Sunday, 1 April 2012

Spring is Sprung with a Frittata with Wild Leeks, Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

March 2012

SmartCooks here. 

I'm craving Spring vegetables.  On the foodblogs I surf, those in the northern US and southern Ontario are posting pictures of early produce -- asparagus, mushrooms (even some morels), fiddleheads and leeks, including my absolute favourite 'wild leeks' or 'ramps'.  Alas, no sign of much springly activity yet here in Ottawa although I'm planning to really check around this weekend.

I'm ready with with a few recipes that I tried last year and plan to do again this year.  The first one is for a locally grown (Wild) Leek, (Morel) Mushroom and Asparagus Frittata.  There's an option of turning the Frittata into a Quiche by adding a brown rice crust.  Closet Cooking did a version with picture (left).  

On a 'Ramp-age!'   

I'm on the lookout for 'wild leeks' or 'ramps' in the Byward Market. I only found them for the first time at a stall there last year (with an 'ouch' price to boot)!  

One food blogger described the taste as 'fried green onions with a dash of funky feet' (hmm... personally, I was impressed with the flavour -- a taste between a little green onion and a mild garlic -- and they add oomph to recipes and stir frys.  Both the white and green parts are edible.  American Native folklore is that it that they are a spring tonic designed to throw off the ailments of winter! (Bring 'em on).    

'The word 'Ramps' is a throw-back to an old English version of the name 'ramson'.  It's still possible to find annual 'Ramp fests' in the U.S. in April and early May (e.g,. 'Ramp it Up', 'Stinkfest', 'Ramson Festival' and 'Ramps:  the Hillbilly Bouquet of Love', where upwards of 30,000 people have attended, including gospel, country and bluegrass music luminaries such as Tennessee Ernie Ford, Minnie Pearl and Brenda Lee... (way to get Husband to go!).  Great food cook-offs and recipe swaps occur at the Festivals (e.g., of a list of recipes). 

Now that I've 'ramp-ed' myself up for a mission to find 'em, a word of caution.  Ramps are a delicacy in Canada due to over-cultivation.  In Quebec, they are a 'threatened species' and listed as a 'special concern' in U.S. States like Maine and Tennessee.  So check where you are buying them from -- if you find them!

The Great Morel Mushroom

There's a lot of dedicated 'shroomers (some would say fanatics) who obsess over hunting out the honeycombed topped first 'morels', including those reading The Great Morel website. 

I read it as well. The 'morel' of the story (groan) is to leave the foraging of all things wild to the experts.  Especially mushrooms.  Personally, I am content to buy morels from a certified vendor or find the dried variety.

So, why are morel mushrooms so prized? If website bumpf is to be believed, they are seemingly magical ... heart-healthy because of high levels of vitamin E and potassium, cancer prevention, and ideal for weight management being low in fat and colories yet high in vitamins and nutrients!  Phew.  Call me convinced!  Personally, I cook 'em for the Taste -- rich, earthy, creamy.  So will see how I do in tracking them down.  

Spring Asparagus 

Thin, delicate bundles of spring asparagus -- the essence of spring itself.  Its arrival on the table officially heralds the arrival of spring.  Food blogs like Food 52 feature it as 'Vegetable of the Week' with tips for cooking it any way that suits you -- raw, shaved, blanched, steamed, broiled, pickled, grilled or sautéed.  

My personal favourite is shaved asparagus with fennel and radish, dressed in a lemon vinaigrette.  

Final note.... if hunting out spring's bounty is not for you, the Frittata can be made with regular leeks, mushrooms and asparagus. It turns out just fine. But, why not ramp up the taste to the next level as either a Frittata or a Quiche (recipe with brown rice pie crust quiche option below.) 

Enjoy spring! 

(Wild) Leek, (Morel) Mushrooms and Asparagus Frittata


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