Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup

citrus fruit salad

This is the shoulder season, when anticipation builds for spring flavors. I can’t wait for ripe strawberries. I wander through our neighborhood farmer’s market on Saturdays, taking the produce pulse. Have the ramps come in? When will we see asparagus?

Luckily, we still have citrus. Shipped in from Florida, Texas and the west coast, pink grapefruits and Mineolas are delicious right now. Tangerines, navels, kumquats and pummelos. Even the fruits’ names carry me away to sun-soaked places. Sumo, Valencia, Golden Nugget. They could be names on the Las Vegas Strip. Or given to champion race horses in Saratoga Springs.

whole citrus fruits in rainbow colors

I learned this simple, outstanding dessert recipe when teaching my very first cooking class at The Sylvia Center, in Soho. One of my dearest old friends, a fellow food-lover and chef-instructor named Nina, invited me to be her assistant. The students were reluctant teenagers, struggling academically and exploring career options in the food industry. We taught them knife skills. But we also exposed them to vegetables and fruits some had never tasted. It was a revelation.

ingredients for spiced citrus salad

This is no ordinary fruit salad. It marries the tart with the sweet (citrus plus maple syrup), with an exotic overlay of earth and warmth (spices). Make it with whatever citrus fruit you have. The more variety of oranges you add, the more colors and hidden flavors your salad will contain.

maple syrup with spices

At first, supreming citrus seems challenging. Using a sharp knife, you cut away the peel and pith, leaving a naked orb of fruit. You then cut out neat segments, filling a bowl with bright, colorful citrus wedges. Be sure to squeeze every last drop of juice from the remaining membrane before discarding.

details of how to supreme citrus

The fruit will perk up your taste buds. It is fresh and succulent. The “broth” tastes like nectar. You will want seconds. It’s my favorite cold weather dessert, good for parties and those who avoid dairy, gluten and carbohydrates. Unbelievably delicious and packed with vitamin C.

 

Citrus with Spiced Maple Syrup
Serves 6-8

Count on about 2 whole citrus fruits per person. Choose an assortment of citrus, including at least 3 different ones from the following (suggested) list, preferably of different colors:

Minneolas
Tangerines
Blood oranges
Grapefruit
Navel oranges
Clementines
Pummelos
Mandarins
Valencia oranges
Cara Cara oranges
Tangelo
Satsuma
Hamlin Oranges
Mango oranges

½ cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
1 cup of water
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
4 juniper berries
4 cardamom pods
3 cloves
1 small knob of fresh ginger
Pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate (optional)

Put maple syrup and water in a saucepan. Add star anise, cinnamon stick, juniper berries, cardamom pods, cloves and fresh ginger. If there are certain spices you prefer, feel free to eliminate some and/or add others. Bring syrup and spices to the boil, then lower heat, and simmer gently, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, supreme all citrus into sections over a bowl, squeezing the juice of each before you throw out the membrane. Be sure to remove all the pith and seeds. Depending on the overall quantity of juice, you may want to pour some off and drink it separately.

Add strained, cooled maple syrup broth to the citrus and juice, and stir gently. Serve in glass bowls, with optional pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top, as a garnish.

When serving, citrus should rest in about 1 cup of “broth,” juice with maple syrup mixed, with fruit piled up and not floating in too much liquid.

 

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Black Bean Soup

vegetarian black bean soup

Everyone in my family has turned vegetarian. They saw a film called Cowspiracy and immediately decided meat was out. I’m proud of their choice and now cook only vegetarian meals. It’s a healthy, earth-friendly, inexpensive diet. We eat more fiber. We lower our carbon footprint. (Full disclosure: I get my meat fix privately, hunkered over the occasional hamburger in a restaurant. Or I make a few strips of bacon to have with my eggs. The family tolerates me being an omnivore.)

Cooking without meat poses challenges I hadn’t anticipated. It’s not a deprivation kind of challenge. It’s that I sometimes lack ideas. When we’re tired and I need to throw together a fast meal, I can’t just throw a slab of animal protein in a pan. One has to think.

