Monday, July 15, 2013

UnRecipe: Ramping Things Up for Summer

You see what I did there? I just made a horrible pun. I make a lot of them. I should open up an Etsy shop full of terrible, handcrafted puns, festooned with crocheted cat ears and googly-eyes. I also made pickled ramps a little while ago, and frankly, the notion to get all Portlandia on these precious springtime treasures was a good thing, because, baby, it's hot outside, and I need something simple to eat on these hot summer nights.

My favorite summer food, made even more favorite-er with pickled ramps - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Not long ago, I did a quick-pickle brine for a small bunch of fresh wild garlic ramps I got whilst wandering Pike Place Market. I enjoyed the fresh green tops in pasta, but knew the thicker white midsection of the plant would pickle nicely and be a welcome treat long after the ramp season was over. They really are quite a treat -- looking more like a scallion but with the taste of garlic-meets-shallot, ramps are sweet with a delicate pungent flavor, without garlic's typical bite. I let the ramps pickle for a bit before draining them from the brine and chopping into a fine mince, to mix with sambal (chili-garlic paste) and a little rice wine vinegar. I'm not really sure what the heck this condiment is, if it exists as a thing somewhere in the culinary world, I'm just going to come out and say, here's the UnRecipe: pickled garlic ramps with sambal and rice wine vinegar. Try it. It's boss.

Spicy ramp relish over hot soup? Maybe not in July, but delicious in colder months! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
This ramp-sambal-vinegar concoction made an earlier appearance in a most un-summery dish, a spicy Asian meatball soup. Not exactly what you'd be craving on a hot July day. But it does prove this condiment's all-season versatility. It's great drizzled over a hot soup or other hot dishes you're wanting to add a bit of a spicy/acidic bite to. When the chill of autumn and winter inevitably return, this is something worth saving pickled ramps for, to make this condiment again for piping-hot meals needing an extra kick.

Despite the summery days, I still like spicy heat, and this chili ramp relish is perfect for topping plain tofu. This is probably my number one favorite summer food when the heat is oppressive, but you want something savory and satisfying -- even spicy. A big block of plain tofu looks pretty sad on its own, but when it's topped with fresh-grated ginger, sliced scallions and soy sauce, it's amazing. Cold, refreshing and satisfyingly savory. Topped with a spoonful of this ramp sambal relish, it's amazing-times-two. And better yet, no need to use the oven or the stove, so the kitchen stays cool and virtually unused to put this simple meal together. And hey, extra bonus: vegetarian-friendly, so a perfect item to add to your Meatless Monday menu.

In honor of summer and its hazy, lazy days, we'll keep this post short and sweet so we all can spend more time enjoying the season.

Simple, tasty goodness on a summer day - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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