Ramps — also known as wild leeks — have long been a celebrated delicacy that heralds the beginning of spring, though it's also noted as one of the most pungent of all the allium species. Ramps' popularity in the past 15 years has led to overharvesting, followed by bans on foraging ramps in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Quebec. Unscrupulous harvesters have made it difficult for the ramps to remain plentiful.
This led to a discussion of growing your own ramps, something I have contemplated since allium species are the only thing I can successfully grow in my own garden. Chef Bolus had the same idea and eagerly found a book about growing ramps, purchased seeds, and sought advice from friends at Bear Creek Farms. He then learned that in addition to needing the perfect growing conditions (a wooded, northern-facing hill), he’d also need lots of time and patience. The seeds require 18 months to germinate and then another seven years to mature for culinary use. Though Chef Bolus noted that he has foraged for himself (ostensibly while awaiting the maturity of his cultivated ramps), he relies on commercial suppliers for the restaurant.
Ramp greens are currently featured in the Spring Allium Soup — which is fantastic, by the way; rich and creamy and deep with flavor — as well as in the risotto on the new menu. The spring menu also includes a number of other springtime favorites, such as asparagus served with a Wedge Oak Farm poached egg, petite kale and rhubarb in the Insalata Langhe, Jerusalem artichoke (also known as sunchoke) and broccolini, pea tendrils, pickled strawberries, and French breakfast radishes. The menu evolves as available ingredients change, so look for other delicacies such as morel mushrooms to pop up on the menu, as well as early heirloom tomatoes and field peas.
Chef Bolus was kind enough to share the recipe for his soup. I spoke with him about it, and I’ve made some notes at the end for sourcing ingredients and substitutions for the home cook.
Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, which is kind of like being the official water of the Pacific Ocean ... it's a big deal. In honor of their affiliation with the derby, they are again offering the "$1,000 Mint Julep" to well-heeled patrons to raise money to benefit Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center. The Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep program has raised $384,000 for horse and humanitarian charities since its inception in 2006.
So what do you (well, more likely a Kardashian) get for a cool grand? A custom-engraved, gold-plated trophy cups will be filled with hand-crafted ingredients with a rose theme, including rosewater and muddled rose petals, and presented inside a box made from bourbon barrel staves and lined with Vineyard Vines fabric. The rose theme is actually quite appropriate, since the derby is know as "The Run for the Roses," and the word "julep" is derived from the Persian word "gulab," which means rosewater. In honor of the 89th derby, Woodford will only be offering 79 of these high-end $1,000 beauties plus 10 more at $2,000, which includes a gold-plated cup with a sterling silver medallion. (Y'know, in case you want to make Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari look like cheapskates.)
For the rest of us, Woodford's sister brand Old Forrester will be providing the kick in the standard $8 juleps that will be sold at Churchill Downs, and they sell a bunch of them. On average, derby patrons consume 127,000 juleps on race day requiring 2 tons of mint!
Even if you won't be heading north for Derby Day, you can re-create the experience at home for your own viewing party or at your Steeplechase tailgater. Woodford has provided the recipes for their $1,000 julep and several other variations that can jazz up your fete. Even more entertaining is the idea of setting up a julep bar for your guests to create their own versions of the classic cocktail. Set one of these up on the tailgate of your Steeplechase vehicle (no glass, please!), and you'll be the most popular spot in the Stirrup Club.
Read on for the recipes:
The exceptionally prolific list makers over at Buzzfeed caught my eye last week with "21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes," a compilation of delightfully disturbing foodstuffs from mid-20th century America, most of them complete with recipes.
Being of, ahem, a certain age (technically, I just make the baby-boomer cutoff), I still remember witnessing — and yes, indulging in — comestibles every bit as odd as these feasts for the eyes, if not for the stomachs. I remember my excitement when my mother first broke out the fondue set. I remember bizarre gelatin modes and all sorts of curious casseroles. I remember all admirably inventive uses for Ritz crackers. I remember cheese substances being contorted into all sorts of depraved sins against nature.
Surely some of you are of a similar, uh, vintage as myself. Do you have any particular dishes that stand out in your memory, for being either fabulous or frightening — or both?
Sánchez has a reason to be so generous, since his recent visit to Nashville for Music City Eats earned him a lot of new local fans. I talked to many folks who said he was among the friendliest and most accommodating guest chefs at the festival, and I heard from more than one source that he had a heck of a good time the night before the festival started catting around town visiting our honky-tonks, restaurants and bars.
So give Chef Sánchez a little nod as you whip these up for dinner. The smoky flavor comes from the adobo, and if the attached photo is any indication, they look really good.
Nachos in Smoky Black Bean Sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (15 oz) Black Beans, undrained
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 box Taco Shells, any variety
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup Salsa
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can (4 oz) Diced Green Chiles
1. In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 4 minutes or until onions are softened, stirring frequently. Add beans with their liquid, the chipotle and oregano. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Break taco shells into large chips and arrange in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes or until heated through.
3. Arrange warm chips on large serving platter. Sprinkle evenly with cheese then pour bean mixture over chips. Top with salsa and sour cream and sprinkle with diced green chiles. Serve immediately.
Those neon red marischinos might be good for topping a slice of Shoney's Fudge Cake, but they won't make an appearance in any cocktail I make. I like real cherries like the Luxardos I buy at Lazzaroli, or even better, brandied cherries made at home. Plus since I get the occasional flare-up of gout, cherries are supposedly therapeutic. (At least maybe they'll hopefully cancel out the effects of the booze ...)
Seema Prasad of Miel is a woman after my own heart, and she's been making her own cocktail cherries for years. She was kind enough to share her recipe for brandied cherries that should help us all get through the three-dog nights of fall and winter. Enjoy!
