A Lion and Its Bite

For those of you who are newly subscribed to The Spamwise Chronicles, back in January I embarked on a year-long experiment in cooking seasonally, using ingredients primarily sourced from Union Square Greenmarket (USGM for short) and other food purveyors here in New York City. It’s both a self-imposed limitation and a way for me to broaden my horizons by forcing me to go in directions or become inspired by ideas that I might not ordinarily have thought of, especially if I were to resort to my usual routine.

Chickweed

I’m roughly three months into my experiment, and I have to say, that this was probably the best thing I’ve done in a very long while. Thus far, I’ve managed to fulfill two food resolutions for 2012 — first, by successfully attempting a caramelized onion tart and second, by preparing fish in a way that I’ve never tried before.

Later in the year, I want to attempt biscuits and eventually graduate to fresh-baked bread, make homemade ice cream and butter, and begin to explore the world of canning and preserving. I’m especially looking forward to the latter. I’ve always found the topic of canning a bit intimidating; every so often I peek at blogs like Local Kitchen wherein Kaela displays her impressive talents with a flair that I can only dream of.

USGM is starting to come into its own with the appearance of ramps, spring lettuces and other interesting vegetables. Later in April, strawberries will arrive; I can hardly wait. When you have an array of wonderful, lovely tasty things to eat, meat and fish begin to seem boring by comparison.

Dandelion greens, sautéed ramps and baby carrots

Dandelion greens, sautéed ramps and baby carrots

This recipe serves one, so you may have to adjust proportions if you’re cooking for a gaggle of ravenous eaters.

The title of this post is a play on the ingredients in this “cooked” salad. Dandelion leaves are also known as ‘lion’s teeth’, so named for their appearance. The ‘bite’ in the title refers to the flavor of the ramps, which are quite pungent when raw but mellow considerably when cooked. Carrots are added as a sweet foil against the bitterness of the dandelion greens.

1 bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and trimmed
1 bunch ramps, cleaned and sliced (separate the ramp stalks from the ramp leaves)
6 baby carrots, peeled and trimmed
regular olive oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
a small pinch of dried red chile flakes
kosher salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon carrot tops, finely minced — optional

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add dandelion greens. Cook greens until they become a bright emerald green, about 30 seconds. Lift greens out with a slotted spoon and plunge immediately into the bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking and preserve the greens’ color. Lift the greens out with a slotted spoon. Squeeze any remaining water from the greens and transfer them to a cutting board. Chop the greens coarsely and set aside.

Add baby carrots to the pot. Cook until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and plunge into the bowl of ice water. Drain, then set aside.

Gently warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ramp stalks, a small pinch of salt and the chile flakes to the pan and cook, stirring frequently or until the ramp stalks start to brown, about 1-2 minutes. Add the ramp leaves and cook until the leaves have begun to wilt, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir once or twice, then remove from heat.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together in a small bowl the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and minced carrot tops, if using. Carrot tops can be bitter; it’s recommended to combine with a little parsley or adjust the amount of carrot tops to your taste. You would normally throw them out in the trash; don’t, as the tops can lend a savory note, especially in a vinaigrette, chimichurri sauce or salsa verde. Taste for salt and pepper.

To assemble:

Arrange the baby carrots attractively on a salad plate. Add the dandelion greens to the ramps. Spoon 1 or 2 tablespoons of dressing and toss once or twice. Spoon greens on top of the carrots, and serve at once.

Time: About 20 minutes, including prep.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #328, which is currently hosted and organized by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly foodblogging event that was originally begun by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.

5 thoughts

  1. Wow, I’m so in awe of your culinary prowess that I never imagined I might have experience in an area you don’t! I’ve made my own butter and found the effort to be worthwhile, if a bit long and loud while the mixer works. And I am terribly excited for the beginning of ice cream season.

    But I’ve got leagues to go in the veggie department. This recipe looks like a good start, if I can just get my butt out of bed early enough to get to the USGM!

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    • Hi Christian.

      Mountain Sweet Berry and Berried Treasures at USGM typically have ramps available but you need to get up quite early, especially if the weather is nice. It’s a rare day that ramps aren’t sold out by 11 am.

      Personally speaking, I prefer them later in the season when the larger (and more pungent) specimens are available. The ones you can get now are too petit for my liking.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  2. Hey April. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be sure to check that out the next time I go cookbook shopping. I like to patronize stores instead of online retailers; there’s something intimate for me when I physically handle a book as opposed to clicking on a web page.

    But if a place like The Strand down in the Village, or the cookbook place by my apartment doesn’t have it, I’ll be ordering from Amazon, so thanks for the link.

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  3. I am envious: every spring I read about ramps and yet I have never found them where I go shopping, so I still don’t know about look, flavor and texture from personal experience. I like making butter using the jar-shaking method: the moment the cream clots is exciting every time. And then you get really nice buttermilk.

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