Monday, May 21, 2007

Ramping up some gnudi

I don’t have Italian blood flowing through my veins and I have to admit when I was little, my knowledge of that country’s vast cuisine ended (and began) with pizza, lasagna, ravioli (usually canned) and spaghetti. But when I was in my teens and started venturing beyond my limited culinary sphere, I discovered the joy of many new Italian flavors, including butter-and-cream sauce, which I became obsessed with creating at home. My mom has called this my white phase since most of what I ate was, of course, white. And one of my favorite snacks was baked ricotta cheese smothered in the cream sauce, garlic and freshly chopped rosemary, no pasta necessary (though it’s also sort of white and wouldn’t have been completely unwelcome). It was so rich, creamy and delicious, it could make me weep. And heck, I was still a kid so I had no concern about either my heart or my waistline and could indulge guilt free in such a decadent dish.

I’ve since moved beyond the white-food phase, and fortunately am now an equal-opportunity eater of foods of all colors. And while nobody would have predicted this 20 years ago when thoughts of fruits and vegetables were anathema to my diet, I now not only frequently shop at the farmer’s market but also am even (gasp!) toying with the idea of committing to a CSA share for the summer and fall. I’m excited about the prospect of getting a ton of fresh vegetables every week while also helping out a local farm, but I hesitate to sign on the dotted line because I’m afraid I’ll miss shopping at the market, which I’d be less inclined to do if I already have a fridge full of vegetables at home.

There’s just something about seeing the vendors selling the fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meat, cheese and seafood that fills me with such joy. And it’s become my favorite way to spend a lunch hour. My options would probably be better if I was one of those early risers (I keep missing the scallops and bacon, for instance) but I take what I can get, which is part of the fun. And while there are more vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket, the market I frequent by my office has a tenth of the crowds and much cheaper prices. Plus, most of my fellow shoppers are United Nations employees so, for instance, when two people are reaching for that last basket of strawberries, an air of diplomacy hangs over what could have turned into an ugly interaction.

This week they finally had ramps. My heart skipped a little when I saw them in all their muddy, leafy, white, green and aromatic glory. I have never cooked with ramps, which are also known as wild leeks, and have only eaten them on rare occasions. In college we had wild onions growing in our yard that would stink up the joint something fierce after a rain (a good stink, mind you, if you like the smell of onions). We’d pull them out of the ground and eat them raw, in ramen noodles or with beans and rice. But I don’t know if those were technically ramps or not, so this bundle marked my first official foray into the world of working with these lovely lilies.

As I tried to decide what to cook with my ramps, I petitioned friends and scoured the Internet for ideas. I saw many recipes that scrambled them with bacon and eggs or added them to biscuits, which sounded tasty but a bit uninspired. And one friend said her brother makes a zesty ramp and potato salad, but there were no young potatoes to be found at the market when I shopped.

But lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with gnudi (yes, it’s pronounced nudie) that pillowy Italian dish made up of creamy poached ricotta cheese. If you’re not familiar with it, think ravioli filling without the pasta (hence the name, which means naked in Italian) or gnocchi without the potatoes. Tender yet firm on the outside but oozing on the inside, it’s slightly naughty but oh so heavenly. And since ramps taste like the marriage between onions and garlic, I thought they’d be the perfect addition to this luscious, rich dish.

My hunch did not disappoint. The ramps were a spectacular match for the cheese and since I sautéed them before adding them to the ricotta mixture, they were pungent but not overpowering. As I ate the gnudi, I realized that I probably love it so much because it reminds me of that baked ricotta dish I made back in my teens; it took me back to a time when the culinary horizon was vast and filled with much uncharted and delicious territory. Yet even though back then my baked ricotta was a vehicle for cream sauce, I decided for this recipe that such a heavy garnish would be gilding the lily (and the arteries) so I opted instead to top my gnudi with just a simple brown-butter drizzle mixed with more ramps.

Unfortunately, ramps have a very short season. But I know I’ll be back at the market this week to grab some more as they are my newfound taste of spring. Plus, I’m eager to try that salad my friend mentioned and I bet the fingerling potatoes should be arriving soon. But more than that, cooking with ramps has reminded me that the culinary horizon remains vast, despite my years, and it’s always a joy to discover new flavors.

