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.
Similar to a bolognese but instead of using ground meat we use bone-in short ribs that are roasted until the meat is so tender that it falls off the bone. This sauce starts on the stove and finishes roasting in the oven. Low and slow is the key here. The result is a rich savory meat sauce that goes perfectly with a flat long pasta like fettuccini or pappardelle. You need to use a flat noodle so the sauce has something to cling to. The sauce combines flavors of sweet and savory with a touch of spicy. I like to top the pasta with an individual sized ball of burrata weighing 2 ounces.
Tip on serving the best mozzarella:
Put the mozzarella in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up before you place it on the pasta. When I owned my restaurant I was told by our mozzarella company to always serve fresh mozzarella slightly warm. When fresh mozzarella is made it comes out of the water warm and is shaped into a ball. There is nothing like truly fresh mozzarella that has never been refrigerated. The flavor is so smooth and mild. When fresh mozzarella is cold it does not have the same flavor, it is masked by the cold temperature. When you serve any fresh mozzarella or burrata you should place it in a pot of warm water or in the microwave for 30 seconds to take the chill away. You will see how much creamier and tasty the mozzarella is.
Making Short Rib Ragu:
A good ragu should have layers of flavor that can only be accomplished with a slow cooking process. In this recipe I combine red wine, brown sugar, mustard, tomatoes and red chili flakes with other herbs, carrots, onions and beef broth. All the flavors marry together and create a wonderful spicy- sweet short rib ragu. The short ribs are seared in a touch of olive oil on the stove top before being added to the sauce and placed in the oven for two hours. The sauce is done when the short rib meat is falling off the bone and ready to be shredded. The sauce will not take more than 15 minutes to prepare before going into the oven and once in the oven there is nothing you have to do for the next two hours. Just let the sauce stew together and work its magic.
What should I do if the Sauce is dry after roasting?
After two hours take the short rib ragu out of the oven. Remove the short ribs from the sauce and shred the meat from the bone. You should try to cut the fat off and discard it with the bones. Return the shredded meat to the sauce. If the sauce seems too dry add additional beef broth to the short rib ragu. One cup of beef broth should be sufficient. This is a ragu so it is a thicker meat sauce that should cling to the pasta.
This sauce can be made up to two days in advance and reheated when ready to serve. Add more beef broth if you need more liquid.
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
This is a very healthy and flavorful fish recipe that is perfect for a mid week dinner when you are short on time. The sauce is made by sautéing onions and dried cranberries and then adding balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. The result is a syrupy cranberry reduction that is absolutely delicious over flaky white fish. This is definitely a healthier dish which requires only one tablespoon of butter in the entire recipe. The fish is sprinkled with breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and lightly sprayed with olive oil before broiling in the oven for 5 or 6 minutes. I like to serve the fish with Pearl Couscous Primavera. The whole dinner will be ready in 30 minutes.
I like to incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables into my recipes whenever possible. A lot of flavor can be added to a dish using fruit instead of butter and oil. Cranberries are a great way to add a tangy sweetness to a dish. Cranberries are healthy and have research indicates that they can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cranberries contain polyphenols with anti inflammatory properties which help lower hypertension which results in better cardiovascular health. This recipe for Sweet Cranberry Reduction is a great way to prepare a healthy meal without sacrificing flavor.
What Are Some Other Ways To Use The Cranberry Reduction:
Colcannon is a hearty Irish dish that combines kale (or cabbage) with mashed potatoes. There are four main ingredients in Colcannon; potatoes, kale, milk and butter. The dish should be served with extra pats of butter on top so that they melt over the Colcannon while it is being served. Ok, so this is not one of my healthier dishes but even my keto loving husband had to stick a fork in the Colcannon after I made it. The white potatoes mixed with the green kale and melted butter on top is quite irresistible. It is absolutely delicious to grab a forkful of the potatoes and kale and dip it in the melted butter. If you serve colcannon in individual portions it makes it even easier to achieve this experience. Try serving the Colcannon in individual ramekins with a pat of butter on top.
What should I serve with the Colcannon?
Typically Colcannon is served with ham, sausages or corned beef. It would also make a nice side dish with stew. If you’re looking to keep the main dish a little lighter then broiled salmon with a lemon sauce would work well.
Tips for making great mashed potatoes:
You must dry the potatoes after you boil them and before you mash them. When the potatoes are tender drain the water and put the potatoes back into the pot over a low flame to remove excess water. Stir the potatoes over the heat for a few minutes to dry them out. This step will insure that you you have fluffy, light mashed potatoes. If your mashed potatoes are dense and gummy it’s because there was too much water left in the potatoes.
Return the potatoes to the pot after draining the water. Stir over low heat to remove excess water before mashing potatoes.
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.