The Real Food Journal

Witches Fingers and Figs make a Great Bowl

Pile up some visually striking, sweet fruit

Pile up some visually striking, sweet fruit

I love it when I wander into the produce section and stumble onto something really unusual. We always have our stand-by familiar Cavendish bananas, and I like the ubiquitous Gala as much as the next person. But a “witch finger” grape? That kind of jumped out at me.

And into my cart.

Because anytime you see a beautiful piece of produce, you should think, “that would make a great bowl.” The whole idea of a great bowl is to show off the colors and shapes of vibrant, nourishing plant foods. And of course, taste great.

Then I thought I should do a little research. These distinctive grapes are a new hybrid (not GMO) that was developed in 2002 in California. They are sweet and deep purple, with dense clusters on the vine and an elongated, finger-like shape. If you can’t find them, you can make this recipe with another purple grape, too.

These grapes taste like candy, and you will want to eat them by the handful. So it’s wonderful that purple grape skins are a source of antioxidant polyphenols and resveratrol, which prevent various cancers. They also have quercetin, which lowers cholesterol and inflammation, and even helps with your allergies. They are high in Vitamins A, K, and C. Considering how sweet they are, their high fiber content that keeps their glycemic index low, in the 50’s, so don’t shy away from them for their carbohydrates. Grapes are a superfood.

They just happen to be in season at the same time that we are getting exotic figs from California, so I thought I would put them both on display in a simple breakfast bowl.

All it took was some leftover brown rice, a bit of cinnamon, and a honey-lemon-rosemary black pepper drizzle. A sprinkle of chopped macadamias made the great bowl complete.

To make the honey drizzle, I just combined raw honey, cracked black pepper and a rosemary sprig, and warmed it gently, then stirred in some lemon juice.

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I like the combination of hot, crunchy black peppercorns and sweet, floral honey, and the rosemary gives it a vibrant, piney note. Lemon cuts the heat and makes it pourable. Don’t be fooled, if you think of black pepper as mild, you must be eating stale pepper. This will be hot. To crush the pepper, I just put it in a plastic bag and hit it with the bottom of the pan until it was all broken in chunks.

If you want coarse chunks of pepper, just pound it with the bottom of a pot

If you want coarse chunks of pepper, just pound it with the bottom of a pot

For the fruit, I halved the grapes and quartered the figs. They were so beautiful that I really just had to arrange them to show them off.

2016-06-22 12.40.29 Once it was all cut up and composed, I just drizzled the melted honey and pepper over the top, and it was ready to serve. You could do this with any leftover grain, really. Barley or quinoa spring to mind. Anything that goes with cinnamon and fruit.

Witch Finger Grape and Fig Bowl with Black Pepper Honey #food #bowls #yum(1)

 

“Witch Finger” Grape and Fig Bowl with Black Pepper Honey

Of course, you could use regular purple grapes for this, and switch out the brown rice for another grain.

Serves 1

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large ripe figs

about 12 witch finger grapes

31/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

tablespoons raw honey

2 sprigs rosemary, divided

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and zest for garnish

about 8 macadamias, coarsely chopped

Mix the brown rice with cinnamon, and place in your bowl. Top with fruit, arranging it to suit your mood.

Crack the black peppercorns with a pot. Place the honey, pepper and rosemary sprig in a small pot and warm on low heat. Stir in the lemon.

Drizzle the honey mixture over the bowl, and top with macadamias and lemon zest.

Eat and enjoy your great bowl.

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Ochazuke-Japanese Rice and Tea Bowls

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Long before Chipotle offered a taco bowl, Panera introduced Broth Bowls, or bloggers lit up the pages of pinterest with snaps of acai bowls, there was Ochazuke. Ochazuke, the great bowl of food that may have started it all.

Ochazuke is a traditional Japanese dish, which can be traced back to 795 AD. It’s essentially a home cook’s quick lunch, combining leftover rice and hot tea. In my exploration of all things “bowl,” I tip my hat to this old-school way of making a grain based meal in a bowl. It’s the thrifty great-great-great-great grandmother of a broth bowl, really.

