Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ramp Hash

This is a rather luxurious way to use up some ramps.  But I figure, they only come once a year.  Go big or go home, right?  This is pretty fantastic with a beautiful friend egg slapped on top, so the runny yolk can ooze all over this fabulous hash.  And that, my friends, is about the best breakfast out there.  Make it for the ones you love.

Ramp Hash

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into batons
3 to 4 tablespoons duck fat
8 ounces ramps, white and green portions chopped separately
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the potatoes until just starting to soften, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain.  To the bacon grease in the pan, add duck fat.  When all fat is hot, add the drained potatoes and the chopped white bulbs of the ramps.  Cook until potatoes start to brown.  Add the thyme and salt and cook until potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Add the ramp greens and cook a few minutes more until wilted.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Nerds with Knives: Ramp Compound Butter

What do you do when you've been stalking your local store for the fresh ramps you just KNOW they will have again this year, and you finally see them over on a special display?  You run over, knocking down old ladies if necessary, and snatch up every last stalk.  Then you run home and discover that no one could possibly eat this many ramps themselves before the little buggers go bad.  So you grab a package of overpriced European butter and proceed to make ramp gold, which will live in your freezer until called upon at any point in the coming year.  You're so smart.  Give yourself a pat on the back.

Ramp Compound Butter
From Nerds with Knives blog

1 pound high-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces ramps, white and green parts (approx. 15-20 large ramps)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated finely (from about 1 large lemon)
Kosher salt, to taste

Trim the root end and wash ramps very thoroughly. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil, and set aside a bowl of very cold water with lots of ice. Blanch ramps in boiling water for just 30 seconds, then remove them and plunge them in the ice water to stop the cooking (this is called ’shocking’). Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread ramps out on paper towel to allow to dry a bit more.

If you are using a food processor, roughly chop the ramps and add them to the bowl along with the butter, lemon zest, and juice. Process until they reach the texture you want.

If you’re not using a processor, chop the ramps finely and place in a bowl with butter, lemon zest, and juice. Mix until well combined (you could also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment).
Add salt, tasting as you go.

You can pack compound butter into air-tight containers or even ramekins and store them in the refrigerator for about a week. The traditional method is to roll the butter into logs, either in parchment or plastic wrap, so they can be chilled and sliced. You can freeze the rolls for months and just slice off what you need and re-wrap well.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Brown Eyed Baker: Strawberry Pretzel Salad

I first had this non-salad salad at a friend's house.  Here is our exchange:

Me:  What exactly is that scary 1970's gelatinized mess?
Friend: Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  It's awesome.  Just try it.
Me: I'm scared.
Friend: Your loss.
Me: (takes small bite)
Friend: Well?
Me: (grabs dish with remaining salad and proceeds to the corner to stuff face)

Yes, I know it's very 70's-ladies-magazine-ish.  I promise it's delicious.  I even swapped out the Cool Whip for something a little more like real food.  The Jell-O is non-negotiable, however.  I'm still trying to determine if using organic strawberries is a brilliant idea to cut down on ingested chemicals or a disgusting waste of money.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker blog

For the crust:
2 cups finely crushed pretzels
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste

For the strawberry topping:
2 cups boiling water
1 (6-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O
1½ cups cold water
4 cups sliced strawberries (about 1½ quarts)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the pretzel crumbs and sugar. Pour the melted butter over top and stir with a fork until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake for 10 min, then cool completely.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly over the crust and refrigerate while you prepare the topping.

Place the dry Jell-O in a large bowl and add the boiling water. Stir for at least 2 minutes, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the cold water. Refrigerate for 1½ hours or until slightly thickened (will be the consistency of egg whites). Stir in the strawberries and pour over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until the Jell-O layer is set. Cut into squares to serve. Leftovers should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 12 to 16 servings

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The View from Great Island: Rainier Cherry Almond Tart

I love cherries.  I wish it was cherry season all year long.  I especially love specialty cherries, like Rainier.  I wish I could get some fresh tart cherries, but I think I would need to move to Portland or something.  But fabulous cherries deserve a fabulous treatment.  And what better with cherries than almond?  Nothing.  Cherries love almond.  And I love this tart.  The almond balances perfectly with the slight tart-sweetness of the cherries.  And it's pretty.  It was delicious warm or cold.  And yes, I plan to eat some for breakfast.

