Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Out like a lamb?

Right around the start of this month, I found myself braving the elements while making my way toward Chelsea Piers to play golf (a decidedly warm-weather endeavor). I didn't know at the time that the rain and wind that night would turn into one of the worst rainstorms the east coast has had in recent history, but I did know that I was cold, wet, and annoyed with the weather. Still, there was something romantic about watching the golf balls sailing out toward the Hudson River, the driving range lights illuminating the rain as it pounded left and right with the wind. Even so, after a beer (or two) at the attached brewery, as we were walking toward the subway against pelting rain, I grumbled "March better go out like a lamb!"

Looking at the forecast for the next two weeks, I may actually get my wish this year. Of course the predictive value of two-weeks-in-advance weather is limited at best, but I'm choosing to be optimistic. And, I might add, I'd like to think I've had something to do with our mid-March 70 degree days. I've long believed in my ability to "train the weather." Every year when spring arrives I retire my winter coat, wear t-shirts and skirts around the house (and more appropriate layers outside, although I used to parade around in tank tops in March when I was in college), and lately, I have begun to eagerly scour the grocery store shelves for the first local, seasonal produce. Last year I discovered ramps, and spent the rest of early spring discovering different recipes to use them in. One of my favorites was this ramp and sausage risotto. For me it was the perfect "bridge food." Still good hearty warmth for a chilly March night, but incorporating a breath of fresh air, or spring, to bring me into the new season.

Ramp and Sausage Risotto
(mildly adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb hot Italian sausages, casings removed
12 ramps, sliced, bulbs and thin stems separated from green tops
1 cup arborio rice (although since I made this I have been experimenting with barley and farro risotto--I think those would be great too)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups fat free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated, plus additional for passing

Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add sausage, cook until no longer pink, breaking up with spoon, about 5 minutes. Add ramps, saute until almost tender, about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add wine, simmer until liquid is absorbed. Add chicken broth, 1/2-1 cup at a time, simmering until liquid is absorbed before adding more. Stir almost constantly. Continue cooking until rice is tender and risotto is creamy. Mix in green tops and cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese. Serves 4.

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