Miel's Brandied Cherries
from Seema Prasad
Growing up in the Northwest where summer cherries mean making pies, freezing, and even better … brandying for winter cocktails, I always look forward to these bright flavors of summer once the weather turned. After time I learned that there were never enough brandied cherries and that they turned out quite well when I used the frozen fruit in the same recipe that called for fresh fruit.
2 pounds frozen, pitted cherries (Bing is a sweet variety but sour cherries offer an unusual and addictive twist)
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick cut in half
1 cup brandy
2 ribbons orange zest
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
Fill 2 glass jars (I love the Weck jars with the gasket & clip fasteners), splitting the frozen cherries evenly.
Combine sugar, cinnamon stick, brandy, orange zest, water & salt in a pan and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Let cool for 10 minutes and pour equal parts over the cherries. Let cool with the top off then cover and refrigerate.
Lasts for months! Makes a great holiday gift.
And the second-place winner? The OOM-PAH, also by Melissa Corbin (apparently a bruschetta savant).
The third-place prize went to blog-less Mama Nachos, mother of frequent commenter Amanda (@loveandnachos). Her bruschetta was a riff on the BLT. The secret ingredient, I’m told was scandalous: Miracle Whip. Take that, Mayogate. Amanda’s own entry, the Everything Bagel bruschetta earned her a special “Honorable Mention” nod. Interestingly (and by "interestingly," I mean, “not surprisingly” — ha!), her recipe also incorporated a bit of swine flesh.
Every year, the nice folks at Saveur magazine do a gonzo issue called The Saveur 100, wherein they bring to you, gentle reader, items of deliciousness which you will want to buy, eat or generally get on a plane immediately to go see. This year's best bit of food travel porn is at No. 44, and it's the entire country of Norway. (Yes, it's ridiculous, but it's worth buying the print edition just for the photo edit on this spread alone.)
Flipping through, my jaw dropped when I got to No. 35 and found a pitch perfect description of the legendary Hap Townes restaurant. This entry focused on the stewed tomatoes and, incredibly, includes a recipe for them. The item was written by Jane and Michael Stern, better known as the folks behind a series of road food books and roadfood.com.
The recipe, which originally came from James Beverly "Little Hap" Townes' grandmother, is included in the back of the issue.
So this July, I gathered my supplies. Simply:
2.5 liters of vodka
2 growlers (any airtight container will do)
20 vanilla beans (bought here)
Approximate cost: $60.
(Tip: You can save money if you go ahead and buy more beans at once, instead of in multiple stages like I did.)
And here's what you do:
The recipes usually arrive as handwritten notes with lots of margin scribbles, or worse, as files from an early computer program called something like Menu Master. To turn them into a cookbook, the recipes are scaled way back (60 zucchini muffins, anyone?), then re-tested on home kitchen equipment. Even after that, there's a lot of educated guessing and querying. Does the chef mean cilantro when he says "sprinkle with coriander"? What size "mini muffin" cups? There's no tuna in the Tuna Coating recipe, nor is it used for tuna — what is a better name?
No two recipes are worded the same way, so a lot of the job involves coaxing all the bread, soup or salad recipes into a similar flow and format.
The current cookbook project (for a mid-Atlantic resort) includes lots of nut garnishes and toppings. Some recipes call for "roasting" the nuts and others call for "toasting" them. I'm spending a lot of mental energy fretting about the difference. Roasting is in the oven and toasting is on the stovetop, but beyond that, what's the difference, if there is any?
After the jump, the most intriguing recipe I edited all week. I haven't made it yet, but it's been tested, so jump right in. When you make it, will you roast or a toast the nuts?
Cornbread is the color of gold, and eating it supposedly attracts gold to the diner. Greens, whether collard, turnip or mustard, are supposed to represent green folding money. Black-eyed peas or field peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and the fact that they swell when cooked represents your increasing bank account in 2012. It is also a tradition to leave a coin under the pot when cooking them or under each bowl as you serve them to reinforce the wish.
Other practices include the Spanish tradition of eating a grape at each peal of the bell at midnight on New Year's Eve. I tried this one last year, and I can tell you that it's a Kobayashi-like feat when you've already had a good meal and perhaps a few glasses of Champagne. But if it really does bring prosperity, it's worth forcing them down.
Other superstitions rate both foods to eat and ones to avoid. Pork is traditionally favored because pigs root forward. Conversely, avoid lobster (known to swim backwards) and chicken (known to scratch backwards). No word on delicious, delicious beef, which tends to just stand there and grow tastier.
Around these parts, black-eyed peas and greens dishes seem to be the most popular. Texas Caviar is a dip that seems to be a good way to get some luck into your black-eyed-pea-averse friends. More traditional is the Low Country classic dish called Hoppin' John. Although the origin of the name is still cloudy (some think it's a bastardized pronunciation of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas "pois pigeons"), some variation of beans and rice are popular from Texas to Brazil. Even more full of fortune are those who can prove their frugality by extending their Hoppin' John beyond New Year's Day to make leftovers from them. These dishes are known as Skippin' Jenny. Go figure.
Since Hoppin' John is so close to traditional red beans and rice, I sought out a recipe to share with our Bites readers from a true son of the Big Easy, Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Va.. Guas grew up in New Orleans and spent his early culinary career learning his craft from chefs around the city. As an avid sportsman, it wasn't too difficult for Guas to trade the bayous of Louisiana for the marshes of the Chesapeake when he had the opportunity to move to the D.C. area in 1998. Since then, he has worked as a pastry chef in several kitchens until he opened his own Bayou Bakery in late 2010. He is a frequent guest on the Today show and has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Esquire, Oprah Magazine and Bon Appétit.
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