Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera

Sauce Carrettiera, is in short, a miracle sauce. Contrary to popular beliefs about spaghetti sauce, this sauce takes almost no time to simmer and is ready to go by the time your pasta has finished cooking. It is quick, and spicy, and satisfying- the perfect meal for college students doing some late night studying or for parents who need a quick bite before dropping the kids off at soccer practice. In fact, it is the go-to meal for university students in Italy- it’s pretty inexpensive too!

 

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This sauce’s miraculous powers come from two key ingredients: the fresh Parmesan cheese and the red pepper flakes.

 

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The marriage of these two ingredients is celebrated so perfectly in this dish that I cannot imagine eating Carrettiera sauce without the cheese. It would be like peanut butter with no jelly; an ice cream sundae with no whipped cream. The heat of the red pepper is both mellowed and complemented by the Parmesan; it helps bring out the ‘umami’ flavor of the cheese.

 

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So, next time you’re in a hurry, or just don’t feel like spending a lot of time cooking, try Carrettierra. The heat and immediate satisfaction will have your feeling as macho and spicy-hot as the muscular cart-pullers this sauce was named after- (Carrettiera originates from the Italian word for ‘cart-pullers’ and refers to the large, muscular, ‘macho’ men who spent all day doing this hard work and who came home to eat this spicy sauce for dinner).

 

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Spaghetti alla Carrettiera

From: Chrissy Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 26-28 oz strained peeled tomatoes (like the Pomi brand) or canned, peeled tomatoes that have been blended until smooth (either with a food processor, blender, or immersion blender)
  • ¼ cup good olive oil (it is okay to use good olive oil here because the sauce never goes beyond a mild simmer)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes- to taste (1/2 tea-1 tea)
  • 1 pound spaghetti or thin spaghetti
  • 4-5 oz chunk of Parmeggiano Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Put the water onto boil and while boiling simmer the garlic together with the red pepper flakes in a small sauce pot over medium-low to low heat.
  2. Simmer the garlic and pepper flakes for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic (you want the garlic to cook for a few minutes, until it “releases its scent” and is no longer bitter).
  3. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. You don’t want to over-do the salt because the Parmesan is naturally salty, you will want a lot of Parmesan on your pasta! Let sauce continue to gently simmer until the pasta is done.
  4. Throw the pasta in when the water boils and when the pasta is done, the sauce is done! Drain the pasta, mix together, and serve with a ton of fresh Parmesan cheese.

From the Fridge: Spanish Quesadillas

I grew up in a family where virtually nothing was wasted. My mother would save the tiniest sliver of Breyers ice cream that used to come in a square container, and sometimes, oh my God, we’d even take leftovers to amusement parks. I of course wanted those horrible hot dogs rolling around on those metal tubes all day. I often think how almost criminal it is that we have three refrigerators in our house that are so stuffed with food we can’t even see what’s growing in the back of each of them. Yes, I teach cooking classes so there’s always a lot of ingredients needed for classes and testing recipes, but it’s still no excuse for wasting precious food.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

I decided that instead of dreading the monthly clean-out of moldy bits and pieces and the slimy gook from spilled jars, I should stage our own version of Chopped, where contestants are given a handful of secret ingredients and they have to come up with some brilliant dish. The difference of course is that I won’t try to make a four star dinner out of cheese doodles, octopus, gelatin and some sort of spiky fruit. I’m challenging myself to search the freezers and fridges each week for several ingredients and to figure out a dish in one hour. This kind of self imposed contest forces you to use a variety of skills – it could be searing, braising, frying or roasting, or whatever – in new ways and to really work the spices you have on hand.

