May 11, 2008

Scrapin’ Up the Bits… Rampin’ It Up Style

I’ve heard ramps – aka, wild leeks or baby leeks – mentioned on Iron Chef America and Top Chef, read about them in Food & Wine and the New York Times, but until today, I’d never eaten them. They look like a cross between leeks and scallions.

I approached the ramps sans recipe, the great Mother’s Day adventure of 2008, if you will. Decided to grill halibut fillets (from Penn Avenue Fish Company) on a bed of braised ramps (from Farmers @ Firehouse) and wild mushrooms. Kept the halibut simple: olive oil, salt, pepper. Ramps, braised for about 20 minutes in white wine, olive oil, butter, adding the mushrooms for the last 10 minutes of the braise.

The result: holy s@#$! My poor photography skills prevented a photo, but I won’t forget this meal any time soon.

Speaking of holy s@#$… had my first taste of a raw-milk baby swiss from Pasture Maid Creamery in New Castle. Unlike any cheese I’ve had before. Hopefully the farm market at Harvest Valley Farms—where I had my sample while picking up some flowers and veg on a rainy Mother’s Day morning—will be able to procure it on a regular basis.

And speaking of wild food like ramps, it seems like it’s time to take my new-found addiction to mushrooms to the next level. I’m goin’ mushroom huntin’! This week I’ll send my $15 membership check to the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club and, if all goes as planned, take the wife, kids, and do some foraging on one of two upcoming WPMS events: May 24 at Moraine State Park or May 31 at McConnell’s Mills. My one hope: Not to poison myself!

Finally, some good reading. First…

… via Ethicurean, I came across this series at Edible Portland, “Diary of a Young Farmer.” Here, Zoe Bradbury is recounting her efforts to, well, become a young farmer. Given the shrinking number of true small farmers left in the United States, you’d think the feds would be doing everything they could to help one get a foothold in some soft dirt. Um, actually, maybe you wouldn’t. But nevertheless, it’s compelling reading.

… and via The New Yorker, the story of Grant Achatz. About two years ago, I was convinced for a day or two that I had oral cancer. I had just finished an article on researchers developing tests for the early detection of oral and head and neck cancer. A common symptom of oral cancer, tongue numbness. You know what else makes your tongue feel numb? Eating a huge bag of sour patch kids in two sittings!! In any case, Grant Achatz is, by all reports, an incredible chef running one of the most highly respected restaurants in the country. Now he has tongue cancer.

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. Go Pens!!!!

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