Sunday, April 25, 2010

what's a ramp? and a recipe for ramp biscuits with olive oil...

so...what is a ramp? i am guessing some of you have never heard of this vegetable...and then there are those of you that grew up eating them all the time while they were in season. i was in the first category...then... about a year ago...ramps became all the rage. it seemed like every food restaurant., etc...was featuring ramps. i kept telling myself i had to give them a try...but kept putting it off. then one day last week i was shopping at my favorite organic produce market in napa (at oxbow) and spotted a bin of ramps...eureka! time to research, explore and cook!

so...again...what is a ramp? actually it is a wild leek and looks kinda like a small green onion, really small leek or tiny spring garlic bulb. the taste is somewhere between an onion and garlic, and the smell...oh that smell!! garlic, garlic, pungent garlic...very strong but a bit sweeter than white bulb garlic. all i can say is...this stuff is delicious! i have fallen in love...

i have used ramps in just about everything the past week...sauteed with greens, chopped and tossed into scrambled eggs, thrown in a stir-fry...and today....baked into my extra virgin olive oil biscuits. what a perfect sunday brunch....poached eggs, ham and ramp biscuits....amazing.

i first told you about the olive oil biscuits last year...and they have become a top item in blog searches. they are quick, easy (because they are drop biscuits) very versatile, and really, really good. i love the addition of ramps and knew i needed to tell you about my new fave...

ramps are only available in the spring so go buy some now....really, go buy some today....and give them a try...they work in any recipe you normally use onions or garlic...and please let me know how you use them. if you are a regular ramp user...please share your recipes...i want to keep experimenting while they are in season.

olive oil biscuits with ramps3/4 cup chopped ramps (about 1 bunch)
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil

3 cups organic unbleached flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp alum free baking powder
2 tsp organic sugar (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup milk...any kind...i use 2%

preheat oven to 400 degrees. you will need a non-stick baking sheet...or use silpat or parchment paper on a regular sheet. chop the ramps the way you would green onions, by cutting off roots and the tough part of the green leaves. chop the tender green stalks and the white bulbs into very fine pieces. place in small skillet and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. sauté in olive oil for 3-4 minutes just until they begin to soften and remove from heat.

in a large bowl, sift together the flour with the rest of the dry ingredients. add the 1/2 cup olive oil and stir using a fork. large lumps will form and the flour will not be totally mixed into the dough. gradually add the milk a little bit at a time just until all the flour is incorporated into the dough...**note you may not need all the milk. add the ramp mixture and stir just to combine.

the biscuits are formed by placing forkfuls of dough onto prepared sheets. place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. i use approximately 2 forkfuls of dough for each biscuit (about 2 tbsp)...but you can make yours as small or large as you like. baking times will vary depending on size. serve immediately.
for brunch today i placed 2 poached eggs, ham and a couple of biscuits on each plate and sprinkled grey salt, freshly cracked black pepper and some of the chopped ramp greens over everything...pretty and delicious...

i am so happy to tell you there is a new csa (community supported agriculture) in napa. i have signed up and the first box comes next thursday. my campaign to promote local, heirloom, unusual, organic and/or sustainable food continues! i am excited to share with you the recipes created using this philosphy...and, of course, ask you to continue sharing your favorite food with me...


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™"live a green life of style™ "
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

best book club ever...and cucumber salad?

so last night was our monthly book club meeting. i have told you before about this wonderful group of amazing women...writers, marketers, chefs, bloggers, artists and entrepreneurs. we get together to eat, drink, laugh, catch-up and...believe it or not...discuss the book selection.

this month's pick was "the elegance of the hedgehog" by muriel barbery. have you read it? what a beautiful story...and so hard to describe. the book is translated to english from french...and is filled with some of the most lovely, heartfelt and moving passages i have encountered in a long time. an example...
"from one of the apartments wafts a melody, clearly, joyfully, distinct. Someone is playing a classical piece on the piano. Ah, sweet, impromptu moment, lifting the veil of melancholy...In a split second of eternity, everything is changed, transfigured. A few bars of music, rising from an unfamiliar piece, a touch of perfection in the flow of human dealings."

what a beautiful way to describe how music can make you feel....

so i started to describe the book for you...but it is just too complex to try to reduce to a few would take the entire post...and i would rather tell you about book club. just get the is worth the read...a bit hard to get into...but then you are to our book club.

my friend ann posted some photos of our meeting on facebook. she started a photo album after our first meeting and i had the chance to review the entire album this morning....a year of memories...spring in gardens...summer poolside...fall celebrating harvest...and our holiday meeting in front of a beautiful christmas tree. we rotate homes monthly...and the menu is usually inspired by the book we read. i realized just how much i appreciate this group of smart, funny, creative and beautiful (inside and out) women. ann, brooke, ashley, caitlin, rachelle, laura, julie...what a gift!
do you belong to a group or club celebrating an interest, hobby or passion of yours? if probably already know how important this is...if not...join something! you will be so glad you did.
this month's book featured a cast of characters who adored it was. ann picked up a delicious assortment from a wonderful restaurant...(plenty of veggie options for the vegetarians in the crowd)...and the main dish was accompanied by a seaweed salad, a vegetable/tofu noodle dish, tuna/cucumber appetizers and plenty of sake. i brought an asian cucumber salad and...just because i felt like it...nothing to do with the book....strawberry crisp.