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Okay I admit, this first week I had a head start. I just finished doing a week of cooking demos on back to school healthy snacks and lunch options on Fox News (link to avocado video) and had great lime jalapeno guacamole left over. I had also had a huge package of 12 inch tortillas from making low fat baked tortilla chips on air. Quesadillas anyone? So I searched the fridge and found perfectly ripe yellow heirloom tomatoes, Iberico cheese and smoked prosciutto (similar enough to Iberico ham). Perfect ingredients to make a Spanish-ish Quesadilla. Here’s the recipe:

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Spanish-Inspired Quesadillas, featuring Smoke Prosciutto and Iberico Cheese | The Road Home

 

Countdown to Thanksgiving 6

Before Thanksgiving, we were all so geared for that first taste of the turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The second and third bites were pretty fabulous too and I for one was really looking forward to The Sandwich the next day. But by day three leftover turkey is a challenge and most of us just want to see it disappear. When my producer asked me to come up with a leftover cooking demo for the last day of the Thanksgiving TV extravaganza, I thought turkey puff pastry turnovers. It took a lot of trial and error  (do you add stuffing or not, I wondered) to come up with the perfect combination. These turnovers are both beautiful, easy, and practical because you can also freeze them and pop them in the oven when whenever you want. And they include bacon too so how could you go wrong? They were a huge hit with Mark and the girls, and the staff at WTIC went crazy over them too. We hope you like them as well!

 

Question of the Day: What did you do with your leftovers from Thanksgiving?

 

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Turkey Cranberry Puff Pastry Turnovers

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry sheets defrosted
  • All purpose flour for rolling out the dough
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 pound or more leftover turkey cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 8 or more tablespoons leftover gravy
  • 8 tablespoons homemade or canned whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 6 strips cooked crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sage or rosemary (optional)
  • 1/3 cup or more crispy shallots* (see our recipe for butternut squash soup for recipe)

Directions:

  1. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry out on a floured surface to 14X14 inches. Square off the edges of the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
  2. Cut both the length and width of the dough in half so there are 4 equal parts. You will have four 7 X 7 squares.
  3. Whisk 1 teaspoon water and 1 whole egg in a small bowl or ramekin and set aside.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Carefully move the puff pastry squares on to a separate piece of parchment paper.
  6. Place two to three ounces of turkey and two tablespoons each of both gravy and cranberry sauce on each diagonal half of the square. Sprinkle evenly with bacon, shallots and ¼ teaspoon of herbs (optional) on each half of diagonal halves as well, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the square.
  7. Brush the entire border of each square with egg wash and fold over
  8. Use a fork to seal the edges and to assure the filling won’t leak out while the turnovers bake.
  9. Cut the parchment paper around each turnover leaving a 2-inch border. Carefully pick up each by the edges of the parchment paper and place them on the cookie sheet (they will be very fragile, and tend to lose their shape if you lift them with your hands on to the cookie sheet.)
  10. Carefully brush each turnover with egg wash.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  12. Serve immediately with a green salad and roasted vegetables.

Italian Genovese Sauce: Time to Get Cozy

“Sometimes, the best meal requires you to forget that time exists”

–Elizabeth Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients

                                                                                                       

Cooking is all about time. When to throw in the pasta, when to take out the casserole, how to make a dinner for a family of six in forty-five minutes. But what happens when there is no limit on time? When you have all day to make a meal, as if time doesn’t exist.
Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

For Neapolitans and their immigrant descendants, what happens is Genoaise. Or, for those not familiar with Neapolitan dialect, sauce Genovese. Genovese is a mysterious sauce, steeped in time and history. No one can agree on the origins of a dish named after Genoa but created in Naples. Perhaps it’s the mystery of the dish that makes it so alluring. For me, it’s the magic of leaving onions, pork, and stock to simmer and discovering three hours later that something new and comforting has taken its place.

 

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

There are dozens of variations of Genovese sauce (mine clearly being the best!) but all Neapolitans agree on one thing: that Genovese sauce is not meant for Spring and Summer. It is not a dish that you serve to friends at a picnic or for a buffet. Genoaise is Fall and Winter. Fall for when you need a dish to slow you down and bring the colors of the leaves outside your window to life. Winter for when you need a warm, long hug after a day of snow shoveling and driving on half-plowed roads. Genovese nudges you to discover coziness and revel in it as if nothing else existed.

