May is here and Spring is in full swing. April was a very busy month and I got a lot done. To start with I installed a patio in the backyard that ended up being a bigger project than I expected. I removed 20 yards of concrete, dirt and rock from my back yard then brought in 30 tons of class five gravel and put down a retaining wall and a paver stone patio. I am very pleased with how it all turned out and am looking forward to doing some entertaining back there this summer.
While working on that project I still found time to get out and shoot my very first wild turkey and get out and do some foraging. While out, I found some stinging nettles and some wild ramps, but still can't seem to find any morels. I talked to one of the park rangers at White Water state park and he told me that the morels are in full swing and are "everywhere", everywhere, except where I was looking. I probably have a couple of weeks left to look so if anyone has any tips, please let me know.
Ramps are one of my favorite ingredients to use. I am a big fan of garlic and onions and ramps are a great combination of the two. Ramps also hold a special place in my heart because one of my blog posts last year was picked up and added to a cookbook about ramps, so my first recipe to be published was for a dish featuring ramps and is in a new cookbook called Ramps. So I figured with this being my 100th post I should do something special and do it with ramps.
There are two parts of the ramp, the leaves and the bulbs, the bulbs are not a true bulb but an underground swelling, I don't know what that means exactly so to me they are bulbs. The leaves are good in just about anything you want to add them too. I added them to carrots the other night and they were fantastic. I like to chop them up and add them to salads or just saute them with olive oil and lemon juice. The bulbs are great in stews and I love them pickled which is what I did with the extras I had.
I have been tossing around a few ideas of what to do with ramps if I were to get some this season. One of the ideas that I kept coming back too was a Chimichurri sauce with ramps instead of garlic. A Chimichurri sauce would be fairly easy to make up and I could serve it on venison and it would be delicious. Then it occurred to me why not use stinging nettles instead of parsley and really get nuts. So that's what I did. I made a pretty standard Chimichurri only used ramps and nettles instead of garlic and parsley. The Chimichurri sauce turned out perfect, it was delicious and I can say that I finally found a way to used nettles that I really enjoyed.
For the meat part of my dish I decided on a beautiful venison heart. After trimming away the fat and the veins I marinaded the heart in a little olive oil and red wine vinegar and garlic for about 30 minutes. I grilled the heart for three minute s on each side then let it rest and sliced it about 1/4 inch thick and served it with the ramp and nettle chimichurri. This was a truly amazing dish in my opinion, the meat was tender and juicy and the sauce added the perfect amount of zing and kind of left your mouth tingling in a way that made me want more.
Ramp and Nettle Chimichurri Sauce
1 1/2 cups nettles
6 ramp bulbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste