Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Buttery Swordfish with Ramps & More Ramps

This really isn't much of a recipe, more of a status update on what I'm eating, but it was quite tasty, so I hope you enjoy.

Ramp season is again upon us, and by us I mean the Northeast, Appalachia, parts of Canada and the Midwest. The UK also has very similar Rampsoms, which can be used in the same way as our Ramps. If you are unfamiliar, ramps are a gourmet, uncultivated onion, which can only be gathered in the wild, and only for about 3-4 weeks each spring. You can learn how to locate, ID and sustainably harvest Ramps from my blogpost here.

Ramps are so tasty, and they have been embraced by the world of restaurants and foodies, so they make a great way to introduce your hesitant friends to the world of foraging.

Swordfish isn't a fish I frequently eat, mostly for cost reasons, but also because I generally prefer to eat farm-raised for issues of sustainability. But properly harvested, swordfish can be one of the more sustainable wild-caught fishes, so make sure to check your source. This dish would be awesome with many kinds of fish really, salmon or perch would be great, as would any firm white fish (like sea bass, halibut, orange roughy, basa or swai). I think the ramps would probably overwhelm more delicate fish like flounder, but you should experiment with what is affordable and sustainable by you. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Foraged Spring Stracciatella with Nettles & Field Garlic

Spring foraging should be well underway mid-April, but it's a week or two late this year. So I came up with this dish as a way to make the most of the small edibles one can find just starting to come out here and there.

Field garlic: the tube-like leaves are hollow
and smell strongly of garlic when broken
Traditional stracciatella is made with spinach, and has a very mild flavor, so henbit, deadnettle, or lambsquarters (when they start to come up) would be great, but I wanted something with a bit more of an herbal punch--and these greens, a mix of bitter (dandelion), pungent (field garlic and ramps) and sweet (nettles) satisfied my craving for the flavors of spring. But the recipe isn't exact, feel free to substitute whatever comes your way or strikes your fancy.

The base recipe is vegetarian. I added pasta and Italian sausage to the dish to make it a main course meal. You could leave both out, and make it a starter course or light lunch. Or you could replace with cannelloni beans and make it gluten-free and vegetarian. If you have a little more time on your hands to run to the bakery, serving the soup with some whole-wheat bread and ramp butter would be amazing!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring is Springing, and so are the Edibles

Young Ramps just starting to peek out.
Hello! Did you miss me? I wasn't the best blogger last fall, and I certainly was absent all winter. I had plans too. . . I was going to do book reviews during the winter months, but I just couldn't get excited about writing them. No more promises this year. . .I will post when I have something to share, and I won't when I don't.

Anyway, spring is back, kind of--due to the harshness of the season, it's about 2 weeks behind where it usaually is right about now.

If you are new and curious, now is actually a good time to start getting into foraging. Edibles aren't quite as abundant or as large as they will be in a couple of weeks, but they are in some ways easier to spot, as they generally come up earlier than cultivated plants. Of course, they are also harder to ID, since most websites and books don't show the young plants, they only showcase mature specimens.

With that in mind, there are some photos I would like to share, which showcase some of the things popping up right about now,

Before I begin, I want to reiterate the ground-rules. Proper identification is the responsibility of the harvester. I am giving you clues and tips as to how I identify things, it is your job to confirm them with reliable sources to your own satisfaction. If you are ever in the slightest doubt about a plant or mushroom--don't eat itAlso, don't harvest edibles from areas that may be contaminated. This would include areas that may have been exposed to pestasides, fungasides and weed-killers, areas near highways or busy streets, areas that may have had industrial or chemical run-off, and areas frequently trafficked by people walking their dogs. Finally, this guide is for Early Spring (usually late March to early April) in the Northeast, only! That is to say, New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, and north to Ontario and Quebec in Canada. What grows in your spring might be totally different. Even in the Northeast, remember to factor in "early" and "late" spring conditions.