makes those last few weeks before the first berries of summer bearable.

But it’s already the first week of summer, berries abound everywhere, and while I’ve eaten pounds of strawberries — plain, in tartes, or churned into ice cream — as well as raspberries and blueberries even, I am still craving — and eating — rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those vegetable that I cannot resist buying so it often ends up as compote (recipe below) because I’ve usually purchased it without a plan and compote only takes a few minutes to prepare. However the other day I felt an irresistible urge to make rhubarb ice cream. It was good beyond all expectations, and barely more work than a simple compote.

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, though in our part of the world it is often used as a fruit, in crumbles and tarts. Wild rhubarb originated in Asia and its root has been used medicinally in China, Asia, and eventually Europe for thousands of years. But it was not until the nineteenth century that the stalks of rheum rhabarbarum were cultivated and used as a food, particularly in England and the United States, where rhubarb became known as “pie-plant.”

Rhubarb can be any shade of red or green, and while the red variety looks pretty, apparently there is no significant difference in taste. The stalks should be neither too big nor too small, always firm and crisp, not soft and flabby. Rhubarb is available from mid-spring through the summer. It thrives in cooler climates where the soil freezes in winter, which is another reason to love it — a delicious vegetable/fruit that grows best in my part of the world!

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Rhubarb compote

The quantities are an indication. The weight ratio of 1 part sugar for 4 parts rhubarb makes a compote that is not too sweet with a clear tart rhubarb taste. It can be adapted as desired. Serve with yogurt or crème fraîche, or with busy-day cupcakes.

3 1/2 cups (400 g) rhubarb cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

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Cut off the ends of the rhubarb stalks as well as any parts that are bruised or blemished. Wash the stalks before cutting them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. (Now is a good time to measure the amount of rhubarb to calculate the amount of sugar needed.)

Place the cut rhubarb into a medium saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water, then the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until all the pieces of rhubarb have become soft, about 12 to 15 minutes.

That’s it.

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Related posts

Rhubarb ice cream

At the market | Quinces

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root [Remoulade salad]

 

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root (Rémoulade salad)

18 November 2010

Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s at the market in the fall and I get very excited by the prospect of eating it. I usually make a purée together with potatoes and a bright green mix of fresh parsley and olive oil; This “green celeriac mash” is part of my traditional Thanksgiving menu, and, if all goes well, I will post the recipe in a few days. In the meantime, below is another great recipe that’s perfect for the freshest market-bought celeriac: Céleri rémoulade, a typical French celeriac salad.

But here first is some information about this excellent vegetable which seems to be less well known in the United States.

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is different from celery, though they are related. They evolved from the same wild plant, apium graveolens, which is common in Europe and temperate parts of Asia. Wild celery has tough stalks and a very strong flavor, and historically the stalks were used solely for medicinal purposes and as a condiment, though the small root came to be considered a delicacy in Europe and the Arab world. In the early seventeenth century, a milder, edible variety of stalk celery was cultivated, and botanists also began developing a plant with a larger root – celeriac.

It’s important to pick out celeriac carefully, because the interior can be pithy and hollow, which makes for a bad surprise and can be very frustrating. (That’s why it’s a good idea to always buy a little more celeriac than one think one needs, just in case; that, and because a good half inch of the vegetable comes off when it is peeled.) So celeriac should feel heavy; if the stalks are attached they should not be wilted; and the root should be very fragrant.

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Céleri rémoulade (Celeriac salad)

NOTE: Predictably, there are as many versions of this recipe as there are cookbooks. The variations in the dressing range from a mustard mayonnaise to a mustard cream sauce with no oil at all. I have tried the different versions and I must admit that, to my surprise, the recipes that mix mayonnaise and cream are the best. (I was certainly very skeptic at first, despite the fact that these versions appear in some of my most trusted references – Alice Waters and Thomas Keller). The recipe below follows the proportions prescribed in Chez Panisse Vegetables.

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2 small heads very fresh celeriac

Juice of 1 lemon

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp strong Dijon mustard

1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

2 Tbsp heavy cream

Parsley

***

To prepare the dressing, mix the lemon juice with salt and pepper, then stir in the mustard, mayonnaise, and finally cream.

Peel the celeriac by removing a generous amount of the tough, knobby outer layer. Finely grate the root and immediately toss with a few tablespoons of dressing at a time, making sure not to overdress or the salad will become soggy. **Celeriac oxidizes quickly so it really must be dressed immediately.** Taste and correct the seasoning for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Most recipes suggest to cover and refrigerate the salad for anywhere from 15 minutes to half a day. I also like to eat it immediately, when the celeriac is still crunchy.

Chop parsley and sprinkle over salad just before serving.

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Related post

Thanksgiving

At the market | Quinces

14 October 2010

Quinces! Quinces arrived at the market yesterday so, inevitably, I bought a large bag. (As may be apparent from this blog’s name, I have a special fondness for the fruit.) Quinces are harvested in early fall and, unlike apples and pears to which they are related, can only be stored until December, so it’s a fairly small window of opportunity.

I am still undecided about what to make with these quinces. Last year I tackled quince jelly and fortuitously wound up producing kilos of quince paste with the leftover purée. I am tempted by apple and quince crumble or lamb and quince tagine. Whatever happens with the quince, I will record my endeavors here. In the meantime, the smell of the fruit sitting on my dining table is intoxicating and I realize that I don’t know much about the origins of quince, so I decided to do a little cursory research.

Quinces (cydonia oblonga) originated in the Caucasus and have been grown around the eastern Mediterranean for thousands of years. Cultivation spread before that of the apple, and many historical apples were actually most probably quinces. Apparently, for example, the apple by which Paris chose Aphrodite in the dispute that lead to the Trojan war was really a quince.

Quinces grow in temperate and subtropical climates and are important in the cooking of their native region the Caucasus, as well as Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and Eastern Europe. Quinces were brought to America by early settlers and now grow throughout the continent, but their popularity in the United States has declined over time.

Quinces keep for one to two weeks uncovered at (cool) room temperature – I should have bought more. Right now I am thinking quince dinner on Saturday, and hope there will be more quince at the market next week for jelly and fruit paste.

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Related posts:

Quince and apple tarte

Quince jelly

Quince paste


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