 

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

 

So, I will leave you to try this sauce for yourself, with a reminder to take things slow every once in a while and let the simplicity of fresh pasta, grated cheese, and cooked down onions heal you.

Neapolitan Genovese Sauce via The Road Home

Genovese Sauce

From: Christina Esposito

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 – 2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/8” thin (about 6 small – medium sized onions)
  • 4 – 4.5 cups of beef stock or broth (enough to cover the meat and onions)
  • Splash of tomato sauce (1/8 cup) – Optional
  • Pecorino Romano grated cheese
  • 1 pound fresh pasta (fettuccine)

Directions:

  1. Sear the meat (you can use either beef or pork, but I’m partial to pork because it tenderizes so beautifully with this sauce). Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium sized sauce pot and jack the heat up to medium high. While the oil is warming, salt and pepper the meat. Then, when the oil is shimmering, like seeing heat in the desert, add the meat. This should make a loud noise, but that’s good- it’s the noise of juices being sealed into the meat. Remember to rotate the meat around to get all the sides nicely browned. The goal is to brown the meat, not fully cook it.
  2. When the meat is seared, add ¼ cup of the beef stock to scrape up all the bits of meat and ‘brown stuff’ from the bottom of the pan. This brown stuff is ‘fond’, the meat drippings that will melt into your sauce and make it go from good to great.
  3. Add the garlic. Let it cook for just a minute so it releases its scent.
  4. Add the onions and rest of the beef stock (so that the onions and meat are just covered with stock). Throw in a dash of tomato sauce too if you have it and simmer away! Let the sauce simmer for as many hours as you have to give, stirring it every now and again. If the stock evaporates and sinks way below the onion level add some more. Don’t forget to season and remember that the stock may already be salty.
  5. When the onions and meat are beyond tender, it’s time to puree the sauce (at least two to three hours later). Take the meat out and set aside. Then, with either an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender, puree the onions and broth together.
  6. Mix sauce with the fresh pasta and serve with the cut meat on the side. Sprinkle liberally with Pecorino Romano. Sigh with happiness.

Maftoul – The Cooking Tool!

During my time in Morocco, I lived with a mother and daughter who cooked as well as they broke out  in song while cooking. One of their favorite ingredients to prepare was what we know as couscous in its numerous forms; on Friday afternoons, we had our communal tajine of couscous, and occasionally, we started lunch with a small dish of Palestinian maftoul. One of the best feelings in the world is running your fingers through a bag of maftoul fresh from the marketplace on a sunny Saturday afternoon – mostly because it is not as small as couscous to get stuck between your fingernails!

 

Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home

 

So what on Earth is maftoul? Maftoul originated from the Palestine/Israel area as hand-rolled bulgur wheat the size of uneven peas. You most likely know the close sister of maftoul: the pearl Israeli couscous, or ptitim in Hebrew. Maftoul is rarely mass produced and almost always handmade, thus only available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. In most recipes, maftoul can be replaced with the mass-produced Israeli couscous. Regardless of whichever one you cook with, I cannot stress how important it is that food has absolutely no political affiliations.

 

Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home

 

You can make your own hearty dish with maftoul  in your own kitchen. This Levantine cuisine-inspired dish is easy to cook and  takes some time to simmer on the stove, meaning you have the time to clean your counters and stick your utensils in the dishwasher before even finishing cooking! Or if you are me, try to beat the incredibly difficult Level 50 of Candycrush and again, fail miserably.

 

Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home

 

Be warned! This dish calls for saffron and white wine. A tiny bunch of saffron can be replaced with one teaspoon of turmeric. White wine can be replaced with white grape juice or chicken stock. My alcohol intolerance is personally a big fan of the white grape juice substitute. Final fun fact for all: alcohol actually remains in large percentages in foods unless it has been cooked for at least 3 hours. SCIENCE!