Ochazuke is a simple dish to make, and as long as you are doing it, you might as well use Japanese style ingredients. You can also feel free to arrange a few leftovers in the bowl, whatever works for you.

I bought loose leaf Sencha tea, which is the everyday tea of Japan. If you haven’t tried a straightforward, Japanese green tea, try this one. It makes a pale, subtly green cup of tea, that tastes grassy and slightly sweet. I notice when I am buying tea that most grocery stores carry endless flavored green teas, from mango to pomegranate, but very few plain ones, and I fear that Americans think green tea tastes bad. If you have had experiences with green tea tasting bitter or astringent, you may well have been using overheated water, too much tea, or too long a steep. Sencha is generally best brewed with 160-170 F water. 2 teaspoons per cup is plenty, and 2 minutes steep is long enough.

 

Sencha Tea and Arare Rice Crackers for Ochazuke #bowls #wholegrain #tea #yum #food

For my bowl, I cooked up some short grain brown rice, and I roasted some tofu with tamari. It’s essential to the bowl that you have some rice crackers, and these Lotus cracker mixes just appeared in stores here, so I just had to try them. They are called Arare Rice Crackers, and they come in shoyu, Thai or Sriracha flavors. They are made with heirloom brown and black rice, and have a tasty glaze that is just a little sweet.

Because I didn’t have traditional Japanese pickled vegetables on hand, I went with a locally made Sesame-Seaweed Kraut from Fierce Ferments. It’s a lively Japanese-inspired fresh kraut, with cabbage, daikon, turnip, burdock, scallions, sesame, celtic sea salt, kombu, wakame and arame. For a garnish, I used some seasoned nori strips I picked up at the Asian market, which have a crispy texture and a light coating of sesame and perilla oil and sea salt.

Ochazuke #tea #wholegrain #japanese food #yum #bowls

Once I had my tea brewed and everything ready to go, it was just a matter of pouring the tea, and topping the rice with pickled veggies, rice crackers and slivered seaweed pieces. For a fun garnish, bring out your Japanese pickled ginger, or sprinkle with black or brown sesame seeds. I sprinkled on some Schichimi Togarashi, a Japanese condiment I made from orange zest, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds and salt.

Pouring the Tea

Pouring the Tea

If desired, you can always add some shoyu or tamari to the tea, or a pinch of salt. It would be really good with a tablespoon or so of red miso whisked into the tea, too.

Getting back to my bowl roots is a good way to keep my bowls fresh. Ochazuke is definitely soul food for the bowl lover.

Add the nori at the last minute.

Add the nori at the last minute.

Ochazuke

Serves 2

8 ounces extra firm tofu

tamari and canola oil

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

3 cups brewed Sencha tea ( 3 cups 170 F water, 1 tablespoon sencha)

1/2 cup pickled veggies

1/4 cup pickled ginger (gari)

6 pieces toasted seasoned nori, or 1 sheet nori, slivered

1/2 cup rice crackers, or more to taste

Schchimi Togarashi or sesame seeds

To bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a sheet pan. Drain and pat dry the tofu, then slice in 1/2 inch thick slices. Place the slices on the pan and sprinkle with tamari to cover, then flip the slices and sprinkle that side. Bake for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to turn the tofu and bake for 10 minutes longer. Cool the pan on a rack.

Cook the brown rice, or use leftover.

Steep the tea for 2 minutes, and save the leaves for another steep. You can use them at least three times.

In each bowl, place 1/2 cup rice, and arrange slices of tofu against one side. Pour the tea over the rice, and let stand to warm the rice for a couple of minutes. Top with pickled veggies, pickled ginger, nori and rice crackers. Sprinkle with Togarashi or sesame and serve.

Kimchi Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl, Easy Bowl Food

So quick and tasty- Kimchi Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl

So quick and tasty- Kimchi Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl

In a rush? Of course you are.

