We returned to our country house this past weekend to celebrate my husband’s birthday, which was on Monday. He and Bunky are just a week apart. My two (crazy) Tauruses. Stubborn as bulls, but loyal as anything. (Have you read Molly’s astrological post on her blog, Sprue Story? Hilarious and spot on.) Since opening up the house to renters via Home Away, we have been pleasantly surprised by how popular it has been. So popular that we have to take advantage of the open weekends. This was the perfect opportunity.
Spring is a little delayed in Sullivan County, especially up top of the winding gravel road that leads to our home. The small green leaves that had daintily dotted the tree lined highways grew more sparse the higher we ascended, similar to how the snow lay thicker in the winter, but the warm weather and cerulean blue skies couldn’t have been more perfect.
We didn’t make any plans beyond a trip to the farmer’s market, which is a lesson we learned in the fall, and instead made it our goal to enjoy some quality relaxation surrounded by nature. Too bad the kids and bugs had other ideas.
The kid part is obvious. I knew things wouldn’t be all zen with a spirited preschooler and a banshee screaming toddler – Little Guy’s latest trick when frustrated. But the bug thing threw my husband for a loop, perhaps because he is one sweet tasting dude. According to the bugs. (Hey, this is a family blog.) Fortunately the mornings and early afternoons were bug free, as it seems the bugs (unlike my kids) like to sleep in. So we had plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately there was cable TV, which we don’t have in Brooklyn, to take care of the buggy afternoons. Let’s just say Bunky and Little Guy got quite comfortable on the couch.
I’m making it sound like we hid indoors, which is not entirely true. Just on Saturday during my husband’s “Project.” My husband likes projects. Loves them. Like, this country house? It’s a nesting doll of projects, dozens of them all squeezed inside his brain. This weekend’s birthday project was on a smaller scale (unlike the drainage ditch he built a few weeks ago). He wanted to create a picturesque spot for the fancy (read: pricey) fire pit he bought. Shockingly, he finished it in less than a day.
This is me talking to my husband, right now: “Honey, you were right. Okay?!” I’m not so great at admitting I’m wrong, but I told him I’d be thrilled to do so if in fact he actually finished his project on time. Which he did. And it looks pretty awesome.
The next day was the local farmer’s market (nearly an hour’s drive away) which was extra special because of the Ramps Festival. What are ramps, some of you may wonder? Well, if you’re a foodie you already know cause they are like the shit to talk about and cook with in early spring. But they aren’t really that fancy in person. They are wild leeks, or as wikipedia says, “an early spring vegetable with a garlic odor and onion flavor.”
Don’t get me wrong, they are GOOD. But before this weekend, I thought they were just another pretentious ingredient at hip Brooklyn eateries – which they may well be, but they are also growing in our backyard! Seriously! My husband got all Little House on the Prairie on us and dug some up with a shovel and presented them to me like a bouquet. Check out his food photography. It’s no joke.
After chatting with the very nice woman at the farmer’s market whose small stand WAS the Ramps Festival, I had a good idea of how to prepare them. A little internet research confirmed what she advised, which was to keep it simple.
You can eat the leaves and the bulbs (once you cut off the tip of the root). But first it’s kind of important to make sure you’re actually eating ramps and not lilies of the valley, which they closely resemble and are POISONOUS. My husband was like, oh no these are definitely ramps. But I decided to do my own research, just in case. I found this great article which has a very thorough description (with photos) about what those other less edible plants look like, along with some recipe advice.
After reading it I felt pretty sure I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I kept sniffing the leaves and the bulbs, just in case. Fortunately the whole house smelled like an onion, which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended) since the bulbs of lilies of the valley have no offensive odor. Here is my own little ramp tutorial:
Wash your ramps in warm water and then cut the tip off the root. Similar to the green onions they resemble, there is a thin clear membrane over the stalk. Just peel it down. It should come off pretty easily. Chop those suckers up, but keep the white bulb pieces separate from the green leaves since they cook at different rates.
I sauteed mine in butter and olive oil. You could do one or the other, but this time being indecisive worked in my favor. Just start with the white bulbs first because they will take a bit longer to cook. Saute them for about a minute or so before adding the chopped green leaves. Stir and and cook together on medium low for another minute or so until wilted down.
I ate mine straight out of the bowl and they were warm, fragrant, and delicious. Way more subtle than onions, a bit sweeter than leeks. Even my husband who stays away from anything in the onion family stared longingly at my bowl because they smelled that good. He tried two small pieces and declared them amazing.
It wouldn’t have been hard to eat the entire bowl, but I didn’t want to get a ramp overload, so I forced myself to save half. The next day I made myself a ramptastic lunch by frying up two eggs and tossing it in a bowl with my leftover ramps and some basmati rice. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes and I was in ramp heaven. I would have taken a picture but I was too busy eating. And watching repeats of NCIS. Little Guy was napping and Bunky was out with her dad. Ah, bliss…
Other highlights of our trip included a sweetly serious discussion with Bunky about her dolls, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty, who she told me were getting married. Then she asked with a touch of concern, can two girls get married? And I was like YUP. She was very happy about this and told me all about their wedding cake.
Then there was LOTS of strawberry, vanilla, and cherry vanilla ice cream. We love Haagen Dazs, gluten free and natural. Our local supermarket even had gluten free wafer cones! Insane! We ate the entire package and Little Guy had his first cone. He had no problem with the licking part, but was a little confused about what to do with the cone. So I ate it for him. One of the benefits of being someone’s mom.
I also made my husband some of these delicious fudge brownie cookies (also found in our local market, so cool) and chocolate chex mix, his new favorite treat. Which is convenient because it’s SO easy. A recipe will come soon, though you probably know it already. I think we’re a little late to the chocolate covered Chex party.
Since our house is all booked up through June, we won’t be going again until July. Plenty of time for my husband to dream up some more projects.