 

 

 

 

Israeli Couscous with Chicken, Tomatoes, and Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup matfoul or Israeli couscous
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut lengthwise into 6 slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 strips lemon peel (2 inches each)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute)
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add couscous, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl, and return skillet to heat.
  2. Cook chicken, smooth side down, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate, reserving drippings in skillet.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, lemon peel, and saffron, and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Return chicken to skillet. Add wine, and cook for 4 minutes. Add stock, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and couscous, and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until couscous is tender and chicken is cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in peas, and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with lemon.

Pasta with Pumpkin Cream

Most normal people recognize that Saturday morning is the best day of the week to sleep in, but I’m a little dumb about these things. After a week of sleepless nights, I still have a tendency to get up at 6am to make it to my dance class at 10… in Connecticut. It is, in fact, insane. But my dance school is one of my favorite places in the whole world and the concrete towers and grand avenues that are my New York day-to-day are no substitute for the fiery autumn country roads that lead me home.

 

Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

 

Usually I go home on friday nights so I can get up for dance at a normal time, but by a beautiful stroke of luck I took the train last week. And when I got off the train in South Norwalk to transfer to Bethel (which is so great, you’ve never even heard of it) I had what can only be described as “a moment.” All at once, the friendlier people, bright colors and most importantly the crispness of the air whacked me in the face and though the equinox was still a week away, my fall had arrived. Ever since then, I can’t get enough of apples, pumpkins, squash and cinnamon… but I decided I’d better hold off to share my insanity until it was really really fall, and also until I had a recipe worthy of my sentiments to share with you – something truly special. Which luckily, I found today on the first full day of fall! This recipe is inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe, but with added sherry, more rosemary, cream, garlic and cheese. It tastes vaguely Northern Italian, but distinctly American and very very fall. And the best part is it only takes 1/2 an hour max from start to finish, even for a slow cooker like me!

 

Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

 

How about you – do you have a savory way to welcome in the season? We’d love to hear about it!

 

Pasta with Pumpkin-Sherry Cream | The Road Home

Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

From: Gabrielle Siegel, inspired by Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2.5-3 tbsp sherry
  • 1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta, according to package directions, in salted water until al-dente. Drain, and reserve 2 cups water.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan, and sauté garlic and rosemary for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and slightly toasted
  3. Carefully add the sherry, pumpkin, half-and-half, parmesan and sugar, and stir to combine. Add reserved water in 1/2 cup increments until desired texture is reached.
  4. Add pasta to pan, and stir to coat. 
  5. Eat, sprinkled with parmesan and a little rosemary.

Fig-ure it Out

Like any busy household, we sometimes always have a hard time planning out our meals just so and we end up with a random mishmash of ingredients that were meant for one thing and are now sitting forlornly in our fridge. This week the stars of the show were the figs that we bought for a Fig Cooking School photo shoot and then promptly forgot about, the lone Boursin cheese left over from a three pack meant for God knows what purpose, and the ground beef that had not made it to the TV studio for a Fox News shoot. Using up the ingredients in the fridgermarket can sometimes feel like an episode of Chopped. Which is really frustrating on a weeknight, but hey – it tests our culinary skills and makes us better cooks in the process, right? And besides, we don’t actually have a choice.

 

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For today’s episode of Fridge Chopped, I present you with Fig-Boursin Burgers. The sweetness of the honey-butter figs marries perfectly with the herbs and onions in the cheese and the meltiness of everything blossoms explosively on a crispy bun. Truth be told this could have been improved with some arugula, but we didn’t have any and running to the store would have ruined the magic. Best of all the whole thing was thrown together in the time span of Francesca’s bath!

 

We’re hoping to bring back this feature on a regular basis because lets face it, we’ve all been there. But for now let me know – what’s the most brilliant thing you’ve ever magically thrown together? Comment below and/or better yet, send us a post about it!

