ramps

A Crawfish Boil at Gaskins

by Anne Maxfield on May 23, 2016

Accidental Locavore Crawfish SpreadThere are always restaurants you want to try and for whatever reasons never seem to get to. Such is the case with Gaskins, a local (if a 40 minute drive counts as local) place that opened about a year ago. It’s owned and run by Sarah and Nick, two refugees from some major Manhattan eateries. They’ve settled in Germantown and opened a casual “gathering place” featuring some great-sounding dishes, mostly sourced from local farms.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish BoilThe Accidental Locavore says “great-sounding dishes” because the evening I was there was for the second annual Spring Social and Crawfish Boil put on by the Hudson River Exchange, a local arts group, which featured only one item on the regular menu (more about that one thing later). Instead, all the tables in the place were laid out end-to-end and covered with kraft paper. After drinks (including a mango-mint daiquiri that will make you rethink daiquiris and find a designated driver) they poured 100 pounds of crawfish along with potatoes, smoked kielbasa, ramps, scallions and fiddleheads along the length of the table.

Accidental Locavore Eating CrawfishSarah gave us a quick demo on how to properly eat the crawfish and suggested that there was pride to be taken in having the biggest pile of empty shells, so we all eagerly set to work. It’s been a long time since I’ve had crawfish and these were delicious! If you’re not familiar with them, they look and taste like little lobsters, but are probably much healthier as melted butter does not have to be involved.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish AfterFiddleheads (the tiny beginnings of ferns) are another spring treat I hadn’t had in ages. They were so good that the next time I come across them, I’m taking advantage of their short season! The kielbasa, which somehow wasn’t at my end of the table, was well worth the stroll to the other end. In other words, everything was great!

Accidental Locavore Gaskins Ice CreamIf you didn’t save room for dessert—your loss! That’s the one thing that we had that is a menu item and totally worth saving some space for (trust me, you won’t want to share). Nick’s chocolate ice cream is one of the great ones! Creamy and richly chocolate it’s almost worth going to Gaskins just for that! The other ice cream, a sweet cream one, was almost as good—buttery and silky smooth, but for me, the chocolate was all I needed.

Now that I’ve seen what a fun place Gaskins is and how terrific the food for a crowd was (never an easy task), I’m excited to go back and try their menu items. And you know what I’m having for dessert…

 

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Spring vs. Fall: Guilty of Seasonal Profiling?

by Anne Maxfield on April 11, 2016

Accidental Locavore Red Hook ApplesWhile wandering the golf course on a beautiful October day last fall and picking apples off the trees, it occurred to the Accidental Locavore that maybe, just maybe, it’s not really a dislike of fall produce, but possibly I’m guilty of seasonal profiling.

Accidental Locavore Nice MarketWhile I’ll happily gorge on asparagus, ramps, morels and strawberries the minute they start to appear, apples, and any form of winter squash generally get the cold shoulder from me. I’m always so ho-hum about them – cooking them and enjoying them on an as-needed basis, but never really embracing them.

Accidental Locavore Butternut Squash With SaucesHowever, this winter, I made a recipe for butternut squash from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More that was wonderful and could make me a believer. And when I feel like they’ve been sitting around too long, there’s always dehydrating them for the dog (or unsuspecting guests). Like most fruits and vegetables, a fresh-picked crisp apple has a lot going for it, great flavor and texture, that you don’t get later in the year. But the days get shorter, leaves fall off trees and you know it’s going to be progressively colder. Not good.

Accidental Locavore DaffodilsSpring on the other hand, brings all sorts of young greens. There are morels and ramps to be foraged for, or bought at a farmers’ market – which are back in business. Asparagus hit the stores, getting bigger (my favorites, yes, I’m a size queen) as the season progresses. Artichokes, another favorite, arrive from the other coast and strawberries introduce months of berries and cherries. There are all my favorite flowers – daffodils, tulips, peonies and lilacs. The days get longer and warmer and sorry, you can’t begin to argue that anything in October beats that!

Accidental Locavore Huge SquashEven though I might be a candidate for fall tolerance training (butternut squash matter?), I love a day where it’s light past 5:00, I can dust off the barbecue and save Frank from washing a pile of pots and pans. Give me spring lamb, asparagus any way, and a bunch of daffodils from the garden and I’m happy! What about you? Any arguments for squash and apples?

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7 Reasons Why Memorial Day is a Great Holiday!

by Anne Maxfield on May 28, 2012

Accidental Locavore Grill

Memorial Day would be a lesser holiday except that the timing of it is just too perfect! Without it, how we would ever figure out (without a calendar) when summer starts? As you and the Accidental Locavore know, the weather certainly can’t be trusted!

