The ritual of eating a traditional bouillabaisse today is always the same. First we place two to three slices of oven-toasted French bread which have been rubbed with garlic in the bottom of our soup plates; then we top each slice with freshly grated Gruyere or Cantal cheese and top it with a dab of rouille. Then and only then do we ladle in the steaming hot aromatic fish bouillon. One or two more plates of this and – with the necessary refurbishments of garlic bread, cheese and rouille – we can can turn our attention to the fish… – Robert Carrier
Spring has slowly been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’ve gotten our miner’s lettuce, fiddleheads and wood sorrel. Yes, the halibuts have come and spring king salmon are making their legendary runs up the Columbia River. Even morels have started poking their curious honey combed heads through the forest floors. But what has been noticeably missing has been one of the oldest and most loved harbingers of spring; the fava bean. Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
We love seeing pictures and hearing from our customers on what they are doing with our food. Please hashtag us at #FoodsInSeason and show us your ramp creations.
Here are three recipes for wild ramps for you to use a starting point.
No other river captures the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest quite like the mighty Columbia River, known to native tribes as Wimahl, Nch’i-Wàna or Swah’netk’qhu. Its story encapsulates thousands of years of human history, interweaving tales of native Americans, discovery, exploration, hydroelectric energy, logging and unparalleled fishing within its waterways. The Columbia River is the fourth longest in America, stretching an unprecedented 1,243 miles from its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies to the end where it flows turbulently into the Pacific Ocean, near Astoria, Oregon.
True confession: I am a closet sous vider. I come from the last of the old guard that rejected sous vide in favor of more classical techniques. I was first exposed to sous viding when I did a stage for Joel Robuchon in Paris in 1996. He had a pork belly dish I vividly remember, the ultimate Petit salé aux lentilles, a melt in your mouth dish of cured pork belly served over creamy lentils. Petit salé is far too bourgeois for most diners of a three star Michelin restaurant and I am convinced the dish was not actually on the menu but there only for gastronomic regulars in the know. Each morning at Robuchon a plastic tub was filled with warm water and a strange device attached. The machine gently hummed while vacuum-packed bags of cured pork belly were lowered in. All throughout prep and service, the machine circulated water heated to a precise temperature around the packets. It felt like Christmas whenever someone ordered it. Time stopped. Everyone’s attention was fixated on the opening of that one single package and I always wondered who was on the other side of the swinging kitchen doors eating it. Since then, every “modern” kitchen I have worked in had at least one such circulator.
With a sweet pungency that combines the flavors of garlic, scallions, and leeks, ramps (Allium tricoccum) have become something of a rare delicacy as rising demand depletes the natural supply. Unfortunately, harvesting the bulbs—which grow wild in forests from Minnesota to Maine and as far south as Georgia—effectively kills the plants. Even worse, this particular plant can take seven years to reach maturity. It’s why Great Smoky Mountains National Park banned ramp-foraging in 2004, and why horticultural scientists at North Carolina State University have been researching how farmers might help ensure a robust ramp population.
For those of us who revel in the sensuality of life, Fall is a wonderfully bountiful time of year. The trees adorned in vibrant autumn hues of deep reds and golden yellows are a feast for the eyes. A refreshing crispness fills the air, stimulating our appetites for heartier, more comforting dishes. Much needed rains replenish aquifers and awaken the slumbering mushroom spores. Soon chanterelles, boletes and matsutake will poke their curious heads through the forest humus adding to our table. Coho salmon get nature’s signal and begin their runs up several rivers in the Olympic Peninsula to spawn. And perhaps the most elusive and forbidden of all harbingers of Fall, the red fleshed Mountain Rose apple, appears for a brief glorious moment.