Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fiddlehead Ferns, Asparagus and Social Intercourse


After all the stormy wet weather today I had this seasonally inappropriate desire to make hot chocolate. It was after I'd been soaked going from the subway to therapy, somewhere between walking Casa Mono in Gramercy to meet a friend for some wine and tapas feeling like a human sponge, that it came over me, the craving for something warm and reassuring. It took a few more hours before I was actually able to reach home and the stove. Whole milk heated to just before the boil, chopped up left over chocolate from passover and a teaspoon of sugar and cocoa finished off with a titch of cinnamon. All is better now.

It's been a very social week, with lots of house guests. My older brother David was down for a few days, I made dinner for him and Debbie on Saturday, spicy fish stew and a fricassee of ramps, asparagus and cream served with home made ramp pancakes (think scallion pancakes only with ramps). Pea shoots with a black pepper honey dressing. Lemon ricotta ice cream served with a lemon ricotta torte (lots of almonds and hazelnuts).

The pancakes need some work, crunchy roasted potatoes would work just as well and be easier to make. It also occurs to me that you could easily interchange fiddle head ferns for the asparagus.

It's an easy recipe, melt 2 T of unsalted butter and 2 T olive oil in a large frying pan, when the butter is melted added a bunch (about 8) ramps, roughly chopped using as much of the green stem as you like. Saute for several minutes.

Meanwhile blanch the asparagus in a boiling lightly salted water, cut up about 1 pound of asparagus (or fiddle head ferns, they don't need to be chopped use them whole) into bite size pieces, reserve the tips. Cook the thicker bottom part of the stems first, as they take a little longer, you don't want them soft, just bright green and still crunchy, don't even bother to blanch the tips unless they are very thick.

Toss the blanched asparagus into the sauteed ramps and stir over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in about 1/2 heavy cream, bring the mixture to just a boil then take off the heat. Stir in 2 T of chopped lemon Thyme season with freshly ground black pepper and salt (maybe some hot pepper flakes) and serve.

David left Tuesday morning and Tuesday night I went to a fancy literary party in Chelsea with my friends Chris and Draper. The event was to celebrate the publishing of Vestal Mcintyre's new book, Lake Overturn. I had no idea I knew or at least sort of knew Vestal, but not for his literary talents, Vestal had been for many years the cute and very charming waiter at our much beloved and very much missed Florent. So it was nice to meet him officially without a pen and pad in his hand. Everyone there was an author with a book or two or more under their belts or at the very least a book on the way. To say I felt intimidated would be an understatement. Chris introduced me his friend Stephen Bottum, we share a mutual love of Burma (Myanmar) although Steven and his partner where far more adventuresome on their trip then I had been. Still, it seems everyone who has gone there comes away infected by the Burma bug. My hope is maybe with our regime change here we will change our foreign policy there and maybe the Burmese people will finally get a break (for more on this just type in Burma in the search engine here it's a favorite topic). Anyway turns out Burma isn't the only thing we have in common, Stephen is also a writer and has a site called Band of Thebes (love the name).

All in all it was quite the night, the apartment was amazing with a lovely large balcony and a Steinway grand in the living room. My only small quibble was the lack of food, I think next time they should hire me to help them out on that front. Although, it is amazing how happy literary types seem to be just with booze.

Wednesday Mary came and we went to another favorite restaurant Brown, just around the corner on Hestor street. I was very pleased that both Casa Mono and Brown note on their wine lists "traditional" or "organic" or "sustainable" next to wines where those categories apply. Debbie gave me a copy of Alice Feiring's book, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization. It's great and has really opened my eyes to the shenanigans going on in the wine making industry.

More on that later, my hot chocolate is gone and bed beckons.

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