Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ramps here, there, and especially in the Berkshires

Ramps are wild leeks and not easily found. They grow in sweet soil and are known to a handful of foragers. They are being over-foraged due to their recent popularity. (See comment below from forager Russ Cohen).

If you find yourself on sweet soil and have an urge to purge, think about the future and don't be greedy. Also sticking the leaves is a good idea.

Ramps could last be purchased in the first week of May at the Tuesday Farmers' Market at Thornes in Northampton and at the Saturday Farmers' Market in Greenfield. After that, except for an enterprising restaurant in Haydenville where ramps are a Spring pizza topping, you're on your own.

WILD LEEK WEEK April 15-28, 2011
Wild & Cultivated Farm and Equinox Farm in Great Barrington ramp up the growing season with WILD LEEK WEEK, a ramp-tastic array of savory bites prepared by area chefs with these first green shoots of the season.  Come ramp with us!
Friday, April 15
EQUINOX RAMP UP dinner at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge | An elegant five-course prix fixe meal featuring Wild & Cultivated Farm, Equinox Farm, Farm Girl Farm, Graceful Acre, Bacon on the Side Farm, Lila Berle’s Lamb and Ioka Valley Farm | $45 per person | Reservations recommended | www.redlioninn.com  | (413) 298-5545
Saturday, April 16
RAMP IT UP at the Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington | Special entrée: House-made fettuccine, pancetta and wild ramp pesto | $18 entrée | www.route7grill.com | (413) 528-3235
Sunday, April 17
RAMPAGE BRUNCH at Nudel in Lenox from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm | A la carte menu | Walk-ins only | www.nudelrestaruant.com | (413) 551-7183
Wednesday, April 20
RAMPAPALOOZA WINE DINNER at Mission Bar + Tapas in Pittsfield | A five-course prix fixe dinner featuring ramps, with wine pairings from the Sicilian and Campanian regions | $40 per person | Reservations recommended | Ramp specials featured throughout the week | www.missionbarandtapas.com | (413) 443-1234
Thursday, April 21
REDOLENT RAMP three-course prix fixe dinner at Castle Street Café in Great Barrington | $25 per person | Reservations recommended | www.castlestreetcafe.com | (413) 528-5244
Friday, April 22
RAMPATHON DINNER at Allium Restaurant + Bar in Great Barrington | Three-course prix fixe dinner | Wanabea Farm rabbit pate with truffles + pickled ramps; Braised Milkhouse Farm veal + ramp ravioli with grilled ramps + roasted mushrooms; Lavender + ramp ice cream with ramp-infused honey sauce | $25 per person | Reservations recommended | www.alliumberkshires.com  | (413) 528-2118
Easter Sunday, April 24
RAMP REVIVAL brunch at Caffe Pomo D’Oro in West Stockbridge | European-style ramp-focused cuisine | www.caffepomodoro.biz | (413) 232-4616
Easter Sunday, April 24 PLUS April 25, 26 & 28
RAMP & ROLL at John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont | Prix Fixe Easter Dinner featuring local pork and ramps | $30 per person | www.jarestaurant.com | (413) 528-3469
DIRTY RAMP MARTINI at Café Adam in Great Barrington featuring Berkshire Mountain Distillers gin or vodka throughout the week | Plus, Prince Edward Island Mussels with ramps, bacon, green peas and High Lawn Farm Cream | $10 app/$15 entrée | www.cafeadam.org | (413) 528-7786
RAMP AROUND THE CLOCK at The Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough with ramp specials throughout the week | www.oldinn.com  | (413) 229-7924

Saturday, April 9, 2011

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Shepherd's Pie

Classes and other sensible approaches to life. Molly Merritt of Local Feast is teaching a series of food workshops, some with wild edibles, some not. Her recipe for Shepherd's Pie is pre-fiddlehead and pre-ramp so no waiting for tender shoots....cook it up with stuff right out of today's larder.

We substituted some ground goat for beef or lamb....poignant in this dish snuggling with veggies under a potato blanket.

Cooking note: Varying from the recipe can be a good thing and sometimes a different thing. For the pan, a pedestrian glass baking dish, especially if worn and scratched in the corners is the very soul of Pot Lucks, Mother and the Catholic School steam-table. Why not a pretty, not scratched deep dutch oven with a nifty lid for storage?

Why not indeed?

The potato needs to spread out a bit to get nice and crisp and, well, cooked. Pack the potato in too tight and potato blanket becomes potato lava. But this a comfort food, sloppy comfort in the volcano version, but comforting in the way that deviating from the norm can sometimes be.

Shepherd’s pie with goat meat

This recipe uses a wider variety of vegetables than the traditional Shepherd’s pie, including rutabagas in the potato layer. Feel free to add in other vegetables as you desire. To make a vegetarian Shepherd’s pie, replace the meat with crumbled tofu or tempeh, and add an extra tbs. of olive oil and 1 tbs. soy sauce while browning.

For the meat layer:
1 tbs. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef or lamb or GOAT
1 medium onion
1 c. diced carrot
1 c. diced celery root
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. salt
a few pinches black pepper

For the potato layer:
1 lb. potatoes
1 lb. rutabaga
2 tbs. butter
1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the carrot and celery root and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes more. If your skillet is very large you can brown the meat (or tofu/tempeh) in the skillet with the vegetables, if its already quite full use a separate pan for browning then stir meat into the vegetable mixture.

Peel the rutabaga. You can also peel the potatoes or leave the skins on. Cut the rutabaga and potato into chunks and put them in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until very soft, 15-20 minutes. Drain and mash with the butter, milk and salt.

Spread the meat mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top and gently spread them over the meat layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden. Serves 6.

Courtesy of Molly Merritt's
Local Feast Cooking School