the food was really good...sake really fun...but more important was the conversation. we modestly refer to our group as the "best book club ever"....hyperbole? maybe....but we think it is true...
so here is the recipe for the cucumber salad...really good year-round...but especially perfect during hot summer cold and refreshing...and the easiest salad recipe you will find...use leftovers on sandwiches the next day...or chop into small pieces are serve with grilled fish.....
use the freshest, organic cucumbers you can find...with something this simple, truly a case of "the ingredients really do matter"

cucumber & chilies salad
(serves 8)ingredients
2 large organic cucumbers
coarse kosher salt
2 jalapeño chilies
1 red chili
1/3 cup organic seasoned rice vinegar
3 tsp organic sugar

thinly slice cucumber and place in a colander. sprinkle with the kosher salt. let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. pat dry and arrange 1/2 of cucumber on a platter. seed and remove membranes from jalapeño and red chilies. cut peppers in half lengthwise and then very thinly slice. sprinkle 1/2 of sliced chilies on top of platter of cucumbers. cover with the remaining cukes and arrange remaining chilies on top. place vinegar and sugar in small bowl and whisk together until sugar is dissolved. pour dressing over cucumbers, cover platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. serve really cold.
let me leave you with one final passage from the favorite... i have shared many stories with you of my post corporate life...and how i have never been happier, healthier or more content...murial barbery gets it...

"Personally, I think there is only one thing to do: find the task we have been placed on this earth to do, and accomplish it as best we can, with all our strength, without making things complicated or thinking there's anything divine about our animal nature . This is the only way we will ever feel that we have been doing something constructive when death comes to get us".

have a good week...and you will have to read the book to understand why there are so many photos of my camellia bushes in this post..... here's to "finding the task we have been put on this earth to do!!"


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

baked potatoes for dinner?

can a baked potato be dinner...just a potato? absolutely!

so i think it was fate to blog about baked potatoes this week. i read a story about the potato industry and thought about how long it had been since i made baked potatoes...i usually roast or "smash" them. then...out of the husband said.."you know, i have been craving baked potatoes...will you make some?" the next day, a friend told me about her lunch at a local restaurant...she said "i ordered french fries...but i really wanted the baked was just too big". like i said... signs were pointing to a post with a baked potato technique and recipe...

my eating habits have changed a bit the past few years....twice baked potatoes loaded with butter and cream have become a rarely eaten treat...they taste good, but i just don't feel well after eating...same with the steakhouse standby of butter, sour cream, bacon & chives (cheese sauce anyone?) on massive potatoes...again...once in a while? maybe... frequently? not so much...

so i decided to make a baked potato dinner...with the potato as the main course...and load them up with a delicious roasted vegetable mixture of roasted broccoli, garlic, leeks and cremini good does that sound? paired with a salad....dinner is served!

now...i must share that my favorite part of a baked potato is the skin. so my technique is designed to maximize the flavor of the skin...and make it a bit crispy with lots of texture. feel free to bake your potatoes however you like.... but just try my way one may find that your friends and family devour every and all...maximizing the nutrition, fiber me at least...the taste!!

farmhouse baked potatoes~serves 2
2 large organic baking potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
coarse grey salt
1 head organic broccoli
1/2 head organic garlic
1 organic leek
8 oz organic cremini mushrooms(or portabellos, chopped)
extra virgin olive oil
napa farmhouse italian seasoning (or red pepper flakes sea salt, dried organic parsley)
grey salt
freshly cracked black pepper

3 green onions, chopped...white and green parts
preheat oven to 400 degrees. place a cooking rack on a rimmed baking sheet. prick potatoes 5-6 times with a sharp knife. this allows steam to escape while the potatoes are cooking and you get baked potatoes...not steamed potatoes (completely different texture). using your hands, rub olive oil all over a potato and then place on the prepared rack. repeat with second potato. sprinkle both potatoes with the coarse grey salt. roast in oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the potatoes give slightly when squeezed.

meanwhile, chop all remaining vegetables into bite sized pieces except for the garlic which should be peeled and minced. place vegetables on a second rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil...4-5 passes of the bottle. use your hands to toss the vegetables with the oil until each piece is evenly coated. sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the italian seasoning (or dried herbs) over the vegetables and place sheet in oven when the potatoes have approximately 45 minutes of cooking time remaining. the vegetables are finished when the broccoli is just beginning to caramelize.

when ready, remove both trays from oven. to serve, slice a potato down the center lengthwise. gently squeeze to loosen the flesh being careful not to tear the skin. use a fork to fluff up the flesh and drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top. sprinkle with grey salt and black pepper. repeat with second potato. top a potato with half the vegetable mixture. repeat with second potato. sprinkle chopped green onions over top and serve immediately.

what are your favorite toppings for baked potatoes?

hope all is well...


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
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