Yum Yum: Spring has sprung – Ramps and Fiddleheads

A bunch of us on the fourth floor love to cook, some of us just love to eat. Here is a fun recipe for those who find it relaxing to be in the kitchen. Feel free to bring some up to the fourth floor so we can yum, yum with you. 
After a long winter of root vegetables and preserves, spring vegetables have started sprouting in the local produce aisles (especially at one of our favourite stores, Fiesta Farms). This means fresh asparagus, fennel and radishes are here, along with seasonal Ontario offerings like ramps and fiddleheads.
 Fiddleheads: baby fern fronds.

Ramps: sort of a cross between a leek, an onion and garlic. Yum.  

To make the most of this spring bounty and inspired by this recipe Natalie decided to whip up a delicious, healthy and vegan-friendly quinoa dish. This can be served as an entree or side. She used asparagus, but you can sub in fiddleheads if you are in the mood.

Please note: This recipe is a bit labour-intensive (though not compared to say, French or Asian cooking), but the flavours are worth it! Also, you don’t want to just throw your delicious ramps into whatever.

Spring Quinoa Pilaf (serves four people as a side, two as a main)

1 bunch ramps
2 tsp lemon zest
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp parsley
glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus (tough ends snapped off)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme
3 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups quinoa (well rinsed)
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen; I used frozen, but fresh will need to cook a bit longer)
salt & pepper to taste

Ramps! Watch out, they’re muddy.
Wash your ramps well. Clean both leaves & stems well – you’ll be using them both. Chop the stems and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then drop in your ramp leaves. Blanch for about one minute, drain and put into food processor. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and a splash of olive oil to food processor and purée. Set aside.

Mince garlic. Add a glug of olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Once oil is glistening, add garlic and chopped ramp stems. Cook until fragrant, about five minutes. Add thyme and quinoa, and sauté for one minute, stirring constantly. 
Add the vegetable broth; bring to a boil, then lower temperature to a simmer. Allow quinoa mixture to simmer for about 10 to 13 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in peas and continue to cook for five more minutes.

Quinoa, the other white rice (and way healthy).
While quinoa is simmering, bring another pot of water to a boil (we used the same pot we blanched the ramps in). Add in the asparagus and cook until desired tenderness; we like it a little crispy. Drain and chop when cool. Set aside. 
Once quinoa is cooked, stir in asparagus and ramp purée. Season with salt & pepper and, if you’re feeling indulgent, top with a bit of Parmesan cheese. Voila!

Tastes like spring… and success.

How do I know when quinoa is cooked?
Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes. It’s fairly easy to tell when it’s done because the seeds display a little white thread that curls around them.