Chefs all over the world rejoice when ramps are in season. The truth is that ramps are in season for a very short period of time and signify the beginning of Spring. Ramp season typically only lasts a month or so from early April until May which is part of the reason why they are such a delicacy.
So What is a Ramp?
A ramp is an entity of its own. Some call them wild leeks. Ramps have a thin stalk that looks a bit like a scallion with one or two flat leaves. The flavor is a cross between an onion and garlic. Ramps have a very distinctive flavor that is not found in any commercially harvested vegetable. Ramps are foraged which makes them rare and adds to their delicacy. They are the first green that emerges from the soil after a long winter. Ramps can also be a little costly due to their scarce supply.
How to Prepare Ramps:
Ramps can be used in wide variety of ways. Once the bulb at the end is cut off the entire ramp can be eaten. They are delicious sautéed in butter and eaten with fried eggs or as a side dish with steak or fish. You can also use them in quiche with a little bacon. I have decided to make a caramelized ramp Chimichurri sauce that works well with fish or can be used as a marinade for skirt steak. Grilled swordfish with avocado is perfect with Caramelized Ramp Chimichurri. Make sure you save a little on the side if you are using the Chimichurri as a marinade so you can serve it as a sauce. I love how vibrant and green this Chimichurri is. It just screams spring to me.
Ramps come from the ground and the soil can get caught in them. Run the ramps for several minutes under cold water to remove soil. Then cut off bottom stem and pull back the outer skin and rinse again.
Roasting the garlic cloves creates a nutty mild garlic flavor that balances well with the tahini.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern spread that is made with cooked chickpeas. The chickpeas are boiled until very soft and their skin is beginning to come off. This makes it easy to mash them into a very smooth dip that blends perfectly with the silky tahini. Tahini is made from sesame seeds. I like to use the Soom Premium Tahini available here on Amazon. This tahini is all natural, delicious and made by a woman owned company.
Homemade hummus can be used in a variety of ways. You can serve it as an hors d’oeuvres with pita or flat bread and raw vegetables or as a side dish with charred broccoli and peppers. Simply toss the broccoli and peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes in a 400 oven then serve over the hummus as a side dish or appetizer. The hummus will stay fresh for 5 days in your refrigerator and is a healthy snack to have around. If you feel a little hungry try dipping some pretzel crisps into the hummus as a mid afternoon snack
Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet and Spicy Sausage and Fresh Sage
This keto friendly sausage and butternut squash dish is a cinch to prepare and is packed with flavor. This roasted butternut squash and sausage recipe is surprisingly low in calories. It’s so good, you won’t believe that it is diet friendly. The sausage flavor balances perfectly with the butternut squash and fresh sage. I also add a little spinach to the dish for a little extra color and vitamins. This sheet pan recipe is so easy to prepare and is filling enough to serve as a main course. The recipe calls for a three pound butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into one inch pieces, often you can find butternut squash already cut in the supermarket which will greatly reduce the prep time. Roasting the sausage and butternut squash in the oven results in butternut squash that is a little crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Butternut squash season is almost over so I recommend making this recipe before the end of March. I like to serve it with an arugula salad on the side and a crispy baguette for those not watching their carbs.
Some Other Variations:
You can serve the roasted butternut squash and sausage over pasta with a sage butter sauce. If you choose to serve it with pasta then do not roast the sage with the sausage and butternut squash. Sauté chopped shallots with a little olive oil, add sage leaves and butter to pan. Toss with pasta of your choice and then mix in the roasted butternut squash and sausage.
Another option is to serve the roasted butternut squash and sausage as a side dish. Doubling the amount of spinach in the dish will create an interesting leafy green side dish that pairs well with roasted or grilled chicken. Try serving it on top of thinly pounded chicken paillard.
My mother gifted to me her beloved asparagus dishes. I absolutely love these dishes. They have a beautiful vintage feel and are specifically designed to be used only for asparagus. It’s a pleasure to pull these dishes out of the cabinet to serve asparagus. I don’t use them often but when I do it reminds me of how detailed my mother was when she entertained. It’s very special to acquire some kitchen pieces that you can pass down to future generations. There is a closeness that is felt when you know that you are eating off the same plates that your ancestors ate from.
Should I buy thick or thin asparagus?
There are different size asparagus available. Some are pencil thin and others are thicker. If you are roasting the asparagus in the oven the thin asparagus will work great. You do not need to peel thin asparagus. You simply trim off the bottom, rinse them off, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The asparagus will be done in under 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You can serve them with a little salt and pepper or shave some Parmigiana Reggiano on top. This makes a beautiful appetizer or side dish.
The thicker asparagus need to be trimmed and peeled from below the tip to the bottom. In this recipe I boil the asparagus for around 6 minutes until they are tender but still bright green. You do not want to serve a brown, over-cooked asparagus. After six minutes you should spill out the water and rinse asparagus with cold water and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. After 5 minutes you can remove the asparagus from the ice bath and place on plates. The asparagus can stay at room temperature for an hour so this is a great appetizer to make when you are entertaining.
