Strawberry Lemon Curd: A balanced spread, not too sweet, not too tart, that lets all the fruit shine through.
Getting a reputation can be a mixed blessing. I once revealed to the cook in our local deli that we own chickens, and from that day on, whenever I walk through the door, she yells “Hey, chicken man!”. Over the years, we’ve made several friends in Beacon through introductions to our lemon curd. We’ll meet a new person, tell them about Nerds with Knives, and then their eyes will light up and they’ll exclaim “I made the lemon curd! It was so lemony!” It’s very flattering, but it does mean we feel that we have to keep ahead of expectations. After all, we can’t coast on lemon curd forever. So it’s a good thing that we have a glut of garden and local farm strawberries, because that means we can make Strawberry Lemon Curd! (It’s like normal lemon curd. But with strawberries.)
Ramps (wild leeks) have a sweet, garlicky flavor that pairs beautifully with brown butter and caramelized oyster mushrooms. We pile this on top of toast that has been slathered with creamy ricotta cheese, making a delicious, simple appetizer.
[2018 update: we’re reposting this article originally published on the blog several years ago because firstly, we actually have ramps growing in our garden for the first time (!!!) and secondly, it’s a damn delicious recipe which for us, celebrates the foraging that starts in our area in Spring.]
If you have no idea what ramps are, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s some kind of disease that turns people into drooling, seasonal zombies. Because like Walkers, we (the afflicted) wander the countryside, arms outstretched, moaning “Raaaaamps. Raaaaaaaaaaamps.”
Come spring we wistfully scan shady hillsides for tell-tale green shoots. We travel great distances to far-flung farmers markets. We meet dodgy ramp dealers* in back alleys, taking our very lives in our hands, all in hope of scoring some of that delicious, garlicky goodness.
*Note: I have never actually met a dodgy ramp dealer but I bet they exist. I can just picture some bearded hippy dude standing on the corner whispering, “Pssst. Ramps. Meet me behind the compost bin in 5. Namaste.”
Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. You’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
Every spring I’m reminded of how happy I am that we bought a house in the Hudson Valley. The sun is out and I’m sitting on our deck, watching the chickens romp around the ‘garden’. Yes, ‘garden’ is in quotes because it’s mostly weeds, rocks and buried concrete (why, previous owners? Why?). And yes, those pesky chickens are obsessed with destroying the few plants we’re actually trying to grow. But none of that matters! Gardens can be planted. Chickens can be strangled penned. The important thing is that it’s ours and we love it (sometimes).
Another fantastic thing about spring is all the wonderful fresh green things that are just beginning to show up at the farmers’ market (or your own garden, if you’re lucky and/or talented). A simple pasta dish like this takes full advantage of these fresh flavors, pairing the tender vegetables with crispy pancetta* and a light, creamy sauce.
*You could absolutely leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian dish. You’ll probably want to add a bit more salt since the pancetta is salty.
Since this is probably the lastramprecipe of the season (sob), it needed to be not just a really good one, but also flexible.