In winter, I often want soup. But I don’t want it to be a production. This is the recipe to turn to for a pantry soup, something you can whip up on a weekend morning to enjoy for lunch. It makes great leftovers.

black bean soup ingredients

When making a soup, stay in categories of flavor. This one is kissed by Mexico, with a little bit of heat and spice, crunch and corn from quick fried tortilla strips, and those earthy black beans. Other soups tend towards Asia, with a complex broth (enhanced by soy sauce, ginger and nutritional yeast – a trick I learned from Deborah Madison whose cookbooks I couldn’t live without), and items from the “ethnic” section of your supermarket (think tofu, bean sprouts, fish sauce). My default is Mediterranean flavors: root vegetables sautéed with garlic, sage and/or rosemary, blended with a simple vegetable broth and topped with crispy fried croutons.

bay leaf mediterranean flavors
Some soups don’t need broth at all. The vegetable flavors are distinct enough to carry their own weight. For example, Jerusalem artichokes are one such ingredient. Bay leaves (above) add flavor but be sure to remove them before you blend the soup.

quick vegetable broth ingredients

When you need a vegetable broth, please don’t buy it packaged. They taste awful. Instead, make a 30-minute homemade stock. In a stock pot with a splash of olive oil, sauté about 6 cups of chopped vegetables (onion, celery, carrots and garlic, at least; leeks, turnips, parsley stems and much more will add complexity). After about 5 minutes, add 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes. Strain. Done.

winter soup from canned beans with flavorful toppings

 

Black Bean Soup
Serves 6-8

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium white onions, trimmed and peeled, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeño pepper, trimmed (seeded if you want less spicy heat)
2 cans black beans (25-ounce cans)
½ cup canned tomatoes
1 small onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
Sour cream, one spoonful to garnish each bowl (skip, if you’re vegan)
Fried tortilla strips, for garnish
½ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
Red chili pepper, minced, for garnish
Lime, squeezed on top before serving, for zing

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over a high heat. Cook onions until blackened in parts, about 10 minutes. Add garlic with jalapeño in the last few minutes of cooking, to char slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender, and purée until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to loosen the mixture for easier blending.

While the vegetables are cooking, put the beans with their liquid, and tomatoes, into a food processor or blender. Purée until very smooth, about 2 minutes. If needed, add a little stock to help liquefy and blend the beans. Transfer to a bowl.

Cut the small onion into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, and sauté until onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pureed beans and the vegetable purée. Add stock – if you want a thicker soup, add less stock – and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide soup among bowls and spoon in sour cream. Scatter tortilla strips, cilantro leaves, and minced chili pepper. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.

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Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta and Mint

peas pea shoots asparagus mint sugar snap peas Vegetables mark the cadence of a year. The tempo quickens in spring, with ramps, asparagus and baby greens brightening our plates. Things escalate in early summer, with peas, beets, herbs, and more. By September, the markets in New York City are bursting. It’s a screaming match of color and flavor, a fever pitch of produce, a cascade of foods to taste.

spring vegetables peas salad

Because I like to cook seasonally, I get impatient right about now. We had a bitterly cold winter. The growers are saying spring is 2-3 weeks late this year. Each Saturday morning, I go to the farmer’s market in my Fort Greene neighborhood to check the pulse. Still only apples in the first stall? Or has their first crop of raspberries come in?

spring lunch recipe peas asparagus mint ricotta

This recipe gets a jump on spring, in spite of the paltry supplies on offer. Only the pea shoots are local, not counting the ricotta that comes from Narragansett Creamery. But I couldn’t wait.

spring salad  of peas asparagus mint and ricotta

Blanche the peas and asparagus for a minute to brighten their color and soften the bite. You can smear the ricotta mixture on the plate and spoon the salad on top, for a more elegant presentation. Or just toss it all together like a pasta dish without the pasta, using veggies as a stand-in. This is a one-pot spring meal to raise the volume on spring.

spring tangle of pea shoots peas asparagus mint and ricotta

 

Spring Salad of Peas, Asparagus, Ricotta & Mint

Serves 4

½ pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
½ pound fresh peas in the shell, (about 1 cup, shelled)
¼ pound sugar snap peas, sliced into 1” pieces on the diagonal (about 1 cup)

1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped mint
Pea shoots, several handfuls
Chives snipped for garnish

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add one tablespoon of salt, and the asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes, skim out the asparagus and place in a bowl with cold water and ice. Do the same with the peas, cooking for just one minute, then adding to the cold bath. Drain the cooled vegetables. Cut the asparagus spears into 1” pieces, sliced on the diagonal.

Mix together the ricotta, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.

Toss the vegetables in a few spoonfuls of dressing. Add the mint and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ of the vegetable mixture. Gently mix the ricotta mixture into the remaining vegetables. Place in the center of wide serving platter. Surround with small bunches of pea shoots. Spoon a little more dressing on the shoots. Scatter reserved vegetables on top. Garnish with snipped chives. Sprinkle a pinch good, coarse sea salt on top.

