Balsamic Egg, Revisited

One of my favorite quick-and-easy egg dishes – and in fact one of the few I like – is a balsamic fried egg. Usually I make it with mushrooms because I often have them around, but sometimes I like to change it up a bit, such as this delicious incarnation of asparagus, garlic and cherry tomatoes.

The concept is the same: saute the vegetables, fry the egg, combine everything in the pan and add a dash of good quality aged balsamic vinegar. Two minutes later and a healthy dinner (or breakfast) is served!

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Rhubarb Almond Squares

It’s been a while since my last post and a much longer break than I’ve ever taken since starting this blog. It seems my life has gotten in the way of my hobby a bit, but it’s my hope that with the farmer’s markets now open and fresh produce (slowly) coming in, it’ll be easier to find the motivation to get back in the kitchen!

With that said, we can move on to more important things, like rhubarb.

Every year I get so excited for the first outdoor market of the season that I rush over with hopes of finding an overwhelming variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. And of course, every year I leave with just two items: rhubarb and asparagus.

It’s just the way it is here – May equals leftover apples and potatoes from the fall and fresh rhubarb and asparagus. It’s like they’re the starter vegetables warming us up for the real thing to come.

This year I wanted to do something simple but a little unique with the rhubarb. Playing off it’s tart qualities, I decided to mimic the sweet and sour flavors of lemon squares by making rhubarb squares with an almond crust.

These treats were a gooey, sweet-sour combination with a crunchy almond crust and are were enough to convince me that summer might actually get here soon. Or at least convince me that the wait won’t so bad…

Try the Rhubarb Almond Squares for a pre-summer fix!

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Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad

I’ve been craving this salad for weeks now. I’m not sure what triggered the idea, but it slowly expanded in mind, every few days mentally adding a new ingredient. Today, finally, I put pen to paper, err knife to vegetable (???) and made it happen!

The salad is the epitome of fresh, spring flavors, with a little Italian influence thrown in for good measure. The base is a bed of peppery baby arugula, topped with blanched asparagus, salty Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese, and finished with a smattering of toasted pine nuts and tart fresh lemon juice. The whole thing is a delight to the palate and to the mind, which in my case so badly wanted the weather to feel as springy as the salad tasted.

This is a must-try. It’s simple and doesn’t even require making a salad dressing. Simply drizzle a bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the top and it’s ready to serve.

Here’s the recipe for Spring Green Asparagus & Arugula Salad:

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Chive Blossom & Lemon Pasta

Chive Blossom & Lemon Pasta

Chive Blossom & Lemon Pasta

Here’s something I don’t see everyday in the grocery store: chive blossoms. I discovered these edible lavender flowers that grow on chive stalks during a recent visit to the farmers market. Maybe they’re nothing new to you, but I’ve never used them before.

Chive blossoms

Minced chives Fresh squeezed lemon juice

And it turns out they’re a great find. In addition to adding color, like regular chives they have a mild onion flavor and are best served raw as a garnish to a hot dish or sprinkled on a salad.

My goal was to create a recipe that would showcase the chives in both aesthetics and flavor, which was accomplished with chive blossom and lemon pasta. The pasta provided a neutral backdrop while the lemon complimented the subtle onion flavor of the chives, and the whole dish was rounded out by the savory Parmesan cheese.

Pasta & chive blossoms Closeup: chive blossom & lemon pasta

I also made this crispy roast chicken to eat with the pasta, and this time used minced chives as the herb that is mixed in at the end.

Here’s the recipe:

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Ramptastic Excitement, Plus Recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Ramps

Just look at the pretty ramps!

Just look at the pretty ramps!

It’s been one year plus one month of sheer agony as I’ve been trying to get my hands on a vegetable that’s never available. Of course, I’m referring to the elusive and strongly scented, yet much-demanded spring vegetable: ramps.

Ramps, or wild leeks as they’re also known, are native to Chicago but have a very short growing season (usually mid-March to mid-April). They’re also in great demand amongst chefs, so much so that it’s virtually impossible to get them outside a restaurant without paying a small fortune.

Cleaned and trimmed ramps are ready to go!

Cleaned and trimmed ramps are ready to go!

But my luck was about to change.

Despite the dreary cloudy sky yesterday, the sun suddenly shone bright for me as soon as I opened my email to find this message: “I went ramp picking this weekend and harvested a ton – do you want some? – E”

Sweeter words have never been typed. I hesitated for oh, a nanosecond, before hitting reply and typing “YES!!!”

Bag O' Ramps

Bag O' Ramps

Later that day I was handed a clear plastic bag with just my name written on it. Inside it was stuffed full of ramps, beautiful leafy green tops, slender pink stalks leading to perfectly white bulbs. And the smell – such strong aromas of garlic and onion, both pungent and sweet, that the scent from cooking just three is still lingering in my kitchen.

E won’t tell me where she found the ramps, only that she gathered about three pounds! Her reasons for keeping the secret location are that she’s a conservationist and doesn’t want them to be over-picked, but I have a feeling her foraging may not have been on the up-and-up, if you know what I mean. Ah, to have friends like this…

I have great plans for these ramps – risotto, roasted chicken, soup, etc. But I’m leaving town tomorrow and have dinner plans tonight, so those dreams will have to wait until I return.

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps

Scrambled Eggs with Ramps

But I had to try them at least once before I could get on with my life. So, today for breakfast I enjoyed scrambled eggs with ramps. This sure is living the good life.

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