Are you a fan of ramps? What do you like to make with them? And help me make a decision—do you participate in a CSA and what do you find to be the pros and cons?

Gnudi with ramps and brown-butter sauce (adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe for gnudi)
Ingredients:
1 bunch of ramps (12 ramps)
1 pound of ricotta cheese
1 egg
3/4 cups of flour plus more for a dredge
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 stick of butter (113.4 grams)

Method:
Clean the ramps and remove the roots.
Finely dice the bulbs and julienne the leaves.
On medium heat, sauté the diced bulbs in one tablespoon of olive oil until soft, about three minutes. Add the julienned leaves and sauté another minute or so until soft but still green. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, 3/4 cup of flour, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and half the sautéed ramps (about 1/4 cup).
Bring a pot of salted water or stock to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, form gnudis by taking a tablespoon of the cheese mixture in floured hands, roll it into a ball, flatten it, and then dredge in flour to coat.
Gently place gnudis four at a time in simmering water, and when they float to the top (about three minutes), gently remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. They will be very delicate, so handle with care and keep cooked gnudis separate. Repeat until all are cooked.
Melt a stick of butter in saucepan on medium until nutty brown.
Place gnudis on a plate, drizzle with brown butter and garnish with remaining sautéed ramps.
Feeds four to six.

Related Stories Widget by LinkWithin

40 comments:

Jerry said...

Ooooooh! I'd forgotten about gnudi! I saw Giada DeLaurentis make them the other day, and knowing my wife's very Texan love of all things cheese. (OK, who am I kidding, I'm a Cali boy and I love it too), I'd planned on making some, then promptly forgot after going on another turkey binge.

Thanks for reminding me, yours looks abso-freakin-lutely delicious!

Jerry said...

Look naked to me! I'm personally not apart of a CSA, but my friends who are love it. I'd be a part of it, but the one I wanted was $400 upfront and as a poor college student that wasn't going to happen. I just go to the farmer's market and get stuff.
As for ramps, never had them, never heard of them and are very intrigued by them.
My current love is peaches. Fredericksburg just got started and they are juicy. Making a pie tonight! Let you know how it goes.

Kim U said...

This is our 2nd year in a CSA, and we really love it. I think the biggest pro is really getting to know the people growing your food. Our CSA is small (only around 40 shares), so we really have a good interaction with the farmers. We do still go to the market sometimes though, just to see what other produce is out there and for things like cheese that our farmers don't do.

Danielle said...

Ramps! I love your use of them. ('Course, I love most any use of them.)

Alanna said...

Ramps! I'm still peering around, hoping, hoping. Thanks for the inspiration, yes this is inspired in the way other ideas I've seen aren't quite so much.

Olivia said...

Ohhhh no no no no no no no, that is a very very very very VERY naughty dish!!!

In art historical terms, "ignudi" is a word used to describe nude statues.

Olivia said...

P.S. Sounds good though. I have never heard of ramps, far as I can remember. How do they compare with, say, chives?

n. said...

I love ramps! I use them in any and everything: quiches, stirfries, soups, whatever. I've been eating them for a few weeks now just putting them in everything. Just glorious! Last week I made a stir fry with ramps, market pork (I go to Union Square as my office is ON Union Square) and fiddlehead ferns. Fantastic! I also made a quiche last week with ramps, asparagus and maitake mushroom. YUM.

As for CSAs, the only time I belonged to one was when I lived in New Haven. There wasn't a great market there, and the CSA was marvelous. Now, I would miss shopping in my current market. If I worked elsewhere, I would consider the CSA again. But I literally walk through this greenmarket to get to work. THe temptation is too much to resist.

Jennie said...

I know I'm waaay behind, but what exactly is a CSA? Sounds intriguing at any rate.

Last I used ramps was in one of those "I have nothing in the fridge I can eat" dishes where I made a quick salad of bulgur, canned kidney and garbanzo beans and whatever vegetable scraps I had. They lent a nice fresh garlicky taste, if a bit on the pungent side.

Lydia said...

