Foodie Sunday: Happy Earth Day!
Happy Earth Day! I hope that wherever in the world you find yourself today that you take the time to stick your fingers in the soil, or breathe the air or simply take a walk outside and revel in the luscious springtime scents. I’m spending the morning out on the trail with my beloved horse Henry where happily, the ramps or the wild leeks as they're known in certain parts of the Appalachians arespringing up everywhere. There are acres of ramps in the woods that I ride in and every spring I saddle up and ride out to collect some. There is no moreexquisite fragrance in the woods at this time of year than the perfume of the moist soil and the scent of the wild onions and chives especially when some get crushed accidentally under hoof! Wild ramps can be eaten raw if you dare with fresh butter and salt or minced and mixed with butter , chevre and then slathered under the skin of a young chicken and put in the oven to roast. Be careful though for they are a very stimulating springtime tonic and often eaten to promote energy and passion. Ramps are legendary for their aphrodisiacal qualities. Enjoy one raw with butter and pink salt and you'll know exactly what I mean and be sure that you're enjoying them with someone that you love or want to get to know a lot better….a lot better!
Speaking of Earth Day, without a doubt one of my favorite volunteer jobs is being a docent for our Cleveland Botanical Gardens. These gardens are award winning and lovely, with an incredible rose garden, a healing garden for seniors and one of the most gorgeous herb gardens thatI’ve ever seen. I must confess that I love them all and never tire of wandering among them, but it is the Hershey Children’s Garden that I love the best! Everyday in the Hershey Childrens Garden seems like Earth Day ! At the entrance of this garden there is a huge fountain that is actually a sundial and on very hot days the children splash and play among the jets like young billy goats while their mothers relax on benches in the shade, easily able to keep their eyes on the happy kids. They tag monarch butterflies every year and have the most incredible scarecrow building contest that you've ever seen in the fall. In this garden there are patches of fresh herbs and a playhouse with a sod roof. There’s a very happy berry patch surrounded by espaliered fruit trees and a vegetable garden and a pond with a little dock and lots of carp splashing around. A wonderfully huge tree house above it is filled with books and you can curl up safely in the branches eat your lunch and dream the afternoon away. I love to lie face down on the little dock with the children , tease the fish and afterwards play hide and seek among the stately wizard pines whose boughs drape towards the ground like Merlin’s robes! It's just one of the most magical places that I know of!
The Hershey Children’s Garden is designed to be a teaching garden of the highest caliber and it is here that our children learn all about their food and where it really comes from. It’s magical to watch as these kids, some who have never seen a garden let alone an apple tree, pick the sweet ripe berries and taste them for the first time. They pull radishes, lettuces and crunch the fresh carrots that still have the earth clinging to their roots. They get to taste the wild ramps that flourish on the back hill behind the tree house in the spring and be surprised by their sweet oniony taste . It's amazing to watch them make the sensory and physical connection between the wild oniony taste and the domestic scallion. Their world begins to open up to all the possibilities around their food and I just love being a part of that! One of the pathways through the garden leads to my favorite place of all, which is the compost pile. Ours consists of three bins that demonstrate easily how the compost is made from beginning to end and I adore the look of amazement on the faces of both children and adults when we come to the third bin and they realize that this is a simple demonstration of how dirt is made. In this garden our children can play in the earth to their hearts content and leave with a rich new understanding of their place in the world. As playful as it is, this garden is truly the most important of all the beautiful places found in our Botanical Gardens. It is situated on a piece of land the size of a city lot and enough food is grown here to easily sustain a family of 8. It is a shining example of what could be done to build sustainability from the ground up instead of reliance on foods that are brought to us packaged and completely unknown.
Through the mechanics of food science we can grow our vegetables in huge emotionally barren hydroponic farms, but truly there is no substitute for the taste of a vegetable or piece of fruit that has been freshly harvested fromrichly nutrient filled soil. The wines that we drink, the vegetables that we eat and even our meats are all fed by the minerals and vitamins that come straight from our earth. I love it when I drink a glass of Bordeaux and canliterally taste the soil that the grapes were grown in. I adore the taste of a potato minutes from the earth, brushed , unwashed and baked slowly in the coals of a campfire. Dressed with just a bit of butter and truffled salt there is no sweeter , earthier taste to be found anywhere.
Today in honor of our Earth and the robust and wanton sweetness that she shares with us so generously, I’d like to offer you my personal recipe for wild ramp, leek and potato soup. It’s different than most because the vegetables are roasted allowing them to become caramelized and sweet.
You will need:
10 cloves of garlic
About 20 Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes diced/ use your judgment and add more if they are smaller
2 tablespoons of raisins
2 large leeks , sand removed and sliced into rings, greens included
1 bunch of fresh ramps, lightly brushed , not washed
1 tablespoon of truffle oil 1 cup of chopped fresh herbs, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme
2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup of bottled hard cider
2 pints of half and half (or unsweetened coconut milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Rogue River Creamery
Smoky Blue Cheese to garnish (or if you’re vegan , 1 cup of nutritional yeast and 1Ž2 teaspoon of organic liquid smoke blended into the soup for a cheesyflavor)
Chopped fresh chives
Take the garlic, potatoes and leeks and lay them on a baking sheet, salt and pepper them and add some chopped freshrosemary if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender but be careful not to overcook. In a soup pot bring the stock to a simmer and add the raisins, herbs , ramps, hard cider and truffle oil. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes and add the roasted vegetables. Cook for at least another 15 minutes and then add the half and half to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s a consistency that you like. Add more liquid if necessary. Heat through and pour into a soup bowl or tureen, garnishing with the crumbled blue cheese and fresh chives. This soup is wonderful served with a hearty whole grain bread and fresh butter and a simple glass of chilled white wine. I think that's all you'll ever need. Well, almost all you'll ever need…
So tell me…What are your plans for the day?
All photos belong to Beth Schreibman Gehring with the exception of the photo of the wild ramps. This photo is courtesy of blog.opentable.com.