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.
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:
The key to success is delicious food that you are able to sit and enjoy with your guests.
My Dad turned 84 this week and I decided to host a small dinner for him at my apartment. We usually travel or go out to a restaurant for his birthday but given the times we decided it would be best to dine at home. My Dad loves his birthday so it was important to me to pick a special menu to serve for the occasion. Preparation and timing are the two most important factors in hosting a great dinner party. You want to be able to enjoy the dinner not only prepare it. It is also very uncomfortable for your guests if you keep getting up and look like you are working too hard. It is essential to choose a menu that can be prepped ahead of time. I chose to serve Fresh Perigord Black Truffles Shaved Over Pasta as the appetizer followed by Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod with Beurre Blanc served with Individual Potato Gratin, Spinach Rounds and Blistered Tomatoes. The potato gratin was made 2 hours ahead of time and covered with foil so I could reheat them in the same oven as the fish. The spinach rounds were prepped in the morning and kept in the refrigerator. The Beurre Blanc was made an hour before guests arrived. The sauce was served room temperature.
So let’s sum this up: During the day, The fish was topped with the Panko and Chorizo and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, the Spinach Rounds were prepped and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator and the Potato Gratin was fully cooked and left at room temperature covered with foil. The tomatoes were tossed in Olive Oil and sautéed for 5 minutes while I was making the pasta. The Black Cod, Spinach and Potatoes all required 12 minutes in a 400 oven. When the appetizer was served I put the Black Cod on the top shelf in the oven, the spinach on the middle shelf and the potatoes on the bottom shelf. I then went to sit down and eat my appetizer with my guests. After 10 minutes I returned to the kitchen to take everything out of the oven. The plates were all stacked and ready for me to place the food on. As my kids cleared the appetizer dishes, I plated the food and it was served to the guests. After that I was able to sit, have a glass of wine and enjoy my Dad’s birthday. Dessert was brought by my Step Mom so the rest was easy. I had the dessert plates and forks ready to go. The other nice thing about preparing in advance is that it makes clean up very easy. All that was needed to get done was place the plates and silverware into the dishwasher. No one wants to walk into a messy kitchen at the end of the night…
We started with Cacio e Pepe Ravioli in a Truffle Butter and Cream Sauce topped with Shaved Fresh Black Perigord Truffles. Black Perigord Truffles are found in the Winter months, November through March. In the next few days I will be posting more on Black Truffles. The appetizer pasta was very quick to make. The Cacio e Pepe Ravioli was fresh so it only took a few minutes to cook in boiling water. I had a big pot of salted water simmering on the stove when my guests arrived so all I had to do was turn up the heat and make a quick Truffle Cream Sauce when it was time for dinner. The sauce took 5 minutes to make, roughly the same amount of time it took the pasta. I quickly tossed the ravioli in the sauce, dished it into bowls and my daughter Olivia brought them to the table as people were sitting down. I then went around the table and shaved the fresh Black Perigord Truffle over the pasta. It makes a beautiful presentation to shave the Black Truffle at the table.
Try to pick a menu that is easy for you. The sides should definitely be made earlier in the day. Many vegetables are able to serve room temperature after being prepared. Try roasting zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes or sautéing string beans in shallots and serving them room temperature or give them a bit of heat in the oven before serving. Individual Potato Gratin can be made earlier in the day and quickly reheated. Fish is ready in no time which is why I love this Black Cod recipe. It is ready in 15 minutes and looks absolutely beautiful on a plate.
Baking fish in parchment paper is a great way to seal in flavor using very little oil or butter. This closed cooking method intensifies the flavors because they are captured inside the parchment paper. This Halibut recipe is bursting with flavor from the sun-dried-tomatoes, spinach, fresh herbs and lemon. The scent of flavor is immediately released when the parchment is opened after baking. Pearl couscous is also referred to as Israeli couscous. Pearl Couscous is not a grain but is actually a pasta. It is made with wheat and semolina flour that is rolled in wet hands until tiny pearls are formed. The pearls are then toasted which gives it a nutty flavor that stands out in recipes.
Can I make this ahead of time?
The couscous can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is wrap the ingredients in the parchment paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes before serving. It is a one dish meal because the recipe includes a protein, starch and vegetable. There is very little clean up as well because everything is baked together in the parchment paper. I like to serve the fish with the paper slightly open on the plate so you can see all the beautiful colors inside.
Can I use a different fish?
Yes, you can substitute another fish. Any firm white fish would work well such as cod or fluke. It’s best to choose a mild flavor fish that won’t overpower the couscous.
It is incredible to walk on the beach and watch people surf fish. It requires a lot of patience and skill to catch and reel in a fish while standing in the ocean surf. My daughter Olivia and I took a long walk on the beach yesterday and we were delighted to find some of our familiar friends fishing for bass. When fish is freshly caught a simple recipe works best because it lets the flavor of the the fish shine through. I prefer a whole roasted fish but my family prefers it to be filleted first because they really do not like any bones. I suggest using a good olive oil, mediterranean oregano, fresh lemon, capers and some salt and pepper. Put the fish in a baking dish, add the ingredients and put it in a 375 oven for 8-10 minutes. Thats it! Serve with a simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese tossed with some olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and you have a delicious, healthy meal.