Oooh, I've never tried gnudi -- now I'm inspired! As for CSA, I've found that if I get a half share, I still am shopping at the farmers markets to fill in the gaps.

christine (myplateoryours) said...

This looks drop dead divine, Lisa! I love ramps. I can't find them locally, but I have a ramp tart I make when I can get them. A chef friend who has better sources than I pickles them and has them year round -- they are a great addition to all kinds of things.

I have belonged to a CSA and found that I still shopped at market since the CSA tended to give us tons of what was flourishing in the participating farmers' fields but maybe not so much else. Besides, like Lydia said, you don't need to get a full share, and that leaves you some leeway.

I think the best CSAs are made up of a combination of farmers so you get a wide variety of produce (preferably one like the one I am thinking about this year, that does eggs and cider and other interesting stuff.) I have never regretted joining a CSA and my only hesitance comes in over my travel schedule. When I am going to be gone too much to enjoy it, I don't join, or I find someone to pick up the box on the weeks we are gone.

Homesick Texan said...

Jerry--The love of cheese knows no boundaries!

Jerry--Sigh, I wish we could get Fredericksburg peaches here, but they don't leave the state. I hope there's still some when I come in August. And I don't know if they have ramps in Texas--I'd never heard of them until I moved here.

Kim--That's definitely one of the appeals for me, getting to know the farmers. Especially when you live in the city and have such a disconnect with nature, that interaction seems like it would be very fulfilling.

Danielle--Thanks, and that's high praise coming from such a creative cook as yourself!

Alanna--Thank you, and they're in full swing here so it shouldn't be long for you.

Olivia--Since they're also known as wild leeks, I'd say they're closer to those than chives. The bulb is similar to a scallion, though.

N--Now that's something else I haven't tried yet, fiddlehead ferns. I saw some at Union Square on Saturday--I think I'll pick some up this week. I'm intrigued! And thanks for your input on CSAs. I think I'm leaning towards doing it less for the bounty and more for the "helping the farmer" aspect. Though if you shop at the market you're also helping the farmer.

Jennie--CSA stands for community sponsored agriculture. It's where the consumer buys a share of the farmer's harvest, and every week you get several pounds of just-picked produce, all very seasonal and fresh. And I love creative meals like that, such a fun challenge!

Lydia--I think the half share is probably the way for me to go as well due to my travels, etc.

Christine--Why thank you! A CSA made up of a combination of farmers sounds terrific, but unfortunately that's not an option near me. The ones I have to choose from just do vegetables, but if you pay more you can also get fruit. That said, one I'm looking at will sell you flowers, honey, eggs and grass-fed beef you if you place a special order. But I think it would be more fun to just get these things in the regular box.

Inane said...

Lovely stuff....

Good lord, did someone made a ramps and fiddlehead stir fry? Can you get any -more- spring in there?

The one downer to a CSA is that the pickup times can be a bit inflexible, and can be tough if you're a 9-5'er.

SteamyKitchen said...

i'm so sad....i've never had ramps before... :-(
can't find them in markets...thanks for listening. I'll just hide in the corner and mope.

MissE said...

this looks amazing!! i'd love to make this recipe, but alas, no ramps to be had in Seattle.

what would be the best substitution? scallions and garlic? shallots and garlic? leeks? hrmmm....

i'm interested to know what you think!!

keep the goodness comin'!!!

Anonymous said...

Girl, you took me right back to the farm. When I was growing up in Munday, TX my dad grew vegetables on a fairly grand scale. He helped pioneer seedless watermelons, as I'm sure I've mentioned. Mom would say, "Get me some potatoes and onions for dinner." Off I'd run barefooted in light colored, soft, hot sand. I'd find the nearest turn-row that had an irrigation pipe with cold ground water running through it, and hop on to cool my sizzling feet. I have to say, it don't get no betta than that.

Grow your own! We'll love to hear your adventures in farming. You can always go to the market to roam and fill in the gaps.

Again, a very inspiring, lovely article and recipe.

Texann

Lisa said...

Ramps -- how wonderful. And I'm ashamed to admit that, though of Italian descent, I've never heard of gnudi! How is that possible? Must rectify that situation.

