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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 ❤

 

Victory Is In The Kitchen

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My daughter bought me this poster at the Churchhill Museum in London. I love how she instantly thought of me when she first eyed it. Of course, as a competitive home cook, my version of victory in the kitchen and the intent of the poster are quite different. Imagine the war struggle and women on the home front struggling to make ends meet and keep a household running. A message like this was meant to motivate a commitment to the war effort. With increasing shortages of food women tended vegetable gardens and used their creativity to put substantial meals on the table with what little they had. They were portrayed as of equal importance in the winning of the war as that of the fighting soldiers.

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Maybe when it comes to creativity and a few ingredients I am not so much different from the women in the early 1900’s since winning in my kitchen has been a common occurrence lately. These mushroom lettuce wraps just took the grand prize in the Mad About Mushrooms recipe contest. Inspired by the olympics (Yay Team USA) and ingredients found in a local Korean market these meaty mushrooms soak up the sweet and spicy bulgogi marinade and are a light vegetarian option. Do you like lettuce wraps? What’s your favorite filling?

Korean Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

1 firm ripe Asian or bosc pear, peeled, cored, julienned

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, washed, sliced (stemmed shitake, cremini, oyster)

1/3 cup Korean bulgogi style marinade (bottled or homemade)*

1 teaspoon Korean sweet & spicy sauce (gochujang) *

2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

pinch kosher salt

2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated into cups

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In bowl, gently toss pear and rice vinegar; set aside. Heat a large, non-stick, skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic; cook 30 seconds or until garlic just begins to turn color. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring for 8 to 10 minutes or until mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown. Add Korean marinade and gochujang; cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until mushrooms are glazed. Turn off heat. Stir in green onions. Season mushrooms with salt. Spoon mushrooms into lettuce cups. Top with pickled pears. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 12 appetizers or can serve 4 to 6 as an entree.

*located in the ethnic section of grocery store or any Asian market

Here is my first video demonstrating how to build another version of a lettuce wrap. Pretty excited that I have taught myself another new trick. Victory is in the kitchen in more ways than one.

 

Blend & Build A Better Burger

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These are not edible mushrooms but a beautiful capture from Will’s Bench at Lake Elise

Living in Kennett Square, AKA, “the mushroom capital of the world” I can’t help but get up close and personal with a variety of deliciously cultivated fresh picked mushrooms. Today, I want to encourage you to start blending your meat with mushrooms, if you aren’t already.

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It’s a super simple process and once you taste the combination I am certain you will never turn back to a full meat burger, sauce, ball or filling. For more umami flavor and juicer and lighter texture start blending mushrooms to meat 1:2. For every pound of ground meat include 8 ounces of mushrooms is what’s recommended, but I find myself doing an even 1:1 blend as we love mushrooms that much.

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After rinsing your mushrooms and spinning them dry in a salad spinner I quarter them and then grind them in a food processor. I then sauté them until they have released all their liquid and begin to brown. Stir them often at this point.fullsizeoutput_5319

Season the mushrooms any way you like and let them cool.

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Add to your ground beef, chicken, pork or lamb and shape into burgers or meatballs. You can also replace some of the meat in your favorite bolognese sauce or add to a filling to make ravioli.

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mushroom burgers stuffed with fresh mozzarella

I hope you will give the mushroom blend a try; let me know if you do. It’s a healthy and delicious option and just for the record my family will not eat a burger any other way. BTW, it works with all kinds of mushrooms, but my favorite for the most flavor are cremini and shiitake.

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Will’s Bench Lake Elise