François de MélogueProvencal RecipesSide DishTaste: Food & Drink

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.

Wild Spring Ramp Pasta
Ramp Pasta Dough
Print Recipe
The beauty of this dough is that it is very versatile; you can shape it into small balls and cook as gnocchi, or roll out into pasta sheets and make plates of ravioli, cannelloni or strands of pasta. However you shape it, give it a try this weekend.
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Wild Spring Ramp Pasta
Ramp Pasta Dough
Print Recipe
The beauty of this dough is that it is very versatile; you can shape it into small balls and cook as gnocchi, or roll out into pasta sheets and make plates of ravioli, cannelloni or strands of pasta. However you shape it, give it a try this weekend.
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
4 people 1 hour
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  2. Add all three greens and blanch till wilted.
  3. Strain greens out, rinse under cold water and squeeze as much water out as possible.
  4. In a blender, mix the greens, eggs, olive oil. s/p and nutmeg and puree until smooth and green.
  5. In a stand mixer, combine the puree with flour and knead for seven minutes. You may need to add flour if the dough is too sticky.
  6. If making gnocchi, mix in a few tablespoons of grated parmesan.
  7. If rolling into pasta, follow your pasta machine manufacturers instructions.
  8. Cut into wide noodles, then cook quickly in rapidly boiling, salted water. Toss with butter and serve.

Recipe for Pate Nicoise

The following is Geraldene Holt’s recipe for Pate Nicoise from her excellent book, French Country Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces spinach
  • 3 ounces Swiss chard
  • 2 ounces lettuce
  • 2 ounces Parmesan finely grated
  • 10 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Chop greens very finely. Mix with cheese, flour, oil and eggs, and just a little salt.
  3. 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.

To buy a copy of Geraldene Holt’s book, click the cover below:

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Chef François de Mélogue

Chef François de Mélogue

François de Mélogue grew up in a very French household in Chicago. His earliest attempts at cookery began with the filleting of his sister’s goldfish at age two and a braised rabbit dish made with his pet rabbits by age seven. He eventually stopped cooking his pets and went to the highly esteemed New England Culinary Institute where he graduated top of his class in 1985.

Chef François de Mélogue has over 30 years of cross-cultural culinary experience and brings an impressive culinary history and a unique Mediterranean cooking style. After graduating top of his class from the notable New England Culinary Institute, Chef François began his career in a number of highly acclaimed kitchens across the country, including Chef Louis Szathmary’s restaurant The Bakery in Chicago, Old Drovers Inn, a Relais and Chateaux property in New York and Joel Robuchon Gastronomie restaurant in Paris, before opening award-winning restaurant Pili Pili in his hometown of Chicago, rated in the Top Ten new restaurants in the World by Food and Wine magazine in 2003.

While staging with Robuchon, Chef François began to shape his personal culinary philosophy of “Cuisine Actuelle,” which showcases the natural flavor in the ingredients used to create his dishes. In line with his belief that food should be prepared without unnecessary distractions or alterations, François creates honest, healthy and delicious cuisine that is approachable and always delightful. Chef François specializes in simply prepared Southern French-inspired cuisine enhanced by his appreciation and knowledge of fine wine, craft beer, charcuterie and cheese. He is a fervent student and strong advocate of regional French cuisines, specifically the rustic cuisines of Lyon and Provence. With wife Lisa, they conduct personalized, insider gastronomic tours of Burgundy/Lyon, Provence and the Pacific Northwest.

Chef François resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife Lisa and seven-year-old son Beaumont, who has proclaimed himself the family saucier. He has written his first cookbook about Provence, entitled "Cuisine of the Sun: A Ray of Sunshine on Your Plate", and works for Foods in Season, America’s foremost foraging company specializing in hyper-seasonal, wild foraged and fished foods from the Pacific Northwest.

Follow his blog Pistou and Pastis it's filled with delicious recipes and beautiful photos.

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