Regardless of where you live, spring excites us all. There is something about rebirth and new beginnings that liven the soul and spark hope in the hearts of even the most cynical. Here in the Midwest the dawning of this season may arouse even more enthusiasm as it marks the end of the frigid weather and allows all that has been hidden for months below the ground to once again flourish. With the greening of our landscapes comes those wild edibles that I love to forage. Things like dandelions, morels, wild asparagus and my beloved ramps are seen by some as weeds but in my kitchen they represent endless culinary creations.
Today I am going to concentrate on ramps as they have just become available this week and are present for such a short window. This edible feral plant presents itself to those who are aware of their surroundings. Highly coveted by chefs and gourmands, they are viewed a sexy vegetable as they are both an aromatic (the bulb) and a cooking green (the leaves) and are very versatile in their application. Their bold flavor and short seasonal availability make them even more prized. They grow in fertile, shady woodlands all over the eastern United States and Canada. Here they are one of the first green sightings of the season and can be seen in wooded areas among the brown of dried leaves and brush. They are a welcoming patch of color with emerald leaves and a pink stem. If you are foraging, please be respectful and only take a few from each grouping. This will insure their availability next year. They are also called wild onions or leeks and can be cultivated. I am told they are a bit finicky to grow but I have seen them available in the last few years at farmers markets and specialty stores so I assume someone has figured it out.
The recipe I am sharing today is so full of flavor. Tender chicken, crisp haricot vert (ah-ree-koh VEHR) or French green beans, pungent ramps, earthy mushrooms paired with Asian style flavors of ginger, soy sauce, sweetened black and rice vinegars and a bit of heat from chili paste makes this a very balanced dish . It is a one pot wonder you will want to make many times.
Here is the formula:
GINGER CHICKEN w/ RAMPS, MUSHROOMS AND GREEN BEANS
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
4 slices fresh ginger, 2 Thai chilies, 2 large cloves fresh garlic, smashed
4T peanut oil (or vegetable oil of choice), divided
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
¼ c flour seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1T fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. haricot verts or French green beans, trimmed and cut in half (or young tender regular green beans)
12 ramps, cleaned, greens and bulbs separated, cut into ½-inch lengths (could also substitute I medium leek or scallions)
16 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or use dried, reconstituted in hot water and drained)
½ red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 c chicken stock
1/8 c honey (more if you like it sweeter)
¼ c Tamari or soy sauce
1T sweetened black vinegar(or substitute by using more of the rice vinegar or additional lime juice)
1t rice vinegar, unseasoned
Juice of ½ fresh lime
½ t Chili paste (sambal oelek), or more to taste
2T corn starch
- Place flour in a zip lock bag large enough to hold the chicken. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the chicken and shake to coat thoroughly.
- Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Heat 2T of oil in a large shallow pan or wok on medium high heat. Add the slices of ginger, garlic and Thai chilies. Cook until garlic is golden and then remove all of them and discard. This flavors your oil. Add the chicken , stir 5 minutes or so until browned and cooked through. Remove and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2T of oil in the same pan and add the ramps, green beans, pepper and mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes or until the beans are crisp tender.
- Add the sauce mixture and stirring constantly, bring to a boil on medium heat and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until heated through.
- Serve with steamed rice or Asian style noodles.
You can make this even more seasonal by substituting asparagus for the beans and using seasonal mushrooms available at the market. The key to a good stir fry is to have your mise en place (all the necessary ingredients) ready to go before you begin cooking. That way, your ingredients stay crisp and do not overcook. The actual cooking process goes quickly.
Remember you can use ramps in any recipes calling for scallions or leeks. For more ramp recipes check out these previous posts. Roasted Chicken w/ Ramps and Potatoes , Ramp It Up/ The Wild Onion , Ramp and Potato Soup .
It has been a brutal winter so “Gather ye ramps while ye may.” They are only here for a short time so do not delay. Wherever you are, enjoy spring, try some new recipes and continue spreading the love, one dish at a time. I’ m ramping it up in my kitchen. Can you feel the love? Sending it your way, Jeanne