I was a cofounder of the CSA in our area, but after a while I found I just enjoyed going to the market instead. It wasn't a question of not being willing to use what was given to me, but more that I missed the market, and couldn't really afford to do both. So now I am in a buying club for meats, but am not in a CSA. It works for me.

Sean said...

Art films? Ha! Gnudi! That's all they are. Gnudi!

Sorry, had a little Valley of the Dolls moment there.

If you wanna get technical (and you know I do), they're pronounced "nyoodee," but they're delicious no matter how you say it.

Susan said...

I love roasted ramps with a medley of mushrooms, such as morels and chanterelles in a wine and butter sauce.

I've been wanting to make gnudi; thanks for the inspiration!

The County Clerk said...

For some reason, this one looks like something I might actually attempt. Thank you.

Freya and Paul said...

We don't have ramps over here (that I know of) and they resemble spring onions which you know as scallions. Must do more research on these as they sound wonderful! I love the gnudi/nudey 'pasta' too!

Homesick Texan said...

Inane--Thanks. And, yes that's one of my concerns the limited window of time to pick up your box.

SteamyKitchen--Don't be sad, I'd never had them either! It's just something to look forward to trying someday!

MissE--I think leeks with garlic would be your best substitution. Maybe two leeks chopped and three cloves of garlic minced.

Texann--What a wonderful memory! And that's what my mom said, at the very least being part of a CSA would give me fodder for the blog.

Lisa--You must try them, they're so pillowy soft, a joy to eat! And that's my fear, there's less romance in picking up a box than wandering through the market.

Sean--Thanks for the correction! And no need to apologize, but beware, you've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls !

Susan--Mmmm, morels. I haven't seen any yet but am hoping there are some at the market today.

Homesick Texan said...

Hank--You're welcome, and if you cook it, please let me know how it turns out for you. Do you have ramps in your yard?

Freya and Paul--They are like the marriage of leeks and scallions. And I believe they are just an American lily, but I could be wrong.

eonyc said...

I only started hearing about ramps last year via gothamist.com, and never heard of fiddlehead ferns til this post! Then yesterday I got my freshdirect.com email, and they are putting BOTH on sale this week!

I'd also never heard of CSA, and today's Daily Candy NYC email is all about it!

Talk about posting some timely topics!!

Lori

rob said...

Well, Lisa, since you asked, Rachel and I are partial to a spaghetti with ramp pesto dish we tried last year when I found ramps for the first time at my local market. You probably know this already, but those things pack a powerful punch, and this pesto doesn't try to hide it in any way, shape, or form. We posted about it here.

As for CSAs, we've also toyed with that idea, but have not yet joined one. Our concerns are similar to yours, I think: we like going to the market and choosing what we want. Still, there's something about committing that just seems like the right thing to do.

By the way, your observation about the diplomacy at your market is brilliant.

wheresmymind said...

Cheese, Olive Oil and Butter...sounds like a winning combo to me!

Acme Instant Food said...

Well, I know nada 'bout gnudis and I've never joined the ramp camp (okay I know that was bad I couldn't make anything else rhyme). My problem is that the farmer's markets around here conflict with my work schedule and the Saturday morning ones...well, lets just say that my Saturday mornings are usually reserved for recovering from Friday night (or usually just some selfish down time for myself).

I've decided that I have to get my hands on some ramps because people wax poetic about them every spring. I'm sure I'll love them as I never met an onion I didn't like and I think that garlic is nature's perfect food. Your LOVELY photos, complete with little glimmering dew drops, are reigniting a desire in me to taste some.

Homesick Texan said...

Lori--Quite timely, indeed! And I had no idea FreshDirect had such an awesome produce selection--I can't even get ramps or fiddlehead ferns at my local Whole Foods.

Rob--Great post, thanks for sharing! If there are any ramps this weekend, I think that's next on my list of things to do with them. As for the commitment factor, I think it's a great thing to do, but shopping at the farmer's market also helps the farmer, albeit on the back end rather than the front end. And I hate to say this, but that was my favorite line in the post so thanks for the compliment! Plus it's very true!

Wheresmymind--You can never go wrong with cheese, olive oil and butter!