Rainier Cherry Almond Tart
From The View from Great Island blog

Pie crust to line a 9inch tart pan
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (or use more almond meal for gluten free)
Approximately 30 to 40 cherries, pitted and halved

Set oven to 375°F. Line the 9-inch tart pan or pie plate with the crust. Put in the refrigerator while you continue.

Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, and then mix in the almond extract and flours. Spread the mixture into the pie shell and top with the cherry halves, laying them face down across the entire surface of the tart.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey: Macarrones kin Recottu (Pasta with Ricotta and Bottarga)

I remember when this cookbook was released in 2007.  I admit that I bought it because of the big picture of cheesy pasta on the front.  Yes, sometimes it's that easy to hook me.  I even went out of my way to acquire the correct pasta.  And then I did nothing.  The pasta got trashed at some point during a move and the cookbook disappeared.  It wasn't until I ran across another copy at the used bookstore that I started thinking, "why didn't I ever make that delicious looking pasta?"  So I acquired another bag of the special pasta and a bottle of grated bottarga, and voila!  It looks fabulous, but honestly?  Not really worth the effort it took to acquire the supplies. Wah wah.  But hey, now I can say I've made real Sardinian food!

Macarrones kin Recottu (Pasta with Ricotta and Bottarga)
From Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey

1 pound malloreddus pasta (or short tubular pasta)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sheep's milk ricotta cheese (or other creamy ricotta cheese)
4 tablespoons grated bottarga di muggine (grey mullet roe)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add malloreddus and boil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente.

While cooking the pasta, heat the heavy cream in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add ricotta and stir well to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, continuously stirring until the sauce thickens and is well combined. Stir in 2 tablespoons of bottarga and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Drain pasta and add to ricotta mixture. Add parsley and toss until to combine; stir in the olive oil. Pour pasta mixture into a ceramic serving dish, then sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of bottarga.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Lucky Peach: Horse Race Pie

This pie is the culmination and accumulation of two amazing desserts: pie and cookies.  Because really, there's nothing better than a warm chocolate chip cookie, unless you put it in a pie. (I'm sorry for everyone who didn't experience a warm cookie as a child.  I believe it may have been one of the preeminent experiences of my childhood.)  The only thing about this pie that I find absolutely ridiculous IN THE EXTREME is all the flap about not being able to call this pie by its true name because of a rather nasty, litigious bakery in Kentucky.  But call it what you will, as long as you call it delicious.

Note: The recipe calls for black walnuts because of their amazing flavor, but if you can't find any, you can certainly substitute regular walnuts.

Horse Race Pie
From Lucky Peach magazine

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup black walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 premade pie crust

Heat the oven to 300°F. Get out your stand mixer.

On low speed, combine the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in the flour, then the salt, then the sugar. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips until just combined. Pour into the unbaked pie shell, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is set but the innards are still jiggly; if you stick in a knife, it won’t come out exactly clean. That’s okay. Let it cool.

Just as you sit down to dinner, put the pie in your oven that’s already warm from all your other cooking. By the time you’re ready to eat it, you’ll be good to go. I really think it is better warm than cold, but I also think pumpkin pie is better cold than warm. (If you want to slice the pie into clean pieces, you can chill it and cut it with a hot knife.)

Makes 8 servings

Monday, May 01, 2017

Central Market Cooks: Pam's Pimiento Cheese

I have lived in the southern half of the US for far longer than I ever lived in the northern half, but for some reason I keep coming across foods that I never experienced until I was an adult.  (I blame it on Betty Crocker's evil influence.)  Pimiento cheese never seemed entirely appealing to me, and it honestly sounds gross when you describe it ("so yeah, you put a bunch of cheese in some mayonnaise...").  But goodness gracious and bless your heart, it's like a southern tap dance on the tongue.

Note: I added some chopped iceberg lettuce to my sandwich because I wanted a cool crunch to accompany my pimiento cheese, but no taste interference.  Highly recommended if you want a fancier "tea sandwich" for a ladies lunch.

Pam’s Pimiento Cheese
Adapted from Central Market Cooks

2 cups shredded sharp yellow Cheddar Cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (4-ounce) jar roasted red pepper, diced small
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill weed OR 1 teaspoon dried dill
¼ cup mayonnaise (or less, just enough to moisten)
Salt and ground white pepper to taste

Mix Cheddar and mozzarella cheese in a medium bowl. Add the diced red pepper, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and dill weed. Add enough mayonnaise to make the desired consistency and toss lightly to mix well. Season with salt and pepper.