Wild Leeks, Delinquent Gardeners and Racy Rhubarb

Hosted by
For information about the Angeli Caffe's Cinco de Mayo dinner featuring boutique Craftsman Brewery, call (323) 936-9086.

Eric Greenspan is the chef at Patina Restaurant, 5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles. (323) 467-1108.

Creamed Spinach with Pickled Ramps
Pickled ramps:

  • 1 pound ramp bulbs
  • 3 cups champagne vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • handful of black peppercorns
  • 1/8 pound of thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
Bring all liquids and herbs to a boil, the pour over ramp bulbs. Let the ramps cool in the liquid, then sit for a week. If in a hurry, place ramps in the cold liquid and bring entire mixture to boil, then let cool. If a milder flavor is desired, first blanch bulbs in water, shock, and then continue with pickling process. Once pickled, chop them fine. Can be stored covered in the liquid for up to a year, or until fresh ramps arrive again.

Creamed Spinach

  • 2 bunches of leaf spinach, de-stemmed and washed thoroughly
  • 1/4 pound of butter
Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water until very tender, and then shock in ice water. When cool, squeeze out as much water as possible and place the spinach in a hot sauce pan with a touch of melted butter. Once hot, the spinach will begin to release whatever remaining liquid it has retained. Add the butter and stir forcefully breaking the spinach up into a pesto texture and forming an emulsification between the butter and the liquid. The mixture should have a creamy texture and resemble fresh lawn clippings, however clippings that are rich, creamy, flavorful and properly seasoned. Add 1 Tablespoon of chopped pickled ramps and incorporate throughout the mix for the perfect accompaniment to any hearty meat dish such as beef or a pork chop, as well as richer fish such as salmon.

Hand-Rolled Fettuccini with Morel Mushrooms and Ramp Pesto
For pasta

  • 600 g flour
  • 6 eggs
Mix eggs and flour in a kitchen aid until dough is formed. Let rest in refrigerator for 2 hours. Using a pasta machine, roll out thin sheets of pasta. With a knife, or the extension on the machine, cut the sheets into fettuccini. Set aside.

Note: Makes far more dough than needed for four portions.

For morels

  • 5 ramps, greens removed, finely chopped
  • 12-16 large morels, cleaned
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup stock (mushroom, chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 oz butter
Sweat chopped ramps in hot foaming butter until translucent and aromatic. Add mushrooms and sweat for 1 minute. Add wine and reduce until almost dry. Add stock to cover, and simmer until mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes. Return to high heat and reduce liquid until mushrooms are glazed.

For pesto

  • Greens of five ramps
  • 2 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon toasted pine nuts
Chop the greens of the ramps and crush with olive oil in a mortar and pestle until greens are crushed and emulsified with oil. Add fresh grated Parmesan and toasted pinenuts and mix with a spoon. Set aside. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until tender. Mix with ramp pesto, and then cover with glazed morel and ramp mixture. Top with dried tomatoes and shaved parmesan.

Nancy Harmon Jenkins is the author most recently of The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines.

Fresh Spring Fava Beans, the Classic Way
Makes 4 servings

  • 2 pounds fresh fava beans in pods
  • 4 fresh white spring onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fennel leaves (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
Shell the beans, or if you wish, shell half the beans and with the other half, top and tail the pods and cut them into 1-inch lengths.

Combine the onions and oil in a saucepan and saute very gently over low heat until the onions are tender and melting into the oil, 20-30 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add the beans and continue cooking very gently for another 10 minutes or until the color of the beans changes and becomes more opaque.

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the fennel, if available, and the parsley. Add a small amount of water, just enough to come to the top of the beans. Bring to a simmer and cook very gently for about 30 minutes, until nearly all the water has boiled away and there are just a few tablespoons left in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the lemon juice, bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and serve immediately.

Variation: Instead of adding lemon juice, remove the beans from the heat and stir in 2 to 3 Tablespoons of whole-milk yogurt, preferably made from sheep's or goat's milk.

Tracy Callahan is the owner of Rhubarb Specialty Baking, (310) 348-9515. For more info on rhubarb, the vegetable, go to www.rhubarb.com.

Rhubarb Ginger Chutney

  • 1 pound cleaned and diced rhubarb
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 packed cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger
Combine all the ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook 2 hours stirring frequently to prevent burning. Chutney will thicken and become very dark and glossy. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. This chutney tastes great the day you make it, but for its full impact, wait about a week to give the flavors a chance to marry.

Rhubarb Soggy Cake

  • 2 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350- degrees. Grease an 11x7x2 dish.

Mix rhubarb with 1/2 cup white sugar. Let stand until juices start to run.

Cream together brown sugar and shortening. Add egg and mix well. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk and mix. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and add to batter. Fold in rhubarb and accumulated juices. Pour batter into dish and bake for one hour until cake springs back when you lightly touched. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

If desired cake can be topped with a mixture of 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 stick butter, thinned with a little milk or cream. Pour over cake. Place cake under broiler until topping bubbles. Remove immediately and let cool.

Rhubarb Squares
For shortbread cookie base:

  • 8 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For rhubarb puree:
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen rhubarb, diced
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
For streusel topping:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 8 oz very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2 pan.

To make shortbread:
Cream butter with sugar until light. Add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Take dough and pat into an even layer on the bottom of the 13x9x2 pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Keep oven hot.

To make rhubarb puree:
In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until rhubarb is broken down and mixture is thick. Stir often to prevent mixture from sticking. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. When thickened remove from heat and cool slightly.

To make streusel topping:
In the bowl of a food processor, chop ginger with sugar and flour until fine. Add cold butter and pulse until topping is crumbly. Do not over-process into a paste. Remove and set aside.

To assemble:
Pour rhubarb puree over the shortbread crust. Smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle streusel topping on evenly, covering all of the puree. Bake 15-20 minutes until topping is bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. When cool place pan in the freezer and freeze at least 2 hours before cutting into 2" squares. Stored in the freezer, these squares will keep up to a month tightly wrapped.