Monday, May 14, 2012

Ramp It Up!

Everyone knows the old proverb "April showers bring May flowers" but I have to say, this year, I'm preferring May showers to May flowers.  If you recall from my last post, Doug and I recently dug up our front patch of grass and threw down grass seed.  I hesitate to call what we did "planting" because, quite frankly, neither one of us have a particularly green thumb so it was more like wishful scattering.  We've been watering religiously intermittently so I've been very thankful to Mother Nature for her recent contributions to our new grass movement.  Because...look what started sprouting up the other grass!!!

I shouldn't be so surprised.  The seeds gave me a personal guarantee.  See?

But, you don't know me.  Some days I am fully convinced that the only reason I remember to feed and water the dogs is because they remind me.  Loudly.  Calm down, I'm kidding.  I take very good care of the dogs.  Grass, and other botanical endeavors? Not so much. So yes, despite the guarantee, I was skeptical.  Yet there it is a week later - tiny little blades of fresh baby grass poking through the (partially dry) soil.

Ok, so maybe it's sparse and maybe it'll require another scattering, but it is most definitely there and growing! The epitome of spring and renewal.  I am...elated!

The freshness and downright "springy-ness" of our new grass led my thoughts to the fresh flavors of spring.  What could be springy-er than asparagus, peas and ramps? Three different shades of springtime green dancing against a backdrop of creamy white rice? Yep - I'm making a spring risotto!

But before I do, let me backtrack because I'm willing to bet there are a few of you who are wondering what on earth a ramp has to do with springtime, let alone risotto.  Well, if you'll permit me a quick analogy, ramps are to foodies (especially Manhattan foodies) what gossip is to a Desperate Housewife. Pretty much the...Best. Thing. Ever.  Embodying the Manhattan foodie trifecta, they are rare (hint - check your local farmer's market or Whole Foods), in season for a very short time (March to June) and not mainstream dinner table fodder...yet. Ramps are basically wild leeks.

With a flavor like that of an onion/garlic hybrid, and their virtues extolled in the likes of Bon Appetit and Time, ramps lend themselves quite easily to multiple cooking styles. Easy to clean and easy to cook these versatile little garlicky oniony wonders are fast converting me to a culinary hipster. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go Occupy my kitchen.

Yields 4 heaping 1 1/4 cup servings

Cal: 380 Fat: 6g Carb: 71g  Protein: 12g  Fiber: 3g
10 Weight Watchers points + per serving

1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 - 6 cups 99% fat free chicken stock
1 bunch asparagus (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
1 bunch ramps (bulbs and stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped)
1/2 cup peas
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
Freshly shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese for garnish (optional)

Heat broth in a saucepan, and keep warm on low while preparing the risotto.

Warm olive oil in a large pan.  Add shallot, garlic and ramp bulbs/stems.

Saute until tender and transparent - approximately 3 - 4 minutes.  Add rice and stir to coat with oil.

Continue to stir rice until it is warmed throughout (use the back of your hand to check).  Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan.  Begin adding warm broth to the rice by the 1/2 cupful and stir.

As the rice absorbs the liquid, add another half cup and stir. Continue to add liquid and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly (the first rule of making a creamy risotto is STIR!) for 18 to 22 minutes.

At around the 15 minute mark, add asparagus and peas to the risotto.

Stir, stir stir! Continue to cook, tasting as you go and adding liquid if necessary (the risotto should have a creamy texture and be al dente but cooked through) until the asparagus is crisp tender.  Add the ramp leaves and stir, cooking until they are just wilted.

Once the asparagus is cooked, the ramps are wilted and the risotto is creamy, remove from the heat.  Add lemon juice and cheese and stir well to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Garnish with shaved parm and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

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