As the sun shines brightly I welcome the month of May with such jubilation. Spring, unlike the elusive fall or indolent winter, conjures up feelings of rebirth, new beginnings, revival. It is the time when our landscape goes from brown to green, when transformation is an undeniable fact and the cycles inherent in the universe are visible everywhere. One thing that drives this home for me is a nature walk. A simple stroll through the woods reveals so many wonders and edible gifts. As I explore, one of the first things I see is ramps.
I know I talked about them in my last post but since they are here so briefly I wanted to give you another recipe where their unique flavor can be enjoyed. Available this week at our local farmers market or still waiting for you as you forage in the wild, this wild onion or leek is a temporary yet fabulous find. I wanted to show you how easy they can be spotted this time of year. Being one of the first greens birthed among the brown decay they present themselves so gloriously. Bring a shovel and a bucket and there you have it. Again I want to remind you to be respectful and do not take from small groups. A well-known naturalist says to apply the 1 in 20 rule. Do not disturb patches smaller than 5 and only take a few from the larger ones and then move on to another.
That said, I am equally excited about the other spring ingredients in the featured recipe; asparagus and tarragon. A perfect complement to each other and the ramps, this has me really fired up. Tarragon is one of the first herbs to present in the garden and asparagus has just started to pop their little heads above ground so this preparation contains the entire seasonal package.
Let’s take a minute to discuss tarragon. A member of the lettuce family it is a herb widely used in classic French cooking. Best known for its use in Béarnaise sauce and a flavoring for vinegars it is distinguished for its anise like flavor. A perennial herb it has pointed dark green leaves and is very versatile in its uses. It serves as an excellent complement to seafood, poultry, eggs, fruit and most vegetables. I urge you to experiment with it but remember a little goes a long way especially as it matures through the growing season. Here is how it goes:
PASTA W/ SHRIMP, ASPARAGUS & RAMPS IN TARRAGON CREAM
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis Serves 4-6
8 oz. linguine
Extra-virgin olive oil
2T unsalted butter
½ lb. asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1 ½ inch pieces (2 c)
1 ½ c ramps, leaves and bulbs, cleaned and thinly sliced (or 1 medium leek)
1 c heavy cream
2T fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 ½ t grated lemon zest ( I use a microplane grater)
1T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1t sea salt
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Drain, reserve ½ c pasta cooking water.
- While the pasta is cooking, drizzle some olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom, into a large skillet. Melt the butter and add the asparagus and ramps or leek. Cook until the asparagus is crisp tender and ramps are softened (to avoid sticky pasta, try to time the cooking so it is done just when your sauce is ready)
- Stir in the cream, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sea salt.
- Stir in the shrimp, reduce the heat to low, simmer 2 minutes until shrimp are barely turning pink. Add the pasta and just enough reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Toss to coat well and continue tossing until some sauce is absorbed by the noodles.
- Serve immediately.
The brightness of the lemon adds pop to the garlicky tones of the ramps and pairs perfectly with the crisp asparagus and freshness of the tarragon. Well balanced, it is a seasonal party in your mouth. Creamy and sensual, this recipe will be on your regular rotation I promise.
I urge you to go take a walk and explore what edibles nature has to offer. It has been rainy here so I am hoping for some morels soon. If a walk doesn’t work for you, a trip to your local farmers market will do. Whatever your pleasure, I only ask that your keep spreading the love, one seasonal dish at a time. I am thinking a dandelion salad for my next wild creation. I embrace the “weeds” with love and gratitude and send that love out into the universe from my kitchen to yours. Until next time, Jeanne