Reba Cooks #5
To whom it may concern: It is springtime. It is late afternoon.
This year I’ve been geeking out over the springtime blooms to the point of annoyance. Sure, every year (especially as I slowly morph into the female version of my father) I admire and appreciate the magenta redbuds, the thick petaled magnolia blossoms and even the invasive Bradford pears (from a distance) but this year it seems to be at an all time high. Everywhere I go, I say to myself (oftentimes, out loud) or to the person lucky enough to find themselves in the company of yours truly, “Oo oo, look at those redbuds there! Did you see the pink dogwood on Governor’s Lane? The line of blossom heavy crabapples in front of the Methodist church on Meridian? Let me show you this picture I took of the azalea in front of this house, it’s insane.”
These are the words that are coming out of my 36 year old mouth.
Of course, over the last year the pandemic magnified how lovely a long walk could be, or how a night by a fire could cure what ails you. We spent what felt like the entire year outside, desperate for both socialization and safety. No wonder this Spring feels bigger, brighter, and more welcomed than ever. Oh, you mean the grass and the trees and the flowers are slowly going to get greener and brighter right as my chances of having friends over for dinner ALSO increases? I’ll take it!
Last weekend in the name of Spring, I dragged my family on a short hike about twenty minutes from us in search of ramps. Anyone who cooks seasonally waits impatiently for the ramps to pop up this time of year— before the trees leaf out and while the forest floor is still sunny. They grow like crazy in huge swaths, reaching their long broad leaves up to the sun while they have the room to do so. Their delicate oniony flavor, deep green color and sheer spring vibes are enough to make anyone want to cook, or at the very least— take a walk in the woods. We walked on the trail, listening for birds and taking pictures of all the early spring wildflowers. At the end of the hike, we filled a plastic grocery sack with ramps cut just above the ground- preserving the roots for next year.
Then, as if we were getting a little too caught up in our foraging and our planning and blossom gawking the Midwest has decided to dump a little SNOW on us in the middle of all my metaphors. Rightfully so. How else can we truly appreciate the blossoms without one last visit from winter.
So this evening, we’ll dutifully grab old bedsheets and cover our delicate plants, crossing our fingers that the peonies will still blossom in May and the cherry trees will produce fruit in June. I’ll make a pesto out of the foraged ramps and we’ll eat bowls of green pasta, once again stuck indoors watching the snow temporarily halt our spring fever. We’ll grumble about the weather and begrudgingly pull our jackets out of the closet. We’ll keep planning and hoping, keeping an eye on the forecast, the case counts, the seedlings and the vaccination rates. The sun will return, the jackets will be put away for good this time, the dinner parties will be planned and a new version of the life we have missed will slowly come back.
We are not out of the woods yet, but we are on our way.
Charred Ramp Dip with Lemon and Herbs
After our walk in the woods, I came home and put some of the foraged ramps to work in the form of a newer, rampier version of one of my favorite dips from NYT Cooking. This dip is reminiscent of a greener, fresher french onion dip, with the char on the leaves adding smokiness. Serve on a warm spring day with potato chips and a blooming tree near by.
10 Ramps, roots trimmed if attached
2 Tbsp freshly minced chives
kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 C sour cream or full fat greek yogurt
4 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
1 tsp lemon zest, plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for drizzling)
Potato Chips (try these, I’m obsessed)
Heat a cast iron pan, grill pan, or actual grill over high.
While you wait for the pan to heat up, remove one ramp from the pile and mince finely, stem included. Combine minced ramp, chives, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
Lay remaining ramps on a sheet pan and toss with vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, lay ramps on the hot pan until they blister and char. Remove to sheet pan and allow to cool.
While the ramps cool, add sour cream, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, onion powder and garlic powder to the bowl with the fresh herbs and raw minced ramp. Stir to combine.
Thinly slice and chop the ramps. Add to sour cream mixture and stir to combine. You can serve this immediately but it gets better after it sits in the fridge for 30 min or so. Drizzle with olive oil, season with additional black pepper, and serve with potato chips.