That’s why I wrote Great Bowls of Food, to make it easier to get some really whole, really good food on the table in minutes.

Call it a Buddha Bowl, a Power Bowl, a Gratitude Bowl, the bowl is a way of piling up a bunch of interesting food that all works together. And it can be really fast and easy.

To illustrate just how easy it is to make a bowl, I put together this one, following my craving for some funky kimchi and spicy Gochujang. For those of you leaning away from grains (not me, I love them) I made my sweet potato “rice” for the base. That’s probably the only fussy thing about this, I had to cut a sweet potato in little cubes and steam them for about 2 minutes. If you just can’t face the knife work in that process, just cook some brown rice, or whatever whole grain you have handy.

This one could fall into the category of “paleo-vegan” because of the sweet potatoes, and the hefty pile of protein on top. Unless you are a paleo originalist and you think beans are off the table, and you need to skip the bit of honey or agave in the dressing. I tried. It’s gluten-free and vegan, if that works for you.

For everybody else, this is a nifty pile up of sweets and sours and spicies, and you can take bite after bite to find contrast and complement in equal measure.

Start to finish, this quick recipe takes about 15 minutes, if you are a fast chopper.

This Kimchi Tofu bowl illustrates one of the secrets to making simple foods delicious. It helps to lean heavily on deeply flavorful fermented foods. Kimchi- check! Fermented, salty, full of way more complexity than a bit of cabbage and carrots could ever have without the help of lactobacilli. Gochujang-check! Fermented soy is the basis for this hot sauce, which is sweet, hot and funky in equal measure. Tamari-check! Fermented soy gives tamari a deep, meaty umami that carries it beyond just a salty sauce.

(I’ve used Gochujang in other fun recipes)

Another principle of making simple bowls interesting is to use lots of colors and textures. The soft, orange sweet potato cubes play nicely with the slightly chewy texture of the extra-firm tofu, which is bathed in a reddish orange glaze. Crunchy red cabbage adds purple, and creamy green avocados pop visually, while adding a rich, savory element.

So think inside the bowl, and make yourself a sustaining and easy meal.

Kim Chi Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl

If you want to use grain as a base instead of sweet potatoes, cook about 1/2 cup grain to get about 1 1/2-2  cups cooked grain. I used really firm, uncooked tofu, for a soft but chewy element. If you want to take a little time to sprinkle the cubes with tamari and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, they will be a little firmer and have crispy edges.

Serves 2

2 cups diced sweet potatoes (about 1 large garnet yam)

For the sauce

1/4 cup tamari

1/4 cup honey or agave (omit for pure low-carb)

2 tablespoons Gochujang

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

For the bowl

8 ounces extra firm tofu (I used Wildwood)

1/4 cup kimchi, packed

2 tablespoons kim chi juice

1 teaspoon Gochujang

1 teaspoon tamari

1/2 cup slivered red cabbage

1 large avocado

 

 

First, dice the sweet potato by slicing it in long, 1/4-1/3 inch wide slabs. Stack half of them on the cutting board and slice lengthwise into long sticks, then turn the stack so that you can chop into small cubes. Pile them into a steamer.

Bring the water in the bottom of the steamer or pot to a boil, then place the steamer in the pot and cover. Steam for about 2 minutes, until a paring knife inserted in a cube meets no resistance.

Let the sweet potato cubes cool.

Make the sauce by whisking the tamari, honey or agave, Gochujang, rice vinegar and ginger in a cup.

Cube the tofu and place in a medium bowl. Chop the kimchi finely. In a cup, stir the kimchi juice, gochujang and tamari, then stir in the kimchi. Pour over the tofu and stir gently to coat.

To serve, cover the bottom of two wide bowls with sweet potato. Arrange half of the tofu on top, then compose the red cabbage and avocado alongside. Drizzle with sauce. Serve immediately.