Acme Instant Food--I hear you about Saturdays! One of the CSAs I'm considering (because they do a half share) has a Saturday morning pick up and I'm saying to myself, "Is that what I want to do first thing on a Saturday? Saturdays are for sleeping late!" Especially since I work until about 10pm on Fridays. But yes, try some ramps. Hurry, because they'll be gone soon, but I bet you'd love them.

Vanessa said...

You know how I love our CSA but I still go to the farmers' market for meat... I'm still looking for my rabbit.

Ramps are heavenly...I think they are best lightly wilted and served along side a big fat piece of grass-fed, medium rare, grilled to perfection, beef. Now that's what i'm talking about.

Kristen said...

I have never had this before, but I am intrigued now. This recipe sounds really good!

soma said...

Hi- loved ur blog, its my first visit:) have to admit, i just made up my mind to make some home made biscuits...i'm never sure if i can get it done correctly, hence never tried. happy cooking:)

Soma
www.cafe-creation.blogspot.com

Homesick Texan said...

Vanessa--I do know how much you love your CSA and your postings on it was partly what prompted me to consider joining my own. And while I haven't been able to find rabbit either, I do know I can get a grass-fed thick piece of beef at the market--a perfect match for ramps.

Kristen--It is really good, especially if you like cheese!

Soma--Welcome! Good luck with the biscuits, they're very easy to make.

Callie said...

Gnever heard of gnudi, but it sounds good and I happen to have some ricotta in my fridge.

No ramps in Texas, but we do get wild onion all over the place. I've seen those fiddlehead ferns before, but I've never been brave enough to buy them.

I love and hate my CSA. I'm single, so I actually split a box with a friend. An entire box would be way too much for me.

I love the CSA because it's fresh, organic produce. I've tried all sorts of new veggies thanks to it (swiss chard, broccoli rabe, green garlic, fennel, rutabagas). And I've had wonderful tender asparagus for about a month now.

The downside is that you'll wind up eating some of the same veggies week after week. I've been pulling my hair out over what to do with all the swiss chard and other dark greens I've been getting weekly for two months. I like my greens, but not that often! I wind up throwing out some of it...and then feel guilty for doing so.

I still go to the grocery store for plenty of items that the CSA doesn't provide, such as meat and dairy. My CSA does offer meat, eggs, and coffee as special orders, but I'd rather pick out my own in a store or farmer's market.

bea said...

I even had no idea that these existed. Thank you so much for making me want to explore and look for them now!

gilly said...

Hi Lisa! I'm with Bea - I too have never heard of these, but they really intrigue me... I'll have to keep my eyes open - either locally or in travels - where ever they show up!

Julie said...

I've also considered joining a CSA, especially now that the building I work in is a delivery point for the CSA I would join, but I enjoy and look forward to my trips to the market and have (so far) decided against it.

Shopping at the farmer's market is also a way to support small, local farmers.

On the other hand, joining a CSA is an even better way to support small, local farmers, plus there seems to be a fun, creative element to being handed a batch of vegetables every week and figuring out what to do with them.

Your gnudi look great, by the way.

Homesick Texan said...

Callie--Thanks for the input. I'm excited about the prospect of the creative challenge of cooking with vegetables I might not otherwise eat, but yes, all those greens! I had a friend who split a box and still ended up with five heads of lettuce each week--I love my salad, but still!

Bea--You're welcome. And I bet they have them in Boston since they're all over the East Coast all the way up into Canada.

Gilly--They're really wonderful, if you see some you should definitely try them!

Julie--Yes, that's sort of my conflict--while I know shopping at the market helps the farmer, joining a CSA helps them more. I'm just worried about not being able to finish all the vegetables, which is wasteful.

peggyvan said...

I may be mistaken but as I recall Ramps are an endangered species. I have seen them growing [but I'd best not say where]in Ohio.

tasteofbeirut said...

Very interesting post. I don't think i have had these. I would love to try and after reading all these comments maybe joining a CSA is the way!

aerospoon said...

found your site recently and have been really enjoying your recipes and photographs. i made some fresh ricotta last night and tried this recipe since i had some ramps in the fridge - it turned out delicious! thanks for sharing all of your culinary ideas!

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to avoid spam. And if you don't have a blog, please leave your name as it makes it friendlier that way!