Wild Ramps: What Spring Ramp Dishes are You Making?
Ramp Pasta Made like Pate Nicoise
One of my favorite springtime dishes is a classic daube of lamb, a Provencal lamb stew made from unctuous lamb cheeks slowly simmered in rose with lavender honey until impossibly tender. Traditionally daubes are served with something starchy, like pasta or gnocchi, to help stretch the meat out and serve as a vehicle to soak up the wonderful juices.
In Nice, they often make green gnocchi (Pate Nicoise) that simmers in the broth for the last 30 minutes. This year I tried something new, I made a classic Pate Nicoise (see recipe at the bottom), using wild ramps in place of the more traditional Swiss chard, and the results were stunning.
Bright Green Ramp Pasta serves as the perfect vehicle for Daube.
The Italian Influence on Provence
A lot of people are often curious about the Italian influence on Provençal food. If you travel to Nice you will see a lot of Italian dishes like porchetta, pesto (pistou), gnocchi, and ravioli being served along with more recognizable French fare. The area around Nice was once part of the Italian Kingdom of Savoy, that traded hands several times before permanently becoming part of France in 1860.
The Italian influence had a lot more to do with its isolated location, it was far easier to travel along the coast by boats than to cross over the rugged mountainous terrain. The coast did not really open up to the rest of France till the railroads came to Marseille in 1848 and Nice in 1864. This allowed the Provençal coast to develop their own independent cuisine and culture.
Recipe for Pate Nicoise
The following is Geraldene Holt’s recipe for Pate Nicoise from her excellent book, French Country Kitchen.
- 3 ounces spinach
- 3 ounces Swiss chard
- 2 ounces lettuce
- 2 ounces Parmesan finely grated
- 10 ounces flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 eggs
- Wash the greens well, drain. Shred them all, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse in cold water, then squeeze completely dry.
- Chop greens very finely. Mix with cheese, flour, oil and eggs, and just a little salt.
- Roll dough out according to your pasta machine’s instructions. Cut into wide noodles, then cook quickly in rapidly boiling, salted water. Toss with butter and serve.