Maple, Avocado and Berry Breakfast Bowl

Sweet Maple Avocados with Crushed Pistachios

Sweet Maple Avocados with Crushed Pistachios

I’m living the bowl life, these days, as my new book, Great Bowls of Food, has just launched. It’s exciting, as the book has had a nice review in the Star Tribune, I’ve talked about it on the radio, and I have many more TV, radio and podcast appearances lined up. The book features bowls for every meal of the day, including breakfast bowls.

Even though I turned in the manuscript for this book about a year ago, my relationship with big bowls of food has only continued to deepen. For today’s blog, I’m toying with the mix of sweet and savory that can make a breakfast bowl into something more interesting than just a bunch of sugary cereal.

Yes, it is the magic of salt.

For a base, I went with black rice, for a dramatic backdrop that has its own enigmatic sweetness. The purplish bran layer is just chewy enough to burst as you bite into the tender interior, so it grows sweeter as you chew. A drizzle of tart-sweet maple yogurt adds a little protein and good bacteria, and also makes a pretty lightning stripe of contrast on the rice.

On top, the usual breakfast bowl suspects of berries and banana bestow all their fruity antioxidants and goodness, as well as some lovely colors to play against each other.

But where it gets most interesting is the avocado. Of course, the avocado is a creamy, rich fruit with plenty of fiber and good fats. But it’s usually served savory, in Guacamole or salads. But here, I drizzled it with sweet maple syrup, a sprinkle of salted pistachios, and a pinch of crunchy salt.

Much like the current obsession with salted caramel, this combo plays up the sweet and rich qualities of the avocado. The salt cuts the richness, while accentuating the sweetness of the maple.

This would be a fun place to bring out those fancy salts you bought and never think to use, like Pink Himalayan or Grey Celtic salt.

It’s simple, easy, and a quick breakfast recipe that anybody can make.

Maple, Avocado and Berry Breakfast Bowl

Serves 2

2 cups cooked black rice or other grain

1/2 cup plain yogurt or non-dairy yogurt

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup fresh raspberries

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 banana, sliced

1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced thinly in the shell

1/4 cup roasted, salted, shelled pistachios, chopped

Spread the black rice over the bottom of two bowls. Stir the yogurt with half of the maple syrup and drizzle it over the black rice.

Arrange the berries and banana slices on top of the black rice, leaving room for the avocado fan.

Fan the avocado slices across one side of the black rice and drizzle the bowl with the remaining maple syrup. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top, and sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt on the avocado.

Serve immediately.

My New Book Great Bowls of Food is here!

 

Build Your Own Bowls.

Build Your Own Bowls.

I’m pleased to announce that my latest cookbook, Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls, and More (Countryman Press $21.95) is arriving just in time to help you explore bowl food at home.

I’m very proud of the book, and I hope you will like it. This is my eighth book, and the first one in which I worked with an amazing photographer, David Schmit, to shoot the food. My friend Bret Bannon lent his talents as a food stylist. I enlisted local talent by borrowing handmade bowls from Erik Riese (click the link to check out his etsy page) and using them in some of the photographs.

It was very meaningful for me to be able to stage some of the photos using handmade platters and bowls made by my father, Larry Calhoun. He passed away last year, and left behind many beautiful works of art, and I grew up eating everything out of his handmade bowls.

So I wrote Great Bowls of Food, to celebrate big, satisfying bowl meals.

“Bowl food” is booming, whether you are at a restaurant, a food service, or at home. It’s such a hot trend, that according to food-industry consulting firm Technomic, bowls have seen a 29.7% rise in the entree category over the last five years.

Of course, bowl food is not new, but it is having a moment.

When I was dreaming up this book, I asked around. Many people that I know were already doing bowl food, for a multitude of reasons. There were the families with kids, where a peaceful meal was just easier when everybody piled their chosen veggies and proteins on top of a bowl of grain or vegetable. There were single people, who assembled prepped and leftover foods into a bowl and drizzled on a sauce, so they could enjoy a varied meal without dirtying multiple dishes. There were couples with mixed diet-styles, sharing a bowl concept that could be customized for a paleo meal and a vegan meal, without too much trouble.

