English food is not a joke. Most of the time it can even make you forget about the appalling English weather. Judging from all of the recipes I've been posting lately, from British cookbooks by Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers, I've developed a bad case of anglophilia this spring. It's been fueled mostly by the UK site, Eat the Seasons, and their inspiring cookbook companions, which have helped me take a whole new look at how to choose what I'm going to make and eat (here's a link to the original post about the site).
Fish & Quips, an event sponsored by British ex-pat Sam Breach of Becks & Posh, is a great excuse to flip through my British cookbooks again, and with a recent purchase of some irresistible, albeit expensive, purple asparagus from the Carytown Ukrop's, to try the deceptively simple, loudly flavorful asparagi e torta di Gorgonzola from The River Cafe Cookbook. I'm cheating a little, because Rodgers and Gray really do Italian cooking in their restaurant and cookbooks, but I think it qualifies as British because they've developed a distinctly stripped-down version emphasizing local ingredients that's uniquely their own.
Asparagi e Torta di Gorgonzola (the purple version)
2 Tb. unsalted butter
7 oz. Gorgonzola
1/4 c. mascarpone
small handful of fresh oregano or basil leaves, chopped
Melt the butter very gently in a medium-sized pan, then add the Gorgonzola. Heat until softened but do not allow it to become liquid--it should be just warm, no more. Add the mascarpone, the herbs, a little salt and pepper, and remove them from the heat. This should take only a matter of seconds (the idea is to let the cheeses gently melt together).
Briefly blanch the asparagus in a generous amount of boiling salted water (roasting is wonderful too). Drain, dry and place on warm plates. Pour over the sauce, and serve with Parmesan.
Around the blogosphere, people will be observing a One Day Blog Silence on April 30th to honor all those slain on Monday at Virginia Tech. It's been impossible to express the horror of Monday. I hesitated to post anything on this blog during the week but because I couldn't stop thinking about all of the people and what happened there, I really have been actively looking for ways to embrace the joy of this short life. And, as prosaic and mundane as it is, food is one of the simple, uncomplicated joys I know I can turn to unreflexively in times of profound sorrow.
I kept hearing "ramps . . .who has the ramps . . . where do I find ramps . . .do you have any ramps?" throughout the Union Square Greenmarket Saturday morning in New York and almost helplessly, I was caught in the tide of ramp-seekers and washed up in Richmond yesterday with two perfectly preserved bunches kept carefully on ice and almost forgotten in the hotel mini-fridge (along with some amazing cheese). I didn't know that an article about this elusive, seldom-seen green had appeared in the New York Times, and I feel very lucky to have gotten away with some before the crazed foodies of NYC got wind of them and tore the pile apart.
Ramps are a loudly fragrant variant of leek--the wild variety--and are harvested by hand in the woods only in springtime. More pungent than its domesticated cousin and redolent of both onions and garlic, ramps are best cooked quickly in good olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Eat them with steak, eat them with chicken, eat them alone in your kitchen, one at a time, and enjoy an elusive jolt of allium plucked straight from the earth.