Fig-Boursin Burgers

From: Gabrielle Siegel

Ingredients:

  • 3 figs
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1-2 tbsp good salted butter, like Kerrygold
  • 1 1/3 lbs ground beef, shaped into 1/3 lb patties (or 4 pre-formed hamburger patties)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 container Boursin cheese (any flavor should work but we used Garlic and Fine Herb)
  • 2-3 tbsp canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 buns of your preference (but Brioche would be awesome)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and honey together in a good medium-small non-stick pan (my favorite is ceramic) over medium-high heat.
  2. Cut figs from top to bottom into 4 slices, and place in pan. Be sure to place end slices pink-side down.
  3. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, flipping every so often to make sure they cook evenly on all sides. If pan gets dry, add a little more butter. 
  4. Remove from heat and set aside.

    Burgers & Assembly

    1. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and add canola oil, spreading it around so it lightly coats the pan.
    2. Add burgers, season them liberally with salt and pepper, and cook, flipping often, until cooked to your liking.
    3. Toast buns and place each burger on a bun. 
    4. Spread each burger with 2-3 tbsp of Boursin, and top with 3 fig slices and some arugula if you want.
    5. Admire your handiwork and eat.

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup

    Cooking for a living has begun to take over all of my thoughts. Isabella’s newly sewn pink dress isn’t an article of clothing, but a piece of watermelon. Everywhere I go I think about new dishes and ingredients, and there is no off button to press. Just dials on the stove to let me make more food. I feel like a composer sometimes, only instead of notes, I hear shallots, pancetta and fried chicken. It’s driving me crazy, really it is. I love love love teaching people to cook… but seriously. Enough is enough.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

     

    This recipe was born out of one of these fits of inspiration. We often teach a cream of asparagus soup in our spring classes, but I was making a Thai dish one day and the idea to infuse it with coconut, lemongrass and ginger just jumped into my head.  It has quickly become a family favorite and it worked out so well that I used it for my latest appearance on Connecticut Style. Although a video exists on WTNH, it was very fast, and we thought you’d appreciate seeing how to make this lively Asian inspired soup step-by-step, so here it is:

     

     Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

    We start with the freshest ingredients, which includes, lemon juice, lemongrass, ginger, asparagus and coconut milk,  but there are others as well, including yellow onions and chicken or vegetable broth.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

    First, we need to peel the lemongrass, an ingredient commonly found in Asian food stores and in some supermarkets, especially Whole Foods.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

    Then you have to cut most of the stalk away. We only want the part of the lemongrass that has purple rings.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

    Then – and really pay attention to this or the lemongrass with be tough and stringy – you have to smash it hard several times with a knife. Until it looks like this

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

     

    Then put the lemongrass in a mini food processor with a teaspoon or two of oil until finely minced and looks like this:

     

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

     

     

    Then you need to peel the ginger. You can peel it in many different ways by using a melon baller, sturdy spoon or vegetable peeler. Afterwards, finely  mince the ginger in a mini chopper as well. You can, obviously, do that by hand, it will just take much longer.

     

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

     

     

    After sautéeing the onions until they are glassy, add the lemongrass and ginger and continue sautéeing until the ginger and lemongrass start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

     

     

    Add the broth (chicken or vegetable – we like to use vegetable when we’re cooking for a crowd, since then we can make this vegan and everyone can eat it!) and give the mixture a good stir in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then puree the soup either in a blender (after letting the mixture cool) or an immersion blender right inside the pot, our preferred choice.

     

     Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

     

    Add a bit of lemon, give it a good stir, and serve. The great thing about this soup, next to the amazing flavor, is that it tastes great for several days and can certainly be made the day before company. And there you have it! Serve with a garnish of mint, or chives.

     

    Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

     

    Click here to get the complete recipe written up on Food52!

