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Archive for the ‘condiment’ Category

Spring fruits and vegetables, in the Northeast at least, arrive with exclamation points.

Asparagus!

Morels!

Peas!

Fiddleheads!

Favas!

The exclamation pointiest of the exclamation points is ramps. I mean, ramps! Better yet, RAMPS!

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Because they’re typically foraged and their season is short, these alliums could start a cult with worshipers preparing all year for the few weeks these pungent (and, whew, they are pungent!) guys emerge, praying to the gods of rain and sun and dirt, stalking farmers market for the first hint of these wild leeks that look a bit like scallions but with purplish stems and broad leaves. Mario Batali even made a video about them that’s worth a watch.

When I spied a few bundles on friends’ Instagram feeds, I beelined to my neighborhood farmers’ market. It was the first Friday after Passover and while I was very happy to see She Wolf Bakery and grab the last maple and oat loaf, there was little in the soil-plucked, tree-picked category. The following week, same thing. I brought home a bundle of branches covered in buds and the promise of my own personal cherry blossom festival. To date they’ve only sprouted leaves. Not a single flower yet, but I have faith.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally trekked down to the Union Square Greenmarket hoping for something, anything, of the green variety. My schlep was rewarded with an entire table of ramps. I loaded up and then went a little bit crazy. Scallions. Upland cress (which is like watercress, but more peppery: I’ve been chopping it up like parsley and adding it to Israeli salad). A few mint plants for good measure. By the time I got home, my bag reeked but I didn’t care.

The most common ramp recipe I found was for pesto, but I wanted to make something slightly different. In the past I’ve sautéed ramps, and this time I went for a chimichurri-like sauce with a dash of vinegar and some red pepper flakes. While the herbs for chimichurri are usually hand chopped and mixed with oil, I sliced my finger earlier in the week (it’s still healing and not very pretty looking) and decided to just throw everything in the food processor for a smoother puree.

I’ve been slathering this on everything from bread to an omelette to fish. And mixed it with yogurt, a bit of mayo, and a squeeze of lemon to dress cabbage slaw. I’m even thinking about trying to make skirt steak to showcase the sauce (you might have noticed that the only been I ever make is braised – I’m sort of scared of ruining a steak).

Ramp chimichurri

Adapted from Vegetarian Ventures and A Couple Cooks. Make sure to clean the ramps really well – they’re not as gritty as leeks, but they are related. The extra step of blanching the leaves will help the sauce retain a bright green color. 

Makes 1 cup

–  approximately 25 ramps (2 -3 bunches)

– 2 T sherry vinegar

– 1/4 C olive oil, plus extra for storage

– 1 t aleppo pepper

– 1/2 t salt

Wash. Separate the leaves from the bulbs. Swish the leaves in a big bowl of water to dislodge any dirt, draining and replacing the water until it runs clear (this may take quite a few repeats). Cut the roots off the bulbs and then remove the outer slimy layer.

Blanche and shock. Make an ice bath. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the leaves in until they wilt, about 10 seconds, and then transfer to the ice bath. Once cool, squeeze as much water as possible from the leaves.

Puree. In a food processor, pulse the ramp leaves and bulbs, vinegar, oil, pepper, and salt until smooth, but not too smooth.

Store. Cover with a thin layer of oil to prevent browning and refrigerate.

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My mother keeps packets of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard in her purse.

There used to be a kosher grocery store in Maryland that my parents frequented and, in the front of the store was a hot dog stand. The stand only provided bright yellow mustard, but my dad likes his mustard deli-style spicy. So he would slip a jar of mustard from the store into my mom’s cart to squirt on the one dog that he’d eat. After this happened a few times, my mom got smart. Even thought the store and the hot dog stand are no longer around, she still stashes my dad’s favorite mustard for hot dog emergencies.

It shouldn’t come as such a surprise that I homed in on the recipe for spicy whole-grain mustard in The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. I spoke to co- authors and Gefilteria co-founders Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern last month, and you can find our discussion over on The Forward. The conversation and article is peppered with words like gospel and ambassador, and this book gives even more evidence that these two are leading the next generation of Jewish food historians, champions, makers, and fressers.

Their approach to recipe development is as deliberate as their philosophy and, if you wanted, you could buy the book just for the instructions (but why would you?). As someone who has reviewed my fair share of cookbooks, it was clear to me that the recipes were double, triple, quadruple tested and the abundant notes and variations make the book approachable to anyone. That’s not to say that the dishes are quick and easy – in fact, many of them are quite involved – but you can rest assured that if you read the recipes all the way through (beware of long fermentation, soaking, and rising times), you’re in safe hands.

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Before we get to the recipe, a few notes. This mustard is sinus-clearingly intense, and I’ll be giving a jar to my parents over Rosh Hashanah. The recipe requires an overnight soak and then two days to mellow, so prepare for that. If you want to lower the heat, I’ve done a little research and think that substituting milder yellow mustard seeds for brown will help; Jeffrey also suggested upping the honey or trying a more delicate vinegar.

Spicy whole-grain mustard

Reprinted from The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

Mustard is a key player in Ashkenazi cooking. The mustard plant, a member of the Brassica family, has some pretty important relatives in cabbage and horseradish. Can you imagine eastern European Jewish cooking without them? Probably not. And you also probably can’t imagine a hot deli pastrami sandwich without spicy ground mustard. Personally, I can’t fathom life without a hot deli pastrami sandwich.

Why make your own mustard? Some store-bought mustard contains thickeners and unnamed “spices.” But more important, homemade mustard is just really good. Liz and I cooked a four-course pop-up dinner one January night at Barjot, a restaurant in Seattle. We made almost everything ourselves, from the schmaltz to the pastries. But we didn’t make mustard because Barjot makes its own. After the meal, a guest pulled me aside and said, “Everything was great, but the mustard is out of this world.” Oof. It was time for us to make our own. This recipe is inspired by Barjot’s.

Ashkenazi mustard should have bite and texture. Smear it on Home-Cured Pastrami (page 210) and Home-Cured Corned Beef (page 207), eat it with savory Roasted Garlic Potato Knishes (see page 195), and use it for salad dressings.

1 cup whole brown mustard seeds

1¼ cups apple cider vinegar

¼ cup mustard powder

2½ tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the mustard seeds and vinegar in an airtight glass container and let sit at room temperature until the seeds absorb the vinegar and plump up, at least overnight or up to 24 hours.

2. Pour the seed mixture into a food processor and add the mustard powder, honey, and salt. Process for a minute or two until a paste forms.

3. Scoop the mustard into a glass jar, seal, and refrigerate for about 2 days to allow the flavor to mellow out. Don’t be alarmed if the initial smell is rather pungent. The mustard will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months.

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