How to make a perfect hard boiled egg:
The perfect hard boiled egg should not have dark area between the yolk and white. That does not look nice. You need to pierce the bottom of the egg with an egg piercer before you gently submerge the egg into water. I like the Endurance egg piercer available on Amazon. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator 5 minutes before you place them into the boiling water so they are not shocked by the water. After the eggs have boiled for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and allow them to remain in water for a few minutes. Then set them aside or refrigerate until you are ready to use them. You will have beautiful yellow and white hard boiled eggs.
Some other serving ideas for asparagus:
A simple dressing made with Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, a touch of Dijon and salt and pepper
Chilled chopped crabmeat or shrimp mixed with mayonnaise and dill
Shredded Gruyere or Parmigiana Reggiano. Place under the broiler for a minute to melt if desired.
An elegant appetizer that is easy to make and tastes great
I love appetizers that are interesting but easy to prepare. I love serving soup or salad to start but sometimes I want something a little different so this parmesan flan makes a great alternative. When I invite friends over there are usually some dietary requirements that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a menu to serve. This parmesan flan recipe is easy to prepare and can be adapted to fit many diets. If you would like to keep it vegetarian then serve it with blistered tomatoes, roasted artichoke hearts and arugula. If your guests aren’t vegetarian then I recommend serving the flan with Prosciutto di Parma, Arugula and Blistered Tomatoes. The flans come together very quickly and then need to be baked in ramekins that are placed in a water bath for 20 minutes. To do this you will place the ramekins in a baking dish and then pour boiling water in the baking dish until ramekins are submerged half way in the water. This is a necessary way to make any flan, whether sweet or savory. It insures the the edges do not get burned and that the flan cooks evenly.
I also love the silky texture of flan. It’s almost like a spread and I have seen some of my guests use a knife to put it on a little bread before eating it. Why not? It is like a cheesy spread. The parmesan flavor is dominate in the dish but is softened by the milk and cream. It is essential to grate your own parmesan cheese and not use packaged grated cheese. I prefer Parmigiana Reggiano. Freshly grated cheese is much lighter and airier than packaged grated cheese. I like to grind some additional black pepper over the flan before serving it. I love the way the black pepper looks on top of the creamy white flan.
Should I serve the Parmesan Flan hot or cold?
I like to serve the flan a bit warm. It doesn’t have to be hot but I do not like it cold. You can time it so the flans come out of the oven 30 minutes before your guests arrive. The flan will need to cool for 15 minutes before you invert them onto the plate and add the arugula, blistered tomatoes, basil and prosciutto. You can set the plates aside so the appetizer is ready to serve when your guests arrive.
What else can I serve the Parmesan Flan with?
You can really serve the parmesan flan with a lot of things. Think of it as creamy, silky parmesan. It works well as a side dish too. You can serve it with grilled fish or chicken with some sautéed spinach. It is also delicious next to a sliced sirloin steak or filet mignon. Next time you make an antipasto plate think about making the flan to serve on the board next to the prosciutto and salami.
add whole pealed garlic clove, salt, pepper and nutmeg
warm milk on low flame until hot but not boiling
slowly add milk mixture to eggs being careful not to cook the eggs
strain through fine sieve
blend in freshly grated parmesan cheese and gently mix until cheese is melted
grease 4 ramekins with spray or butter
fill ramekins 3/4 of the way up
put ramekins in a baking dish and then pour boiling water into baking dish until water is half way up ramekins. Be careful not to get water in flan.
place on baking sheet in oven for 20 minutes until flan is set
remove from oven and remove ramekins from water bath. Allow to rest for 15 minutes then turn ramekin over plate to release flan from ramekin. If it is a little stuck use a knife to gently run around edge of flan to release it from ramekin.
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat
add tomatoes, salt and pepper – Be careful, they wil splatter as they cook
shake tomatoes in pan until starting to brown and soften
Serve Parmesan Flan with Tomatoes, Arugula dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and slices of Prosciutto di Parma (optional)
Minestrone soup originated in Italy and translates to “big soup”. This is because typically it is made with an abundance of vegetables. Minestrone is a hearty vegetable soup that is made with a base of carrots, onions and celery. It also has pasta mixed in with the vegetables. Typically the vegetables used are whatever is in season. Sometimes the soup is very chunky and other times it is slightly thinner.
This Minestrone soup recipe could just as easily be called a Vegetable Stew. I add tons of broccoli, carrots, white beans, yellow squash and pasta so it is quite filling. Serve a smaller portion as an appetizer or a larger portion as a main dish for lunch or dinner. I love the spice that the pesto and touch of chili pepper add to the dish. I only put a touch of red pepper in the soup but you can add more if you like your food spicier.
This Minestrone Soup is super healthy. It’s loaded with vitamins and there is very little oil and absolutely no butter. The depth of flavor comes from the vegetables, spices and tomatoes simmering together. Feel free to add other vegetables to the soup like peas, string beans or kale. Use what you have in your refrigerator. The minestrone soup will be ready in about an hour and a half. You need to give it the time for all the flavors to come together. You will absolutely love the way your house smells when you are making this soup. My kids always come into the kitchen to see what’s cooking. I refrigerate the leftovers in individual portions so it is super easy to pop a bowl into the microwave for a healthy lunch or dinner.
You can refrigerate the vegetable soup for five days or put it in the freezer for up to two months. It is always a great idea to keep some soup in the freezer so you have a healthy meal to serve on a cold night.