    Lady is a Ramp

    A few years ago I read an article in Psychology Today about the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain thet controls rational thought, and how it doesn’t mature until we’re about 25. Not being one to take responsibility for much, I’ve blamed every irrational thing I’ve done since then on my undeveloped mind… especially my tendency to impulse buy. So my prefrontal cortex was hard at work at the farmer’s market last week when I bargained a vendor down to the only $2.60 I had in my wallet for a bunch of 10 ramps without the slightest clue in the whole world what they were or what I was going to do with them. After calling my mother and hearing her speculation on the potential reasons that ramps (also known as wild leeks) “never really caught on” I walked away thinking, “Oh my Lord, what have I done…”

     

     

     

    That is, of course, a total lie. I was excited out of my mind. As a student, it’s my job to learn about mysterious things, and since I figured lots of you are probably in the same boat as me, it seemed like a great opportunity to learn alongside you. There’s not a multitude of information about them, but here’s what I was able to discern. Ramps haven’t “not caught on,” it just happens that they barely have a growing season, and they only grow in the Eastern United States. They have a wonderful scent, strong, garlicky and sweet, that reminds me of the random chives my friends and I used to pick in our front yard growing up. Which is a cool coincidence, because they’re completely undomesticated. They’re highly valued among foragers, and apparently a lot of them are very secretive about where they find them (kind of like mushroom harvesters). They’re especially popular in West Virginia and Quebec, and can be found everywhere from South Carolina to Canada.

     

    The leaves are ramps, the red bits are rhubarb ;)

     

    So how do you cook with them? The farmer’s market told me that you use them just as you’d use leeks or chives. Which is odd, because you use leeks and chives really differently. And predictably, the truth lies somewhere in between. I’d say you use them in about the quantities you’d use scallions, but they have a much smoother flavor than scallions. The best way to cook them is to chop them up and sautee them in butter for about 2-3 minutes until they get soft (about 1 tbsp butter for one bunch of 10-ish ramps) and then use them in a simple dish that will really highlight their flavor, so they won’t get lost, and you get the biggest bang for your ramp buck. You can use the white and green parts (I couldn’t figure out if that includes the red, in between bit – does anybody know anything about that?), and they can go with everything from salmon to soup to risotto.

     

    Look mommy – pastagarlicandcheese is growing up!

     

    But this being my first ramp experience, I decided to take things as simple as I could, and harken back to one of my favorite childhood dinners. Whenever we were in a rush, or had nothing good in the house for dinner, I knew I could always count on PastaGarlicAndCheese (pronounced as one word, like LMNOP), a simple but dependable combination of spaghetti, olive oil or butter, garlic and Parmesan. And even today, it’s probably my favorite dinner in a lazy pinch. Sometimes, if I’m feeling ambitious, I add peas, tomatoes or whatever I have in the house, but if I don’t there’s really nothing lost. So I decided that since I wanted to highlight the ramps, and I only had the one bunch, I was going to keep the sentiment, but replace the garlic with my sauteed ramps. I also crumbled in some goat cheese for added fancy factor. And oh my goodness was it good. Simple, easy and delicious.

    The whole point of this recipe is that there is none. My one bunch of 10 ramps was probably good for 1/3 of a pound of pasta, but beyond that just add however much cheese makes you happy, and then top it with a little drizzle of olive oil. If you want to add other vegetables, just add more ramps so you can be sure you’ll be able to taste them. And if you’re a ramp enthusiast and have something special you like to do with them, let me know and I’ll be sure to try it out!

     

    UPDATE MAY 3rd  – Bizarre fact, but the New York Times just published an article on teenage minds! Check out the article here 🙂

    The Sandwich on Fire

    Happy National Grilled Cheese Day! Since we’re on a Hunger Games kick, this sandwich is also inspired by our culinary book of the month. It’s a hybrid between the fruit-and-nut bread with goat cheese that Gale and Katniss eat at the beginning of the first book, and the apple and goat cheese tarts that Peeta serves at his bakery. If you haven’t read Hunger Games, then this is just an unaffiliated, super classy Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich on Cranberry Pecan Bread with Apples. Enjoy!

     

     

    I tried to take a real picture of it… but *somebody* kept eating it during my photoshoot. I got what I could 😉