And then there was me, worshiping at the altars of both whole grains and Asian rice based cuisines, and steeped in hippie-healthy tradition. Of course, eating a big, beautiful bowl is right up my alley. When I see a big brown rice based Buddha Bowl on a menu, I just can’t resist.

The bowl is comforting, with its rounded shape and expansive space. Your first meal was probably served in a bowl, before you were big enough to hold a fork. The bowl is simple, a respite from complexity and artifice.

In the book, I lay out my use of bowl food as an exercise in mindfulness. If you take the time that you spend preparing and enjoying food to be mindful, you will be mining a bit of peace out of your busy day.

I’ve been teaching classes on Buddha Bowls at Cooks of Crocus Hill for a couple of years now, and this recipe has been on the menu from the beginning. It’s a quintessential bowl, with a balanced assortment of colors and flavors, and a simple apricot and Sriracha dressing.

Give it a try, and you may just want to try more Great Bowls of Food.

photo by David Schmit

Quinoa Black Bean and Kale Bowl with Sriracha Apricot Dressing

( Photo by David Schmit)

Quinoa, Black Bean, and Kale Bowl with Sriracha–Apricot Dressing

(reprinted with permission from Countryman Press)

Make extra of this dressing; it is really just that good. Sweet, sour, fruity, spicy, this pourable elixir will fix up any bowl that needs a little kick. It can even bring to life a boring burrito or salad. This is a quintessential bowl, loaded up with beans and veggies, and sure to satisfy and delight with every bite.

 

Yield: 4 servings

 

4 cups cooked quinoa

1/4 cup apricot jam

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, pressed

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained

4 ounces baby kale, chopped

1 cup pickled beets, slivered

1 cup shredded carrot

1 cup microgreens, washed and dried

 

Warm the quinoa.

In a medium bowl or Pyrex cup, stir the jam, tamari, sriracha, cider vinegar, and garlic. Reserve.

In each of four wide pasta bowls, place 1/4 of the quinoa, and arrange equally the beans and all the remaining ingredients on top. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Raw Asparagus Salad with Summer Squash

Shaved Yellow Squash and Asparagus

Shaved Yellow Squash and Asparagus

Local asparagus is in season, and it is time to celebrate those harbingers of Spring. The supple spears are tasty, with a creamy interior, a slightly funky flavor, and they are really easy to prep, if you just lop off the tips and slice the stems. If you need any more motivation to plunk a bunch in your market bag, think about the millions of mouths you have to feed, in your inner microbiome.

Yes, asparagus is a fantastic pre-biotic, if I may be so indelicate. Asparagus has a respectable amount of inulin, the unique fiber that’s also present in Jerusalem artichokes. Inulin is a polyfructan, a specific kind of carb that isn’t broken down in the digestive tract. So, as it makes its journey through you, all the health-promoting bacteria living in your gut digest it for you. This makes your beneficial bacteria very happy.

Asparagus is also just an all around nutritious veggie, with some outstanding B-Vitamins, Vitamin K, C and E, and lots of minerals you don’t see in every vegetable. It’s very perishable, because it has a fast rate of respiration, which means it keeps breathing after it is picked and many of the nutrients start fading quickly.

To really dig into fresh local asparagus in season, you need more than one fall-back recipe. Check out my past efforts with a Broiled Asparagus in Walnut Sauce recipe, Or Asparagus and Mango Salad with Chia.  I’ve written about the aphrodisiac reputation of asparagus, too.

For a break from your asparagus routine, give this little raw asparagus salad a spin. I skipped ahead a little by using summer squash, in part for the lovely color. I used raw asparagus and squash, and used the spiralizer to make thin slices of squash. If you have a spiralizer and only use it to make noodles, it’s time to branch out and use it to make a quick marinated little salad like this. It’s so easy.