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Bean and Winter Vegetable Gratin

pot of beans to use in gratin The blanket of snow in New York led me to this dish. I wanted beans, pork and winter vegetables. Crunch and broth. Something you might have with a pint in a dark pub in Ireland, on a day when the sun sets around 4 and the evening is long.

dried pinto beans

Eat more beans. Loaded with fiber and vitamins, beans can be canned or dried. Dried beans require a little forethought but return the effort with good taste. Soak them before you go to bed, even if you don’t know what to do with them the next day. After soaking, simmer them for 1-2 hours. Add salt to taste. Keep them in a container all week to have in different combinations. This gratin can be reheated for lunch, frozen for a future dinner. It will warm you up on a cold day.

use any seasonal vegetables you have

Use whatever vegetables you have, or get those you like. Try with fennel, winter squash, celeriac, turnips. Any knobby root will do well here. You can roast a tray of vegetable scraps and mix them into the beans with some of the cooking liquid. Top with bread crumbs. Add grated Parmesan cheese if you want it richer.

mise en place for winter vegetables

Think of it as a fast cassoulet. Make it vegetarian by replacing the bacon with olive oil. This is French peasant food: cheap, hearty and full of flavor. Even more so on a snowy day.

just baked winter veg and bean gratin

Bean and Winter Vegetable Gratin

½ pound dried pinto or cranberry or red beans, rinsed and soaked overnight or 2 fifteen-ounce cans of beans, drained and rinsed
½ pound thick sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ¼” matchsticks (about 2 cups) – optional; replace with ¼ cup olive oil for cooking vegetables
1 carrot, diced (about ½ cup)
2 stalks of celery, diced (about ½ cup)
1 leek, white and light green part only, washed carefully and diced (about 1 cup)
½ pound mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
Thyme leaves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
10 fresh sage leaves, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 cup tomatoes, diced, fresh or canned
1½ cups bread crumbs, preferably homemade and rough cut

Drain the soaked beans and cover with fresh water by 2 inches in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and skim off any foam. Simmer gently 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender (older beans take longer). Add more water if necessary during the cooking. Season to taste with salt. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.

Heat bacon or olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. When bacon is crisped and brown, remove from pan, reserving bacon fat in pan. Add the diced vegetables to the oil (bacon oil or olive oil), and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, sage and salt. Cook for a few minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Mix the beans with the vegetables and put into a medium-sized gratin or baking dish. Taste for salt. Add enough bean liquid to almost cover. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with bread crumbs.

Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated 350°F oven, checking occasionally. If the gratin is drying out, carefully spoon in a little bean liquid, avoiding to get the crumbs wet.

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Winter White Soup

winter white vegetable soup

This is soup without a recipe, made from winter vegetables that are mostly white.

If you only cook one soup, this should be the one. That’s because it can go rich and fancy (add heavy cream!), spare and pure (use only one vegetable variety!), vegan and virtuous (no butter, no chicken stock!), etc. Dress it up for the holiday meal with fresh truffle shavings. Or add a droplet of cream and minced fresh herbs. It’s pillowy and creamy, even without dairy.

winter vegetables

Winter vegetables (in the northeast USA) are hardy. They’ll keep in your fridge for a while. I often make this soup when I want to clean out the fridge, using up scraps and neglected veggies. No need for stock because the vegetables are so flavorful they create their own stock when cooked with water. Add milk if you want more protein and a more unctuous mouth feel.

all varieties of chopped vegetables

Make a lot of this soup and freeze single portions for easy, takeout lunches. Have it as an elegant first course for a winter meal. Mix up which vegetables you use (add a little parsnip, for example, or turnips… anything white). Make this soup!

pureed soup with all white winter vegetables (I say “without a recipe” because once you get the gist of this soup, you can do it without a recipe. Basically, sauté the aromatics — onions/leeks/garlic if you want — then throw in the chopped vegetables with water or broth, simmer until soft about 15 minutes, add dairy if using it, then blend. Endlessly adaptable!)

 

Winter White Soup
Adapted from The River Cottage Family Cookbook

Serves 8-10

1 onion
3 medium leeks
2 tablespoons butter (optional; add a little more oil if not using butter)
1 tablespoon canola or sunflower oil
1 large or 2 medium potatoes (8 ounces)
1 small cauliflower (1 pound)
1 small head of celery root (about 12 ounces)
1 pound sunchokes
10 cups of water, vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup whole milk (optional)
½ cup heavy cream (optional)

