Dishes for a Wild Green Dinner

soupPhotos and recipes submitted by KAREN DILL

Grilled Ramp Soup

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 quarts chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Emeril’s Original Essence
4 bunches fresh ramps, trimmed and large leaves removed

For garnish:

4 grilled ramps
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
Crust bread

Combine vegetable oil and flour in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, to make a blond roux, five to six minutes. Whisk in the stock and cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

Lightly grill 6 ramps brushed with olive oil. Cut the remaining ramps into 1-inch pieces. Add chopped ramps to the soup, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 40 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a hand-held blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, garnish with grilled ramps and parsley.

*Note: For this soup, I made a few changes (sorry, Emeril). I made the roux with bacon grease. I grilled all of the ramps, then chopped them, saving a few for garnish. I did not puree the soup as I decided that I liked the lumps of grilled ramps.

>>For more on ramps and other wild greens, read Karen Dill’s essay: All Things Wild and Wonderful

Wild Green Strudel with Maderia-Mushroom Sauce

Strudel
½ cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup butter, melted
¼ cup water
12 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

Filling
2 pounds fresh sochan or spinach
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ teaspoon each nutmeg and pepper
12 ounces feta cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup dry bread crumbs

For filling:

Wash sochan; shake off excess water. Cook sochan with water clinging to leaves, turning often, until wilted. Chill under cold running water. Press out water; chop and reserve. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until tender. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Stir in onion mixture, spinach, dill, nutmeg and pepper. Mix in feta, pine nuts and bread crumbs.

For strudel:

Place bread crumbs in bowl. In another bowl, stir butter with water. Place clean tea towel on work surface. Place one sheet of phyllo on towel, keeping remainder covered with plastic wrap and damp towel to prevent drying out.

Brush phyllo with butter mixture; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons bread crumbs. Repeat five times to make six layers. Arrange half of the filling along one long side of phyllo, leaving about one inch uncovered at each end.

Using towel to help and starting at filling side, roll strudel once; brush with butter. Fold in ends to enclose filling. Continue rolling and brushing with butter until to other side, using towel or spatulas to help. Gently transfer, seam side down, to parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling. Brush any remaining butter over tops. Slash each almost through to filling into eight pieces. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in 350°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serves 8.

Madeira-Mushroom Sauce

Smoky shiitake mushrooms give this sophisticated sauce a deep, rich flavor, but if they cannot be found, any fresh local mushrooms will do. Blackberry juice or prune juice are good nonalcoholic substitutes for Madeira. You can make the sauce ahead of time and chill it, covered, for up to two days, or freeze it for up to four months.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onion (2 medium)
1 cup finely chopped carrots (3 medium)
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
2/3 cup Madeira wine
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups low-sodium mushroom or vegetable broth
4 teaspoons tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (about 2 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
5 teaspoons cornstarch

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring often, four to six minutes or until starting to brown. Add shiitakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in Madeira and vinegar, and simmer one minute. Add broth, one cup of water, tomato paste, garlic and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes, until thickened.

Press sauce through fine sieve into large saucepan. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Mix cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons water in small bowl. Gradually pour into simmering sauce, whisking until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Wild Green Strudel. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Ramps ’n’ Taters

4 or 5 large potatoes, diced
1 pound bacon
1 ½ pounds ramps, cleaned and cut up
6 eggs
Salt and pepper

Fry bacon in skillet, remove from pan and set aside. Fry diced potatoes in bacon grease for three to four minutes. Add cut up ramps and continue frying until potatoes are well done. Add scrambled eggs. Put fried bacon on top of potatoes and ramps. Let simmer about two minutes.

Source: Yancey County , North Carolina Web site

*Note: Mickie Crowe suggests that the ramps should be added later (near the end of the potato cooking time) so that the ramps will not get too brown. I tried this and it did seem to work better. I also cooked the eggs separately with ramps.

rampbiscuitsRamp and Coriander Seed Buttermilk Biscuits

3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
3/4 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramps (bulbs, stems and green tops)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
½ teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix buttermilk and ramps in small bowl. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in processor. Add chilled butter to processor; using on/off turns, cut in butter until fine meal forms. Transfer flour mixture to medium bowl. Add buttermilk mixture; stir until dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and press out to seven-inch round, about a half-inch thick. Using a two-inch-diameter biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds. Gather dough scraps; press out to a half-inch thickness and cut out additional rounds. Transfer dough rounds to baking sheet. Brush biscuit tops with some of egg glaze. Sprinkle with cracked coriander seeds. Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*Note: These biscuits are really terrific! The easiest way to crack the coriander seeds is to put them in a heavy-duty baggie and crush with a wooden mallet. They are delicious the next day as a sandwich with sliced ham or a tomato.

Carrot Cake with Honey

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ cups honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrot
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-x-13 inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. In a large bowl, stir together the honey, buttermilk, eggs, oil and two teaspoons of vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture, and stir until all of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Stir in the carrot, pineapple and walnuts by hand. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes in preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

To make the frosting, mix together the cream cheese, honey and one teaspoon of vanilla until smooth and well blended. Spread over cooled cake.

Karen Dill is a school psychologist on the Cherokee Reservation by day and a food writer by night. Her articles most recently have been published on spooningmag.com, and she is working on a book that chronicles a year of mountain foods and memories, scheduled to be published later this year.


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4 comments

  1. Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are wild leeks, a member of the onion family. You have to be careful, because in some states this native woodland plant might be quite rare. Therefore, in those places you just can’t go into the woods and take a leek!

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