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#1031 - The Savory Staples of Spring
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Every year as the fields of Maryland slowly get back into production, we start to see evidence of the first greens of the season. Salad greens and spinach immediately come to mind, but there is an entire class of greens that are about to make an appearance, and those would be the savory full flavored cousins of the garlic tribe. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen reports there are a lot of very tasty things coming up out of the ground.
Look for leeks, scallions, green onions, garlic scapes, and that Appalachian favorite, ramps, a sort of wild leek. Leeks themselves, the symbol of Wales, are an underappreciated vegetable in this country. The bulb, when trimmed, and the first 6-7 inches of the green stalk are edible. They tend to be sand and dirt magnets, so wash thoroughly before cooking. Leeks work well in slow buttery braises when they are cut up lengthwise to hasten cooking. Further cut up into bite-sized pieces, they are favorites in soups, especially the leek and chicken pottage called "Cock-a-leeky."
Garlic scapes are the "flower stem" portion of a garlic plant. Growing up straight at first, they tend to curl around in a circle, and then grow a small bulb. The scapes are very tasty, but the longer they grow, the tougher and hotter they become. So cut early and use raw or cooked.
The ramps have two parts: broad smooth tasty leaves, and lower stems terminating in edible bulbs. An easy way to cook them is to pull off the leaves, and first cook the sliced bulbs in bacon fat, then toss in the cut up leaves and cook until they are wilted. Sprinkle a little crumbled bacon over them and toss with a little white balsamic vinegar.