  1. Peel and chop the onion. Clean the leeks and slice them about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Put the butter and oil in a large, heavy saucepan and turn heat on to low. Add the onions and leeks, cover, and cook the vegetables gently for a few minutes until soft.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Cut the the cauliflower and break the cauliflower into florets (it’s OK to use the stem but not the leaves). Scrub and loosely peel the sunchokes, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
  4. At the last minute, peel the celery root thickly so that you’re left with just the white flesh (like a banana, celeriac turns brown quickly once it’s been cut). Chop this into cubes and add to the pan, with the potatoes, cauliflower and sunchokes – as well as the stock, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cold milk, then turn off the heat and let the soup cool for at least 15 minutes (to eliminate the danger of blending very hot liquids). Purée the soup in the blender a few ladlefuls at a time. You can either reheat it now, to serve immediately, or chill it in the fridge and use within 5 days.
  6. Return the blended soup to the pan. Stir in the cream, and reheat gently but thoroughly. It doesn’t need to boil again, but it should be piping hot. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve soup just as it is or with an extra little swirl of cream and chopped chives. Warm sliced baguette (bread) on the side is nice, too.

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Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes from fort greene farmer's market We felt the first snap of cold yesterday in New York. The day before, a walk through the neighborhood farmer’s market under buckets of rain was proof that summer lingers. Minute cherry tomatoes on the vine, bushels of yellow squash and sticky plums. It’s still bountiful around here.

fort greene farmer's market

I use the market as a bellwether. Instinctively, I know it’s time to start cooking winter squash and potatoes and roots. But the farmers have the last word. I asked a few of them, as I planned the menu for the next Supper Club (Oct. 18), what might I find in two weeks time? Can I plan on tomatoes, still?

summer squash at the farmers market

One farmer, Hector, said global warming has changed things in upstate New York. The season runs longer, for sure. The chances of a frost in the next few weeks are very low. Cherry tomatoes will likely be around for a little longer.

blistered cherry tomatoes

Lentils find their way onto my plate about once a week: dressed up with herbs in a salad, braised in aromatics and served alongside a grilled sausage, served with vegetables and rice to make a protein-rich meal sans meat, cooked into soup. Fast-cooking. Cheap. No soaking needed. Hearty, fibrous and nutritious.

french lentils, also called lentilles de puy

A batch of lentils will last in the fridge for days. You can mix and match flavors, working them into lunch and dinner in small quantities. The following recipe isn’t necessary, really. Just make lentils and add what you like. Design the dish around what the farmers bring to market. Or just add chopped bacon and caramelized onions and call it a day.

lentils with blistered tomatoes

 

Lentils with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 8

2 cups of lentils (lentilles de puy or French Lentils are best for this recipe)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half, root intact
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:
Juice and zest (thinly sliced) of one lemon
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

A splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
6 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (any or all: basil, chives, mint, parsley, tarragon)

Simmer lentils for 20 minutes with carrot, onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt, and plenty of cold water (at least 3:1 water to lentils), until just tender but with a little bite (al dente). Drain and save liquid for stock.

While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette, mixing together all the ingredients except the oil. Whisk in the oil. Err on the side of a more acidic (=more lemon), as lentils need a flavor boost.

Add dressing to drained, warm lentils. Toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in a splash of vinegar (sherry or red wine), 3 tablespoons of herbs, and stir to blend.

Heat a large skillet with olive oil over a medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add cherry tomatoes and cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes, until they begin to pop and collapse. Shake pan. Tomatoes are done when they are a little browned/blackened, after about 5 minutes.

Serve lentils warm or room temperature, with tomatoes and their juices poured on top, and garnished with remaining chopped fresh herbs.

 

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Eggplant Caviar

Early fall is when eggplants are at their best. Choose firm, dark colored orbs, plentiful and reasonably priced in this season. Cook them soon after buying.

eggplant mint puree

Adapt this simple mash to your taste, adding different seasonings to tip the scale alternately towards North Africa (using tahini, toasted, crushed cumin seeds and a pinch of cayenne), the Middle East (pomegranate molasses), or Italy (fresh basil and/or minced anchovies).

eggplants ready to bake

No recipe is needed. The easiest method for cooking eggplants is to pierce them a few times with a small knife and bake on a sheet pan in a hot oven until they collapse. Scoop out the cooked flesh and mix in flavorings to suit your mood. Use a fork, rather than a food processor, or you will end up with something more like baby food. The texture is nicer when it’s roughly mashed.

