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I had Chef April Bloomfield’s ricotta gnudi in New York at the James Beard Awards, and I had to recreate them, only with my own twist: A sauce of ramps and fresh porcini I found in the High Sierra.
This might be the prettiest – and best-tasting – dish I’ve made this spring. You can really taste the ramps in the pasta, and the morels, cooked simply with ramps, butter and a little stock, compliment the pasta like sunshine on a pretty girl’s eyes.
Beyond the fact that stinging nettles are a superfood, they are just so damn pretty! Blanched, they lose their sting, and take on a lurid emerald. That green makes an exciting pasta — and a great ravioli filling. Yep, this is a double dose of nettle goodness.
If there is one episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” that sticks with me, it is his trip to Venice. In that episode he has risotto di go, an ethereal dish that hinges on a magical fish broth. I’ve remade this risotto here with striped bass. It will transport you.
Wild onions, ramps especially, make a great pesto. This is my version, which has a little oregano in it as well as almonds and pecorino cheese.
On of my all-time favorite vegetables is broccoli rabe, also known as rapini or broccoli raab. Not actually a broccoli, it’s actually the unopened flower buds of a kind of mustard. And guess what? Wild mustard works every bit as well as garden variety.
This is about as classic Italian as it gets… except I’m using bear shanks instead of veal. Osso buco is one of the best uses of any large shank, be it elk, moose, a big deer or pig, and yes, black bear. Call it “orso buco.”
Cappelletti, a variant on the well-known tortellini of Bologna, are normally served in a clear broth. My cappelletti are vegetarian, filled with ricotta and spices, but you could use meat, too. The soup is a rich, clear duck broth; almost a consomme. Simple yet, elegant.
Sometimes you want a gentle hand when cooking rabbit. It is a delicate meat that can easily be overwhelmed by strong flavors. This Italian inspired recipe keeps things mellow to let the rabbit flavor shine. How? Don’t brown the meat first.
Many of the olives I cure each year are done in a brine. But year after year I’ve been curing more with lye. I know it sounds scary, but it’s not – if you follow these simple instructions. The result is a buttery, firm olive that I actually prefer over the brine cured ones.