  1. According to popular media, we wouldn’t know when to start firing up the barbecue…OK, if you have to wait till now to grill, you must live in a very cold place (in which case, is Memorial Day celebrated there?). The Locavore and her husband barbecue pretty much year-round, the only exception being if we have to shovel snow to get to it. I don’t really know why but my favorite food to do on the grill is chicken. Steaks and burgers are great, but there’s something about grilling chicken that really makes it wonderful! What do you most look forward to grilling?
  2. Now that you’ve got the grill going in its official capacity, you need something to put on it, right? Isn’t it convenient that it’s also the start of a lot of farmers’ markets? Asparagus are great now and work really well on the grill. I’ve read a lot lately about grilling lettuce but haven’t tried it, have you? Ramps are on their way out, however it doesn’t take many to put on a grilled pizza…And local strawberries just need a quick rinse to make dessert (although a little vanilla ice cream never hurt). Accidental Locavore Strawberries
  3. We can wear white. Now most people are way more evolved, but I was brought up that you couldn’t wear white before Memorial Day (or after Labor Day) and some traditions just stick with you.
  4. Smart companies start summer hours. I’m not sure if this is a NY thing, but try to find a fully-staffed office in this town on a Friday after 2:00. Half-day Fridays; great idea!
  5. The reason for summer hours? They go hand-in-hand with summer rentals. How boring life would be if holiday rentals simply started on June 1st…
  6. Fleet Week in Manhattan. No matter how many times you’ve seen the ships come in, it’s always amazing to see them up close, to see how massive they are and how easily they maneuver their way up the Hudson River. Many years ago, my friend Laura and I got a personal tour of a destroyer and it was pretty impressive! Between the joy-sticks (that fire actual missiles!), the food choices and even ATM’s on every level, it was a memorable tour!
  7. Which leads to the real reason to love Memorial Day. Just seeing the sailors and soldiers on the streets of New York is the best reminder of what the holiday is all about; honoring those who have served. Thank you!

 

 

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Accidental Locavore Pizza Bianco With Ramps

The Accidental Locavore’s friend Cozy had asked about ramps. If you’re not familiar with ramps they’re a trendy locavore Spring obsession-otherwise known as wild onions. They have a taste similar to a scallion but more mellow and not as sharp. Since it had paused raining for an hour or so, I decided to cruise down to locavore heaven, the Union Square Greenmarket, in search of ramps and possibly more rhubarb (for chutney, recipe Friday). Found plenty of ramps and more. For dinner that night, I decided to do a pizza bianco based on a recipe from Food & Wine with the addition of some local bacon and the last, lone corolla potato from farmer Paul. This made one 12″ pizza good for two greedy people.

  • 1/2 batch pizza dough
  • 10 ramps
  • 3 slices of bacon (I used my local favorite from Dickson’s), sliced into 1/2″ strips
  • 1 small Yukon Gold or Corolla potato
  • Olive oil (use something flavorful here) for brushing
  • 1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella (I used a small 1/2 pound ball)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Set a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Blanch the ramps until they are bright green but still al dente about a minute. Remove them from the pot, pat dry and cut into 1″ lengths (I used the entire ramp and actually preferred the white bulb to the greens).

When the ramps are done, add the potato to the boiling water and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and when the potato is cool enough to touch cut into 1/8″ slices.

Heat a small saute pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon strips and cook until crispy. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to absorb the fat.

Lightly flour your work surface, roll out the pizza dough to a 12″ circle, about 1/8″ thick. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured (or use a little fine cornmeal) pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet (you want a flat surface so you can transfer the pizza to the very hot stone). Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle the grated mozzarella evenly over the surface. Scatter the ramps, bacon and potato over the pizza and season with salt and pepper. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

Slide the pizza from the peel (or baking sheet) onto the hot stone. A side to side movement is supposed to be better than back to front, however this is still a move the Accidental Locavore has to master. Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is browned and crispy. Serve and enjoy.

The locavore rating: 3.5 out of 5. My pizza dough needs work. It didn’t have that good yeasty taste, needed a bit of salt and the crust was too thick. I thought long and hard about using smoked mozzarella instead of regular. On this pizza I used regular  and got the smoked flavor from bacon. If you used smoked mozzarella you could skip the bacon, keep it vegetarian and maybe give the ramps a better showcase.

If ramps aren’t in season you could blanch scallions, but roasted garlic would probably be a better flavor profile. You could also do a version of an Alsatian pie with a very thin crust, the ramps, Gruyere, bacon and crème fraiche.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy ramps?
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