Be sure to garnish eggplant caviar with something to add color to the dish’s dull, beige appearance. Chopped mint, parsley, cilantro or basil work well. Pomegranate seeds provide a crunchy, sweet contrast. Serve room temperature with toasted pita bread. Keeps about a week in the fridge.

serve eggplant puree with toasted pita

Eggplant Caviar
Serves 4-6

2-3 eggplants (about 1½ pounds), rinsed, dried and pierced in a few places with a paring knife (to release steam)
Grated zest of one lemon (optional)
Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)
½ clove of garlic, minced and using the flat part of a knife’s blade, made into a paste with ½ teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
A little extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Black sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a baking pan and lay the eggplant on top. Bake until the flesh is cooked, about 20 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop out the cooked flesh into a medium bowl and discard the eggplant skins. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, including some minced fresh herbs, if you like. Taste and adjust seasoning (more salt? lemon?) Transfer to a small serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with chopped fresh herbs and/or sesame seeds. Serve as an hors d’oeuvre with toasted pita bread, or as a side dish with the meal.

Optional ingredients: tahini, pomegranate molasses, cayenne, harissa, ground cumin, paprika, fresh herbs, chopped scallions, chopped fresh chili peppers, chopped black olives, minced anchovies. Pomegranate seeds scattered on top look beautiful – and taste great.

 

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Foolproof Mayonnaise

asparagus in season

Asparagus are finally here! It’s so worth the wait. What shall we do with them? As a rule of thumb, it’s best to grill or roast the fat ones and steam or blanch the thin ones (blanch just 45 seconds in lots of salted boiling water). Ideally, you buy them so fresh they need no cooking at all; just dip in a good sauce.

herbs in mayonnaise

My preference is for a homemade mayonnaise, which is not at all complicated. The only caveat concerns the eggs: since they need to be raw for this sauce, they must be fresh and from hens that live in healthy, clean conditions. If you feel squeamish about this, here are instructions for pasteurizing eggs in the microwave: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/eggsdairy/ht/pasteurize_eggs.htm

pasture fresh eggs

For an added kick, add a cup of chopped sorrel or two smashed garlic cloves. Or any herb you fancy. This is the mother recipe.

Foolproof Mayonnaise
1 whole egg (or just yolk if pasteurized as above)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup Canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh pepper – about 10 twists of the mill

Combine all ingredients except the oils in a blender (including herbs and/or garlic). With the motor running, begin adding oil – drop by drop at first—then in a fine stream. You will hear the sauce begin to thicken as you start running out of oil. The sauce should be spreadable and a pale yellow color. (Or pale green if you’ve added herbs.) It should last in the fridge for a week.

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Ramp Pistou

In case you were feeling that spring has been dragging its feet this year, you’re not wrong. No less an authority than The New York Times declared spring officially late, as least insofar as crops are concerned. One thing we can reliably depend on, though, is the mighty ramp.

ramps

Ramps! Do you know them? Sometimes called wild leeks, these early-spring bulbs pack a wallop of spicy-garlicky flavor. Their season is a brief three weeks, but they grow in such profusion that it pays to buy them (or gather, if you’re lucky and know where to look) in a large bunch.

ramp pesto in food processor

Treat them as you would basil in August: throw the leaves in a food processor with olive oil and salt and you have a basic pistou that will keep in the freezer for months. Good additions are parsley and sorrel. Try it over pasta, on a sandwich, on fish, over asparagus, swirled into a fresh pea soup…. As for the blubs, chop them up and throw them in a stir-fry or in a frittata: anywhere scallions are called for.

ramp pesto

Ramp Pistou

1 cup ramp leaves, chopped and packed
½ cup sorrel or parsley, packed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until chopped to a fine purée. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

ingredients for jerk chicken

Real Jerk Chicken is cooked on an open fire using Pimento wood, from the tree that produces allspice. This adds to the dishes singular, complex flavor. I am not a stickler for authenticity when it comes to food. And I can’t find Pimento wood in my Brooklyn backyard. My theory is: make what you want. Yes, keep it healthy and fresh. But don’t get hung up on having the “right” salt or firewood, or whatever ingredient has stumped you.

This recipe is a perfect weeknight dish because it takes about 30 minutes to cook. Serve it with rice and beans and a veg. Full of flavor from warm spices, hot pepper (dose to your liking) and lime, I love that you just throw everything in the blender, make a paste, and rub it all over the chicken. Marinate overnight. Bake and done.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 stick cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 garlic cloves
2-4 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stems removed
6 scallions, roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece ginger, thickly sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup canola oil
6 large chicken legs, leg and thigh attached

Put all ingredients except for chicken in a blender, with liquid items put in first, and blend to a smooth paste. Coat chicken pieces all over and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 and ideally 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring chicken to room temperature before cooking (about 1 hour on the counter). Grill chicken over hot coals for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the skin begins to char. Place single layer of charred chicken pieces in a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes to finish cooking.

To do entirely in oven, bake for 30 minutes, then broil a few minutes to darken.

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