Rampage: Part Pickle (with Baked Bean Bonus)

May 19, 2010

I tend to be a little scared of pickled foods that were not formerly cucumbers. Interesting tidbit: in the grocery store I shopped at in Glasgow, they had a whole wall of pickled items, which was across from the entire wall of baked beans - there were like a BAJILLION varieties of baked beans - it would blow your mind. One time, this (American) girl I knew in Scotland won a push-up contest at a bar, and she won her weight in baked beans. That is how seriously the Scots take their baked beans.

But - back to pickles.

So, at the grocery store, I once asked where the pickles were. The sales associate was confused - "Pickled what?" Because they pickle everything there. In fact, in the winter, people there drink so much they become pickled.

But as I've come to love my Shelburne Farms cookbook as much as a brotha from anotha motha, after seeing this ramp pickle recipe I really wanted to try my hand at non-cucumber pickles. And now I've made it three times in two years. It's super easy, and makes the ramp season last just a little bit longer. They are a little spicy, a little onion-y, and tangy and delicious. Eat them with anything you'd eat a regular pickle with - on the side of a sandwich for lunch, on top of a burger, as an interesting accoutrement to a cheese plate, etc.

Ramp Pickles, from Cooking with Shelburne Farms

20 or so ramps, trimmed so there is just about 1 inch of greens
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (I used aleppo pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 bay leaf

Blanch the ramps in boiling water for two minutes. Immediately transfer to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

In a small saucepot, heat the vinegar, honey, sugar, hot pepper, peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and bay leaf to a simmer.

Put the ramps in a clean jar big enough to hold all the liquid (and the ramps). So - back to the recipe - pour the hot liquid over the ramps. Only once it cools down (this will take a few hours) do you want to cover it with the lid, then pop it in the fridge for at least 12 hours before eating. The recipe says they'll last a month in the fridge.

 Bonus photo: the wall of baked beans at a Scottish grocery store

Rampage: Part Trout

May 12, 2010

As mentioned in a previous post, its ramp season! Well, it's almost done now. I've been meaning to post this for a couple of days, but you know, all that other life-living kept getting in the way. I happened to buy these trouts (purposely adding the "s" because I want to) at a Whole Foods in Virginia, where I questioned the clerk as to why there was tax on my purchase. "It's just trouts!" I protested to the confused clerk, thinking my purchase was mislabeled as take-out food or something. So, boo to Virginia for taxing groceries. (Side note: yes, even super-liberal Democrats will occasionally complain about taxes.) Apparently, my trusty Shelburne Farms cookbook agrees with me. It suggested that, in the ideal situation, one would catch the trouts in a gently babbling brook, then forage for the ramps on the side of the stream. And, when you get home, Aunt Bea will have made a pie! Golly!

Trouts with ramps, served with herbed aioli, adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms
Serves 2

2 whole trouts, cleaned and butterflied
8 ramps (or scallions, if you can't find ramps), hairy root bits trimmed off
salt and pepper
2 sprigs each of 2-3 herbs (I used garlic chives, regular chives, and oregano)
salt and pepper

Herbed aioli (because I refuse to call it mayonnaise)
1 egg yolk (farm fresh, please)
3/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 minced teaspoon of each of the herbs you used above
1/4 cup olive oil

Put your cast-iron skillet in the oven and set it to broil. Let it get hot in there while you get the fish ready.

Rinse and pat dry the trouts. Open each fish like a book, and season the inside with salt and pepper. Divide the herb sprigs and all but two of the ramps among the fish. (Save the two ramps with the longest greens.) Close up the fish, then tie each one closed with a ramp. The photo above is of the raw trouts, so you can see the little ramp knot. Don't they look like they just ate a bunch of ramps? Ha!

Carefully take the superhot skillet out of the oven and put the trouts in. Broil them for 7-9 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the aioli. In a mini-chopper (or blender), zip up the egg yolk, mustard, salt, lemon juice, vinegar and herbs. Add the olive oil, and zip again until nicely emulsified. (It can probably take more oil than that, but I liked it like this.)

When the fish is done, serve it whole on the plate. The exposed ramps might be a little charred, but that's ok - I won't make you eat that part. To eat, scrape off the skin (it is really easy), and serve with the aioli.

The inaugural mango post

May 4, 2010

My food twin (he who has the same likes and dislikes) is my brother-in-law Drew.  We are both former Indian food-haters.  It's like our taste buds graduated, and are now taking advance courses in curry. I think you're going to like this one, Drew! It comes from Eating Well, and as Indian food goes, it was pretty easy to put together. I say that because my husband and I make a fair amount of Indian food, but I don't blog about it because the recipes and spice blends can be intricate, and all the typing and explaining that would go into a post is exhausting just to think about. If you are looking for a really good Indian cookbook, I highly recommend 660 Curries. Despite the many steps, the author is crystal clear about you need to do to achieve a spice nirvana.

Mango Dal, adapted from Eating Well, February 2010
Serves 4

1 cup yellow split peas
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
12 oz. bag frozen mango chunks OR two mangoes, peeled and chopped
cilantro, for garnish
brown or white rice, for serving

Put the split peas in a colander and rinse until the water runs clear, then put them in a saucepan with the water and turmeric. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until it is just simmering, partially cover, and cook for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, head the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the cumin and coriander seeds for about 30 seconds, then add the onion and cook until it starts to brown a little, about five minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger, cayenne, and season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon), cooking for about a minute. Add the mango and the split peas to the skillet and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the split-peas are tender. Serve over rice, and top with cilantro.