In Making Food on April 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

Week 10

Last weekend, The Husband and I took a field trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Have you ever gone to a place and kicked yourself for not having gone there before? Because: seriously. That place is nuts. And free. Every day, I fall a little more in love with Chicago. (No offense, The Husband.)

We’d been thinking of checking out the Conservatory for quite a while, and when we got on the website to check out its hours, we saw that they’d be hosting an urban garden expo the very day we were planning to attend. Given that we’re in the process of converting our entire backyard to a raised-bed garden (yeah, like I’m going to plant stuff in the ground in Wrigleyville, the most urinated-upon zip code in Chicago), this seemed: fortuitous.

We poked around the Conservatory, wandering through the themed greenhouses (palm trees! the desert! the fern room!) and checking out the vendors’ booths. And then we saw Harvest Moon Organics. We joined their CSA subscription program last winter, paying up front for a share of the farm’s seasonal crops, and getting in return weekly deliveries of produce and other awesome stuff, like handmade Amish pasta, popcorn, dried beans, eggs and cheese. (In England, incidentally, CSA programs are called ‘box schemes,’ which is inifinitely cooler.)

We headed over to say hello, talked a bit about the upcoming summer shares, and then I mentioned my blog. Jen immediately handed me a bunch of ramps, an aromatic allium plant that looks like a bunch of tulips did it with a bunch of green onions:

I walked around the Conservatory, clutching the ramps in my hand like a little kid. They prompted no end of interest. At the global-honey-tasting booth (yes! there is such a thing!), a guy tapped me on the shoulder; when I turned around, he said gleefully, “Hey! Ramps!” and then walked off. An old lady smiled, elbowed her old-lady friend, pointed at me, and said, “she looks like a bride carrying a bouquet.” (Let me point out two things here. One: What a stinky, weird, awesome wedding that would be. Two: I was wearing jeans and a fleece jacket, not a white fluffy dress and a tiara or anything. Although it occurs to me as I write this that at my wedding, I was wearing: jeans and a fleece jacket.)

Nuptial garb notwithstanding, when we got home, my hands smelled like a mash-up of garlic and onion, which is basically what ramps are and and exactly what they taste like.

After rinsing the ramps under cold water, and putting on a pot of water to boil for pasta, I trimmed off the roots, thinly sliced the white and purple stems, then cut the leaves into half-inch strips.

I pulled my jar of bacon fat out of the fridge (did you know I’m actually a Depression-era grandmother?), spooned a big glob of it into a hot pan, and sauteed the sliced stems until they just began to caramelize. I pulled them off the heat, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and set them aside so I could deal with the pasta.

Into the boiling water went a package of four-cheese raviolini; we use RPs, this awesome pasta from Wisconsin that always makes me homesick in a good way. About 30 seconds before the pasta was done, I threw in the ramp greens to tenderize them and boost their color, then drained the pot, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

In a medium bowl, we tossed together the pasta, greens, and caramelized ramps, then grated in some pecorino romano and added just enough of the pasta water to make a glazy sauce out of the cheese. We squeezed some lemon over the top, added a bit of goat cheese, then salted and peppered to taste.

It was ass-kickingly good: the ramps were subtle but flavorful, the pasta was fluffy and ricotta-y, and the whole dish made spring feel official, even on a drizzly cold Chicago April night. (Thanks, Jen, Tiffany, and Harvest Moon-ies!) It was particularly good with a glass of rosé, because that’s what we had lying around, though I’ll wager that sauvignon blanc would be a nice match, too.

I feel like noting here that lots of times with pasta, The Husband and I just grab two forks and eat out of the serving bowl together. Don’t judge us, either as slobs or romantics. I’m no fan of dirtying or washing extra dishes, and while it’s kind of nice and cozy, I shudder to think of the inevitable Lady-and-the Tramp comments we’ll get from the cheap seats.

And lest you think I’ve been remiss with the puns, there are several that spring (ha!) to mind. I’m on a rampage. Alliums have run rampant in my kitchen. But come on now: that’s just low-hanging fruit.

  1. Oh my that sounds delicious!! Are ramps hard to find? I feel like I’ve heard the name before but you don’t often see them. I guess just check farmer’s markets?

    • Not necessarily hard to find, but blink-and-you’ll-miss-em. Maybe when the farmers’ markets start next week, they’ll be available? Seize the ramps!

  2. I had to write about the ramps. They’re too good to pass up. Do you have anywhere that you can get garlic spears? I never saw them in Wisconsin, and they usually pop up out here around the time that the Washington Asparagus comes out. It’s just that- A Garlicky asparagus. Keep your eyes peeled, and let me know if that can make it as your new food of either next week or the week after. They’re coming soon!

  3. Sunny, I am seriously loving reading your blog! The info and your style are truly inspiring! Bravo!

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