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Ramp Compound Butter


A huge part of the allure of pungent, earthy, and exotic ramps, is that their season and availability is so fleeting. With only about a month to harvest until their flavor becomes too strong, the annual pilgrimages into the muddy woods for chefs and epicurians has commenced (or early-bird trips to the farmer's markets for the less adventurous, or more wise).  But now also begins the search for ways to preserve ramps, to be enjoyed alongside the bounty of summer produce that is just a couple of months out of reach.

I am a big fan of pickling ramps (and of pickled ramp martinis).  This offers a great way to preserve ramps for months from now, if you can keep them around that long.  I have also become smitten with ramp compound butter.

Compound butter is nothing more than butter that has been mixed with herbs or seasonings, but the whole is much more exciting than the sum of its parts.  It is a great way to add a little unexpected flavor or color to a meal, or to create an instant pain-free sauce for a dish.  Now that you've mastered homemade butter, this is a perfect way to compliment your new home-spun delicacy.

The flavored butter can be packed into a small ramekin or dish for slathering on warm bread, or rolled into logs, chilled and sliced.  Top a hot grilled steak with a slice of ramp butter, and ooh la la.  It is also beautiful on grilled fish, vegetables, dolloped on grilled oysters, or stuffed under the skin of a roast chicken.  Try it when making scrambled eggs, whipped into mashed potatoes or polenta, or tossed with pasta and some grated pecorino.  It will keep for several months in the freezer, giving you lots of opportunities to use ramps with foods that the weather isn't cooperating with just yet.

Experiment and enjoy, and be the envy of all your foraging friends when their ramps have long run out.



RAMP COMPOUND BUTTER

1 lb unsalted butter
4-6 ounces ramps, white and green parts, depending on how concentrated you desire the ramp flavor
zest of one large lemon
salt, to taste

Bring butter to room temperature to fully soften.

Trim root end and wash ramps thoroughly, making sure to remove all dirt and grit in the layers near the root. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of water with lots of ice. Blanch ramps in boiling water, for 30 seconds. Remove quickly and shock in the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread ramps out on paper towel to allow to dry a bit more.

Either thinly chop by hand, or mince in a food processor, the white and green parts of the ramps. Add lemon zest and then combine with softened butter. If you want a more uniform, very green, butter, puree it all together in a food processor (as in the photo of the butter above). If you want a more chunky, rustic butter, either fold the butter in by hand or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.  Add salt, tasting as you go, if you want salted butter.  If you think you'll be adding it to foods that are already sufficiently salted, perhaps don't add any or very little just to enhance the ramp flavor slightly.

Pack compound butter into ramekins, small dishes, or air-tight containers and store in the refrigerator for about a week. You can also roll the butter into logs, either in parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap, to be chilled and sliced. The compound butter can also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.

 

Recipe credit: Catie Schwalb.


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Put it away put it away put it away now.
Red hot chili peppers.  Sweet orange bell peppers.  Long curly Jimmy Nardello peppers.  Short stubby serrano peppers.

All of them.

Peppers are still abundant at the farmers' market, super sweet this time of the season, and the easiest vegetable to put away for the winter months.  You don't need to peel them or blanch them or can them--they can be frozen raw!

Instructions:

Wash the peppers and dry thoroughly.  For larger, sweet or bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise, and remove stem, seeds and ribs.  They can be left in halves or sliced smaller.  Smaller peppers, particularly tiny chili, jalapeno or serrano peppers can be left whole.  Put in resealable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze.  That's it.

Alternatively, if you want have more control over how many you use at once, place trimmed pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze.  When frozen, transfer  individually frozen pieces to resealable freezer-safe container or bag and return to freezer.  (This method also works great when freezing individual berries.)

Peppers do lose some of their crisp texture when frozen and thawed, but these are great to slice up and saute with onions, cumin and herbs for a quick fajita, burrito, or omelette filling, or to add to a slow simmered stew.  The hot peppers are easy to slice finely when frozen, returning the rest to the freezer, to add just a small shot of heat to a dish.  Above all, they are packed full with flavor right now, far outshining anything you will find them passing off as a pepper in February.   Don't delay!



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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