 

The Spiralizer

The Spiralizer

Then I got out the chop top to slice the asparagus stems paper thin, too.I wanted the asparagus tips to be crunchy, and the stems to be tender without being cooked. Sliding them across the blade was just the thing, they were soft and had no crunch at all after being dressed.

 

Paper thin asparagus stems

Paper thin asparagus stems

Some fresh dill gives the whole affair a lively herbaceousness. Lemon juice and olive oil are all you really need to wake up your slumbering palate.

Spring is here, and asparagus has arrived to bring us back to life. The least we can do is jump out of our rut and give it a new way to grace the plate.

 

Raw Asparagus Salad with Summer Squash

Serves 4

2 medium yellow squashes

1 bunch asparagus

1 small red shallot, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Set up the spiralizer with the shaving blade. Spiralize the squash, then slice into pieces. Cut the tips from the asparagus and reserve. Use a mandoline to shave the asparagus stems thinly. Put in a large bowl with the shallots.

In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Dress the asparagus tips and reserve. Drizzle the rest of the dressing on the shaved vegetables. Serve topped with asparagus tips and lemon zest.

Amy’s Kitchen Takes on Big Burger

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When you live for, cook with, and write about plant based food, as I do, people remember it. When your friends see something vegetarian, if you are lucky, they think of you.

That’s what happened when I visited sunny California in April. Yes, I visited some hot and exciting restaurants in LA, dining at Gjelina and Republique, among others. I even shared a bowl of Congee with the famed Jonathan Gold after a screening of his movie. Then I planned to food-tour through Sonoma, dining at places that featured just picked organic vegetables and chef-crafted menus.

But when I landed in Sonoma, the first thing my friend Dan wanted to show me was a brand new fast food joint.

For a BURGER and FRIES.

Had he forgotten my meatless lifestyle, my food snob tastes?

Not at all.

As a warm up to the wine tastings in the Russian River Valley, before the Sauvignon Blanc by the pool at his house, before the amazing meal at a restaurant in Glen Ellen that cooked everything in a wood fire oven, we took a trip to Amy’s Kitchen in Rohnert Park, near Healdsburg.

The green roof and water collection tower

The green roof and water collection tower

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, it was apparent that this was no Mickey-D’s. The plants growing on the roof gave it away as a tree-hugging kind of joint. The water tower is where the business saves rain water, a smart move in rain-starved California.

Inside, it looked deceptively like a regular fast food place. But if you know Amy’s famous line of frozen meals, you know it was not a regular fast food place.

does that say vegan options?

does that say vegan options?

The burgers and fries, pizzas, mac and cheese and chili all looked “normal.” But they were all plant-based. Anything with cheese can be made with a non-dairy cheese, so it’s got vegan built right in.

But there were subtle differences, once you started looking. The crisp, flavorful fries were made skin-on, and it turns out that the potatoes are grown organically and locally, and never frozen. The cups, packaging and straws were compostable. Agave and celtic sea salt packets were at the condiment bar. Everything is organic, GMO-free, and as clean as it can be.

Fast food with a difference

Fast food with a difference

Plans for expansion into other cities are still in the works. According to the North Bay Business Journal, Amy’s has plants in Santa Rosa California, Medford Oregon and a possible future plant in South Carolina. Wherever there is a manufacturing plant, an Amy’s Drive Thru may well pop up, since the low prices are dependent on being able to get the food to the store with a minimum of time and shipping costs.

So, if you live near Santa Rosa, Medford, or possibly someplace in South Carolina, you may be seeing this new burger chain in the coming years.

I have to hand it to them, Amy’s Kitchen’s fare is a real rival to the kind of fast food that so many people fall into the habit of eating. A basic burger is $2.99, and you can get in and out of there in minutes, with a big bag of inexpensive food. It’s very family friendly, with all the foods you probably know and love from the freezer case, but fresh.

If they can make this model work, it will be a great thing for the communities around the new stores. Organic, GMO, and hiding in the form of a familiar burger and fries, what’s not to love?

