Farmers are so cool.
I spent this past Saturday morning talking with some of them at Green City Market. The market moved outdoors, and it was the first outdoor Saturday of the season.
I wanted to get down there by 10:30am so I could watch a cooking demo by chef Carrie Nahabedian of the restaurant Naha in Chicago, but that didn’t happen. I was running late and the parking situation in Lincoln Park wasn’t pretty. But I didn’t care about that. I was giddy with anticipation, and even trying-to-find-parking in-the-city-of-Chicago couldn’t spoil my mood.
After remembering that there was a pay lot for the market on Saturdays right there for $9, I found a spot. I crossed a huge grassy field with my camera, $$$ in my pocket, and a very big bag. There were lots of tents and people and flowers and dogs everywhere and I could smell something very tasty being grilled.
I really love this place. Usually I drag rosebud with me on Saturday mornings, but she was camping with the brownies this weekend, so I was solo. As much as I enjoy her company, I really did have a great time on my own. Instead of racing through the market grabbing what I need because my child is either hot, bored, tired, itchy, sweaty or has to go to the bathroom, today I could take the time to look and smell and taste and ask questions and learn.
I really wanted to buy starter plants for our garden. I was looking for organic tomato plants, bell peppers, zucchini and basil. Since my weekly Fresh Picks box contains plenty of fresh veggies for my family of two for the week, I didn’t really need anything more. By the way, the highlights of this week’s box were cute little French radishes, rhubarb and shallots. I will be making something with these this week.
Back to the market.
I really love passionate people, and WOW are farmers passionate! I met one farmer (and owner) of Tomato Mountain Farm, Brooklyn, Wisconsin as I was looking to buy green bell pepper plants.
I asked him if he had any green bell peppers, and he told me that he did not, but the crimson peppers that he did have were the best tasting peppers he’s ever eaten and he’s been in the farming business for 18 years and so he should know-a-thing-or-two about great tasting peppers and if I wanted to buy my standard green pepper go right ahead, go for it, but this red crimson pepper would be the best pepper I would ever taste. My choice.
Well, OK then. I bought two of those cute little things. Who am I to doubt a farmer?
Unfortunately, he did not have zucchini plants, and I could not find them anywhere at the market this time. I told him that I would be back next Saturday and he said to check back with him because he may have zucchini for me.
He knows a thing or two about tomatoes, too. He took the time to explain to me the whys and hows of picking out and planting tomato plants. So, I will be bringing my friend Beth with me next Saturday morning to buy all of her organic tomato plants from him, and hopefully picking up my zucchini plants too.
See you next Saturday, Chris!
I was also very happy to stumble upon Prairie Fruits Farm who supply some of the veggies in my Fresh Picks box every week. How cool is that? I had the chance to meet the farmers who are actually growing the food I am eating.
I also ran into our friends from Edible Chicago who had copies of their new spring edition! You can pick it up at any of these locations, but I’ve recently learned that you can also subscribe to the magazine and have it delivered right to your door. Nice!
My new farmer friend Jennifer Borchardt, of Harvest Moon Farms, kindly gave me this amazing ramp pasta recipe.
I had mentioned to her that I was a little bit stumped as to what to do with these ramps that were showing up in my Fresh Picks box, and she suggested I try this pasta dish. Remember how just a few short weeks ago I didn’t even know what ramps were? WOW, was I missing out. These things are delicious! They really do taste like a mild mix of onions and garlic.
And the best part about this dish is that it is so simple. It even includes my very favorite cheese, yes we all know what that is by now, Pecorino Romano.
Do you have one of these? They’re so handy. I use mine all the time.
I threw the ramps into my mini-cuisinart, added the cheese, lemon zest and olive oil, and gave it a whirl. When I opened the top, it looked like pesto and smelled like spring. I immediately got that happy feeling I get when I know it’s going to be really really good.
I mixed that with the cooked pasta, added a little salt and dinner was ready. I served this with extra cheese and salt on the table.
My Dad had this funny way about him. When we’d sit down to dinner, if it was something he cooked, he’d walk around the table adding salt and cheese to our individual bowls. He felt that food always needed a little something extra at the end, and he wanted everyone to have it the way he liked it.
It bothered him that we might not be tasting it exactly as he intended it to taste.
So now of course every time I sit down to a meal that I’ve cooked, I pass the salt and cheese and tell everyone, “it needs a little salt and some cheese!”.
And it bothers me a lot just a tiny bit if they don’t listen.
Well this dish was so good, I was blown away. Rosebud inhaled it.
You really have to get yourself to a farmers market this weekend and make this before ramp season is over. And if you miss them, file this recipe away for next spring. It’s that good.
Thank you, Jenny!
Ramp pasta is a perfectly reasonable name, but it’s boring. Too boring, in fact, for something that tastes this good. This should be called, “Happiness Pasta!” or “It must be Springtime Pasta!”, or “I can’t believe I made something THIS GOOD Pasta!”.
But, this dish is all about the ramps, and I have to give them their moment.
Thank you, little ramps. You are my new favorite springtime thing.
Inspired by Jennifer Borchardt
1 lb pasta (I used penne)
1 bunch ramps, washed and roots trimmed (about ½ pound)
(use the green leaves, too!)
1 teasp lemon zest, remember to use organic for zesting
¼ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving
¼ cup olive oil (the good stuff)
½ cup reserved pasta cooking water, if needed
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add ramps. Blanch for 5 seconds, remove from water with tongs. Add some salt to the water and a splash of olive oil (not the good stuff). Bring to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
While pasta is cooking, roughly chop ramps and put in a mini-cuisinart or blender. Add the lemon zest and the cheese and blend, adding the olive oil slowly until well mixed. Right before pasta is done remove ½ cup of cooking water and turn heat off. Drain pasta and put in a large serving bowl. Toss with the ramp mixture. If it seems a bit dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Just eyeball it.
Of course, serve with salt and freshly grated cheese. And make sure your guests use it!