I have but a few simple pleasures in my life: a perfect pitcher of sweet iced tea, the divine smell of baking bread dancing down my nostrils, laughing with my friends so hard I cry. But one of the best things in life for me is the start of the Spring farmers market season. Spring is the reawakening, the bright spot after months of potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes. Fresh flowers and herbs pop out as the markets open for the first time this year. And of course, there is the Holy trinity of Spring produce: morels, asparagus and ramps. When these three start to show up on farmers market tables, you know its just the beginning of the best Mother Nature has to offer.
This past Thursday at Penn Quarter Farmers Market, asparagus made its debut for the season. The fabulous woman behind One Bite at a Time and I have been quite excited about the appearance of the ‘gus (her lovely moniker, not mine), so we were both anxious to hit up PQ. Sadly, I got there too late to snag one of the 40 bunches for sale at Sunnyside. And by too late, I mean I got there an hour after the market opened. I was told the line to get asparagus formed rather quickly and they sold out at an alarming rate. And with only one vendor selling asparagus at Penn Quarter, my foodie hopes were crushed. Not to be deterred, I vowed to get to Dupont Circle Farmers Market early on Sunday to claim my Springtime prize.
Even though we had a long weekend out in Leesburg (more about that to come), The Boy rallied and got up early with me to satisfy my ‘gus lust. So there we were, at 8:52 am staring at the Spring Valley farm table loaded with salad greens, baby brussel sprouts, asparagus…and RAMPS. We huddled together for our farmers market strategy and it was decided he would stay at Spring Valley to pick up the sprouts, the ‘gus and the ramps. I would venture forth in search of broccoli rabe, salad from Next Step Produce and milk from Clear Springs Creamery. Along the way I picked up some green garlic (for pesto of course), green onions and red pepper hummus from Sunnyside. I contemplated grabbing a bunch of stinging nettles but demured when I realized I had no idea how to cook them (and the word “stinging” didn’t help its case). But with ideas from Not Derby Pie and my Twitter pal Nikki_d, I think I may give them a shot next week.
Unloading all of the produce onto my kitchen counter, my heart did a tiny leap in my chest as I feasted my eyes upon all the lovely greenery. This is what Spring is all about, I said to myself as I began gently washing the ramps for a simple dinner. The pungent, heady aroma of ramps gives way to a gloriously mellow leek when the ramps are pan roasted with butter. I learned the trick of pan roasting ramps from Tom Colicchio’s book, Think Like a Chef. And to emphasize the stature of the ramps, I decided to serve them on a bed of…wait for it…homemade black pepper fettuccine! Because I now have, thanks to my wonderful, lovely, awesome, kick ass friends Carlea and Geoff, a Kitchen Aid pasta roller and cutter attachment set. I clearly have amazing friends…
Recipe: Pan Roasted Ramps on Black Pepper Fettuccine
- For the Ramps:
- 2 bunches of fresh ramps, trimmed of leaves
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- For the fettuccine: NOTE: I used King Arthur’s Perfect Pasta Flour Blend, which I loved. However, the recipe below is for use with basic, all purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tbs water
- Good grinding of fresh black pepper
- Optional: Leaves of ramps, chopped
- 8 oz crimini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbs olive oil (if needed to coat the skillet)
- Make the pasta first. If you’re using a mixer, add the sifted flour, pepper and salt in the mixer bowl.
- Using the flat beater attachment, beat the eggs and water into the flour, pepper and salt until blended (about 30 seconds).
- Change out the flat beater for the dough hook and knead the dough for 2 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, lightly flour a work surface and knead it by hand for another 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four rectangular pieces. Fit the mixer with the Pasta Sheet Roller attachment and turn the mixer to Speed 2 (not the horrific movie, the setting). Have the attachment set at its widest setting. Lightly flour the dough rectangle and feed it into the attachment, using one hand to guide in the dough and the other hand to catch it coming out.
- Fold the dough in half and repeat this process. Repeat the folding and rolling steps until the dough is smooth and pliable.
- Move up to setting 2 and feed the dough again through the roller. Up the setting to 3 and feed it through again. Continue increasing the setting until the pasta dough reaches your desired thickness (I stopped at setting 3). Repeat this entire process with each dough rectangle.
- Exchange out the roller attachment for the fettuccine cutter. Feed the flattened dough sheets through the cutter with the mixer on Speed 2. Set the pasta out on a rack while you start cooking the ramps.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the ramps, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the ramps frequently to prevent burning. Lower the heat and add the butter, cooking the ramps until they are tender (about 20 minutes). Stir the ramps occasionally to make sure they do not burn. Remove the ramps from the skillet.
- Optional: add the chopped ramp leaves and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until both are softened (you may need to add more oil to the skillet). Toss the ramps back in with the greens and mushrooms and stir to coat everything together.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Add the pasta and stir to prevent clumping. Cook the pasta for 2 to 4 minutes and drain. Toss the pasta with the ramp mixture and serve!
- For a non-mechanical approach to making fresh black pepper pasta, see this post.
Number of servings (yield): 4
Want some other ideas for cooking ramps? Try some of these recipes: