Ramping It Up

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There is a saying that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but I think it better applies to April here in Pennsylvania. Should I mention the chilly weather we’ve all been NOT enjoying?  For a very long time it has felt like spring would never come. Finally, that snow and ice of those first few weeks have melted into a sense of calm like a warm spring shower.

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By the 4thweek in April there is a noticeable change in the landscape. Clearly, the sun shines brighter, the grass is greener and the warm temperatures beckons one outside to the garden and forest beyond. It’s rejuvenating and ramps up the mood.

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Yesssss it is ramp season. Ramps, aka, wild leeks are prized by chefs and can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a mild onion flavor and complement everything from pesto to quiche. I think it’s no happy accident that they are in season at the very same time asparagus is rising from the ground. They really do complement each other in flavor.

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If you are fortunate enough to find a lush patch of ramps don’t be greedy. Clip just what you need and leave the rest to rejuvenate the patch for years to come. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. Last week was Earth Day and many of my neighbors participated in a local clean-up of litter. Why do people litter? Anyway, it brought back a memory of William and I joining forces so many years ago. He was a good keeper of the earth.

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Here are a few ways to enjoy the freshness of spring ramp greens.

  • Add a few leaves to your favorite pesto mix for another layer of flavor
  • Chiffonade a few leaves and add to an omelet
  • Saute ramps with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
  • Chop and add to risotto
  • Delicious raw in slaws and salads (maybe not fruit salad)

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Ramp butter is fantastic on top of a burger or basted over a steak. Melt it in pasta with a bit of parmesan and pepper for a heavenly good dinner. Compound butters are super easy to make and pretty much keep forever in the freezer. I’m hoping to make enough to get me through until next season.

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Ramp Butter

10 fresh ramp leaves, stems trimmed, roughly chopped

pinch of coarse salt (I use a large grain Celtic sea salt)

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon champagne honey or Dijon mustard (Saucy Mama brand preferred)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Place all ingredients in food processor and let it rip until the ramps are finely chopped and the mixture is a glorious  fresh green color. Form into a log in some plastic wrap and store in freezer. I just slice of what I need when I need it.

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 ❤

 

Birthday Boy’s Spirited Boston Cream Pie

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Happy heavenly birthday William

 #30

It’s Your Day

loved being home

Your life was cut short too soon, but you lived fuller than most.  You cultivated a beautiful diverse garden filled with people far and wide who still love and remember you. They reach out every day, but especially at this time to surround me with the kind of love and appreciation you showed them. Happy birthday my boy. You are loved and missed by so many.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I love this web site for its detailed recipe instructions, weight measurements and videos. Besides angel food cake with strawberries another of William’s favorite desserts was Boston Cream Pie. I fancied this one up with a white chocolate swirl and gave it a touch of Will Keys spirit in the chocolate glaze.

The recipe is designed to make 12 cupcakes, but I chose to make a 6-inch round cake plus 6 cupcakes from the batter. I think William would have eaten the whole cake himself.

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Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature

Pastry Cream:

2 large (35 grams) egg yolks

3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons (20 grams) firmly packed cornstarch (corn flour)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) whole (full fat) milk

1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or liquid glucose or golden syrup)

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels

White Chocolate Swirl:

2 squares white chocolate

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly butter 12 muffin cups, or spray with a non stick baking vegetable spray. (I did 6 cupcakes and a 6-inch round cake)

In bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then, with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a level ice-cream scoopful, fill 6 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake just comes out clean. Spoon remaining batter into the 6-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk the  egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch (corn flour) and salt and mix until you have a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (the milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling (pour through strainer if necessary). Pour the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking the mixture for another 30 – 60 seconds or until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. The pastry cream can be stored for up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed. (I pressed my through a sieve to get it extra smooth and creamy.)

Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in the Jack Daniels, and let cool until it thickens slightly (to pouring consistency).

2 white chocolate squares, melted

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Assemble: Place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Fill each cupcake with the pastry cream by inserting the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeezing just until you start to see cracks in the top of the cupcake. Then pour about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate glaze onto the center of each cupcake, letting it drip down the sides. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate and swirl with the end of a toothpick. Let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or until the chocolate glaze dries. The cupcakes can then be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (I zapped a cold cupcake for 15 seconds in the microwave and it was heavenly)

For the cake: slice it in half horizontally and place bottom half on serving plate. Top with remaining pastry cream. Place second cake layer on top. Spoon remaining glaze and white chocolate over the top; swirl it.

Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6-inch cake and 6 cupcakes

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William

A Visit with Revittle

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Continuing to move through this month with some Good Grief activities to take my mind off things I invited my husband to join me in taking a food judges’ class sponsored by the Steak Cookoff Association. Bill is my chief taste tester and having him always support my cooking adventures and antics with enthusiasm has been a blessing. Driving 2 1/2 hours to the western part of the state would take us through Harrisburg which sparked a brilliant thought to visit an on-line cheese shop known as Revittle.

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Revittle came to my attention through a “Best of” Philadelphia Magazine food piece. The article highlighted the best pizza in America made with a Pennsylvania sourced gouda cheese and a cheesesteak made “wit” another local farmer’s cheese. Always looking to try the best of anything in and around here I learned these artisan cheeses are only available through Revittle whose address just happens to be Harrisburg. I was hoping they had a brick and mortar store where I could sample and buy.

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Otterbein Acres Shepherd’s Delight

An email exchange with the owner, Mark Zimmerman, revealed no physical store, but he enthusiastically invited Bill and I to his beautiful office in an old historic building on the river to sample some cheese and cured meats along with his business partner, Tim Pianka. While all the bites were quite delicious, Shepherd’s Delight was hands-down my favorite. How could one not love a cheese whose shepherd grazes his sheep only on the youngest grass? What a labor of love herding the animals from acre to acre seeking that green sweetness. Well aged, salty and sweet this Tomme style cheese is totally addicting.

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Food people are the most welcoming generous kind. Bill and I quickly felt at home with Mark and Tim as they relayed the story of how Revittle came about. Each bite of their delicious products included interesting tid-bits of their close-knit relationships with local farmers and chefs. Sharing with us was a real gift.

“Revittle was started on the principle of working with the best artisanal producers. Let us introduce you to the families who take pride in the quality of their products. Together, we put healthy, regionally produced foods and wines on your table.”

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Cheese boards and charcuterie seem all the rage these days. Whether offered as an appetizer or a dessert who doesn’t love an array of farm fresh goodness accompanied by sweet and tangy condiments and crispy crackers? Arranging a cheese board is an art I have yet to master, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the delightful contrasts in tastes and textures and layers of flavors offered from local farmers.

As luck would have it Bill and I were invited to visit and sample an Ah-mazing line up of award winning Pennsylvania farm cheeses and Charcutiere/ Cured Meats with Mark and Tim. We are friends now and I have nothing, but gratitude for our chance meeting. Check out Revittle on their web site to see their array of locally sourced and might I add reasonably priced products. Bonus: use the promo code GOODGRIEFCOOK to receive 20% off your purchase. I gain nothing from your purchase. I’m just here to tell you about great products from really nice people.

oops forgot to mention….if anyone wants to buy and share that 11 pound Gigi brand whole prosciutto…I am in!