Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ramsons + Mayonnaise + Tuna

I decided to whip up a fresh batch of mayonnaise tonight and am supremely happy I did! Earlier tonight I cut a few slices of Erdélyi Szalonna and toasted some thin slices of bread in the remaining fat because it was so clear and pure I had to do something with it. With the last little bit of the melted fat and the waning bit of heat in the pan I added the last of my fresh ramsons, chopped, and tossed to coat. I then added this to some mayonnaise, tuna, cayenne pepper, and some black pepper. The tang of the fresh mayonnaise with a little extra lemon juice with the garlic-onion taste of the ramsons with the fresh tasting tuna this is a very light and flavorful treat. A very happy meal indeed!
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Bear onions? Why would these be called bear onions? I turned to my usual methods for sleuthing items from the farmer's market that I don't recognize. I start with the Hungarian name and try to find a reference on the internet with a scientific name; then I use that scientific name to search for the English handle. In this instance medvehagyma, a word I can translate with my very limited Hungarian to "bear onions," turned into allium ursinum. This translates to ramsons, or wild garlic, or bear's garlic. According to Wikipedia, it is a close relative of the chive, and I can smell the resemblance! So what do bears have to do with these leaves that look like they were stripped from a Lilly of the valley? Again according to Wikipedia, brown bears love to dig up the bulbs in the spring when both the plant and animal come out of hibernation.

The bulbs spring forth with the water and sunshine and so do the bears in need of some good fresh nutrients, and what easier plant to find than one that you just need to follow your nose to! And why not? We all know garlic is good for us, and there are studies and articles (here and here) to back this up. Bear's garlic, like most or all varieties, contains sulfur compounds (divinyl sulfide, dimethyl thiosulfonate, methyl cystein sulfoxide and the latter’s degradation products: methyl allyl thiosulfonate and methanethiol). It was only upon looking up these compounds that I learned what the plant really does for our health. All of those sulfur compounds relax blood vessels and may fight chances of developing various cancers. When preparing garlic and garlic varieties be sure to chop, mince, or crush your garlic at least 10 minutes before cooking it. According to said studies and articles that time is needed to produce the enzymes to do all of this good work. And it's yet another reason to complete your mise en place!

After I got them home and washed them I noticed the smell had dissipated. If one is worried he or she might be eating a Lilly of the valley instead of ramsons, don't panic; simply rub the leaf. If you smell garlic, you're at the right plant! According to a few sources, including Spice Pages, there are no other species that look like allium ursinum that have any hint of garlic as part of their profile, but always be careful when foraging. For my North American readers there are many celebrated relatives of ramsons (including ramps!), but I have found no evidence that ramsons grow in your backyard, unless of course they hitched a ride as good plant species often find ways of doing.

When I first tasted it by itself I was welcomed with a fresh garlic taste and a crisp texture similar to fresh romaine lettuce. Ramsons can be eaten as part of a salad or make up an entire salad on its own; the flowers and bulb may be eaten as well. I found the flavor of flowers to be even stronger than the leaves. As I continued my research on this plant I found numerous allusions to eating the plant leaves as fresh as possible because the perfume will fill the kitchen and not the food when cooked too much. Think about stirring some chopped leaves into a just finished potato cream soup and letting the heat soften them. As a pesto it has a dominant "green" flavor with only a little bit of a spicy edge. Yum!

Happy "bear" hunting!
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Tri-color Fettucine

What's in pasta that's so magical? I find myself making so much of it these days, and not apologetically I might add. Like most dishes I make these days I have some sort of spark, some inspiration brought about by research or craving, lead the way; this was no different. I set out to make a no fuss dinner, but left to my own devices I do a little more without making things too difficult (I think).

This bowl was full of greens that were cooked down to the size of a golf ball.

It all started with some sorrel greens from the farmer's market. It was being held for salads, which is what I think I was going to make when the spark hit me. I had filled the salad spinner up with luscious greens but after rinsing them I decided to plunge them into boiling salted water instead of dressing them. I made a simple pasta dough and I was off. I strained, shocked, spun, and squeezed the sorrel until it was the size of a golf-ball. I then minced it and kneaded it into one-third of the pasta dough I had whipped up.

But making some green pasta wasn't good enough, I had done it once before and now I had white and green pasta. So I had to go for the "red gold" and knead some paprika into the last third leaving me with three colors!

This is when I recruited Franny for our rolling and cutting routine:

Once the sorrel pasta was rolled out we knew we had something great.

After the paprika pasta was rolled out we knew we had hit a home run!


I've really been happy with all of the fresh pasta made with fresh market eggs, Kalocsai flour, and some sea salt, but the colors blew me away! It was absolutely delicious and a marvel to look at, it almost made the dish difficult to eat, but then again it took me less time than the average bowl of pasta....go figure!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Share our Strength

Michael Ruhlman has just published a new book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking! If you are interested in not simply purchasing cookbooks but investing in a little more knowledge it looks like this book is for you. Ratio can simply be purchased on, but if you want a chance to donate to a good cause, Share Our Strength to fight children's hunger, and in the process earn a chance at winning a personalized and signed copy of Mr. Ruhlman's new book along with a brand new scale to put those ratios to use, well you'd not only be doing yourself a solid, but starving children as well! Good Luck!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Panna Cotta

This devine dessert has in the back of my mind since I lived in Rome.

Caramel Panna Cotta.
With Spring finally sprung I have been craving so many things light and fresh as well as being able to fully enjoy something best served cold. That's why I made three variations of this classic dessert. The above was made with a simple caramel that I whipped up and put in the bottoms of some tea cups. (It's funny what you do when you need to improvise just about your entire kitchen whenever you want to make something new.)

Blueberry Panna Cotta.

I worked for about an hour working some frozen blueberries into a syrup, then cooking it further into a reduction, and finally straining out the pure blueberry essence that eventually crowned the tops of the blueberry panna cotta. The color contrast was as beautiful as the taste. Just as an aside: there was a little bit of the blueberry reduction sauce left that perfectly topped a creamy batch of tejbegriz. I love making variations on a theme, something I've really enjoyed experimenting with here.

I also made an espresso batch of panna cotta, it was beautiful too, but alas, it was all gone before I could snap any pictures of it. I guess I'll just have to make it again.
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Limoncello: Liquid Sunshine

Just a quick post to show the beginning of my newest project: Limoncello. This drink captures the magic of lemons in alcohol form by extracting the essential oils from the zest of lemons. In about a month I'll post back with the results of the final product and bottling. Until then, enjoy the sunshine in its non-liquid form!
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