Roasted Ramps and Red Rice in Ramp and Hazelnut Pesto

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The world can be divided into two camps. Folks who look forward to ramp season like it’s Christmas morning, the Superbowl and the premiere of Game of Thrones all rolled into one, and the opposing group, who say, “What are roasted ramps?”

You though I might go political for a minute there, didn’t you? Nope, this is just about food.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be divisive, in these trying times. Maybe we should all just learn to live together, and accept each other, no matter how we feel about an annual wild allium. We all want a quick recipe, right?

That’s what ramps are, just a tasty wild leek and member of the allium family, that comes on in early Spring and then disappears. Like an elusive movie star or Bigfoot, the ramp knows how to keep us wanting more, always leaving the stage amid thunderous applause, always leaving us with a lingering whiff of onion.

And so it is in the world of local and seasonal foods, where chefs and diners can chart the calendar by the appearances of morels and raspberries, followed by blueberries, then crab apples. Ramps have the advantage of being part of Spring, when the seasonal forager has been waiting desperately for something new.

Last year, I made a Ramp and Quinoa Risotto, with Sorrel.

So when I saw ramps at my local Coop, I had to buy  a couple of bunches.

Beautiful Ramps

Beautiful Ramps

And then I decided to roast them. Not too long, as the sweet bulbs are small and easy to burn. The caramelize quickly, in a hot oven. I also saved the greens, to puree in a pesto and slice thinly to toss with the salad. These perky green tops are too good to waste.

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Soon to be Roasted Ramps

A little olive oil, salt and heat, and I had these gorgeous little flavor bombs, with crispy stems for a little crunch.

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Glorious Roasted Ramps

A handful of the greens went into the food processor, where I pureed them with some toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut oil, honey and vinegar. The fresh, mild garlicky flavor was a great addition to the dressing.

For the base, I wanted a good color contrast as well as a whole grain, so I went with a red rice. I love the sweet and nutty presence of the Burgundy rice from Lundberg. You could use Himalayan Red Rice, Wehani Rice, the red rice you have access to is the best one to use. The all have slightly different cooking times, so check the package.

It’s really a quick recipe, cooking the rice took longer than roasting the ramps or making the dressing.

To show off the ramps, I arranged them on top, so that you can admire them as you take bites around the plate. You have three levels of ramp flavor here, in the dressing, slivered, and roasted, so there is much ramp-iness to contemplate.

Who knows, maybe wild crafted leeks carry a little bit of wild energy to the table. The grow with no help from us, no chemicals, no genetic manipulation. They are ancient onions, so to speak.

Dig into some wild and tasty ramps, and reap their wild and authentic glory.

 

Roasted Ramps and Red Rice in Ramp Pesto with Hazelnuts

Serves 4

1 cup red rice ( I used Lundberg Burgundy Rice)

Water ( 1 1/2 cups for Burgundy, up to 2 cups for some red rice varieties)

2 bunches ramps

extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt for the pan

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

3 tablespoons hazelnut oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a 1 quart pot, bring the water to a boil and add the rice. Return to the boil, then reduce to low and cover. Cook for 40 minutes, or as instructed on the package. When all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, let cool.
  2. Trim the greens from the ramps as shown, and toss the ramp bulbs with olive oil on a sheet pan. Roast for 5 minutes, then shake to turn the ramps and roast for about 5 minutes longer. Let cool.
  3. Chop about half a cup of ramp greens for the pesto, and place them in a food processor with half of the hazelnuts. Process to grind finely. Add the hazelnut oil, honey, vinegar and salt and process until smooth and emulsified.
  4. Pour the dressing over the red rice. Save a couple of ramp leaves for garnish, if desired. Julienne the remaining ramp leaves by slicing finely across the leaf. Add to the rice and toss.
  5. Chop the remaining hazelnuts. Serve the rice topped with roasted ramps and hazelnuts.
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