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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Readers Blog: Burp! Where Food Happens

Seared Scallops & Creamy Spring Ramps

2722-scallopsandramps

For me, spring is truly marked by the arrival of certain spring vegetables -- asparagus, morel mushrooms, fiddleheads... and, of course, the ubiquitous ramp.

Ramps (Allium trioccum), often called wild leeks or wild garlic, are a member of the lily family -- which also includes garlic, leeks, and onions. Resembling scallions, ramps begin at their base as lovely white bulbs whose gorgeous reddish-purple stalks rise upward into a plume of elegantly silky green leaves. With a mild flavor poised deliciously between that of leeks and garlic, they make a delicious addition to pasta dishes and pestos. And they marry particularly well with farm fresh spring eggs.

But, they're also fantastic when featured on their own -- which is how we decided to showcase these lovely locally grown spring vegetables for the Virtual Vegetable of the Month Club challenge, hosted by our friends over at innBrooklyn (If you haven't taken the opportunity to check out their blog, you really must. It's positively gorgeous! And a good read, to boot!).

Having been inspired by a gorgeous posting on The Sprouted Kitchen for Scallops on Creamy Leeks, we decided to take Sara's concept in a new direction by simplifying it a bit, and using ramps in place of the leeks.

Since the delicately flavored leaves of the wild leek cook much faster than the bulbs and stems, we chopped each separately. First, we sauteed the bulbs and stems gently in a few tablespoons of butter.

And then, when the stems were quite tender (10-15 minutes), we added the ramp leaves, along with about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. We turned the heat to medium low and allowed the cream to bubble gently while we prepared the scallops.
We purchased 10 gorgeous dry packed sea scallops from the lovely Colleen who was working the fish counter at our local Whole Foods (we may joke about "Whole Foods" being synonymous for "whole paycheck" in our house... but the truth is, they have some of the best and most sustainable fresh seafood for purchase in the city of Milwaukee).

Dry packed scallops are particularly good for searing, since they are free of sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), a chemical additive added to many scallops to reduce the natural loss of moisture after harvest. STP can affect the flavor of the scallop, and it also increases their moisture content -- which hinders browning.

We dredged the scallops lightly in a mixture of white whole wheat flour and salt (not necessary, but a step that adds a delicious crust to the final product), and then set them to cook in a pan of hot bacon fat. This is the point in the story when Peef begins to swoon, and it's no wonder. You can just imagine the sweet, smoky odor that infused our kitchen as the scallops were cooking...

By the time the scallops were cooked (about 3 minute per side did the trick nicely), the ramps were tender and the cream had reduced slightly. So, we spooned the wilted ramps onto warmed plates, topped them with the scallops, and sprinkled everything with a bit of chopped fresh tarragon from the garden.

We ate in near silence -- paying homage to the amazingly complimentary flavors on our plates. The ramps were sweet, fragrant, and slightly earthy -- with a green, almost forest-like flavor that belies their "wild" nature. The sweet licorice flavor of the tarragon played nicely off of both the ramps and the scallops -- whose crisp browned crust gave way to succulent, briny, perfectly cooked meat.

In less than 40 minutes, dinner was served. And it was Spring Heaven. On a plate.

Recipe available at ©BURP! Where Food Happens

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