Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Raising the Ramps

Focaccia Rustica con Finocchio, Pancetta, Olive & Erba Orsina
Rustic Focaccia with Fennel, Bacon, Olives & Ramps

It has taken it's time in arriving... but finally, slowly but surely, Springtime IS just around the corner! How do we know? Well, despite the freezing temperatures... little glimpses of blossom are appearing in the trees here and there... the odd daffodil is raising itself from the cold soil... and out in the woods, the bears have begun sniffing out the young and tender ramps as they begin to sprout...

Yes, here in Germany, ramps go by the name "Bärlauch", which roughly translated means "bear leeks". Because yes- this plant is an alium, like onions or garlic- and indeed, it is the first thing that a bear will be attracted to in the woods- despite what many people may think! Haha!
With it's mild and pungent, garlic fragrance, this lovely, large-leafed herb is a truly wonderful seasonal gem and while it is only available for a short while, an absolute must for any cook!

I decided to make something simple this evening- something quick and easy and something that would bring out the flavor of the ramps and put them to a really good use. Using a store-bought "fresh" pizza dough, I made this tasty flatbread/focaccia with sweet and juicy fennel, salty bacon and olives and mild, crispy cheese. Combine all of those good flavors, with a mild garlic flavor and you have an evening snack that is going to be a winner all round!

I started off by popping my thinly cut fennel wedges in just a hint of water in my frying pan for 2-3 minutes from each side, until they became transparent and the water had basically evaporated away. I then added a handful of finely chopped bacon and let both the bacon and the fennel brown nicely together. Whilst they were sizzling away, I finely chopped 4-5 black olives and picked 3-4 nice leaves from the ramps for later... but not much later... I was almost ready to go!

I set the fennel wedges and pre-cooked bacon to one side and began to assemble the pizza directly in my frying pan (as soon as it was cool enough!). Once I had sprinkled the pizza base nicely with grated Emmentaler cheese, I laid out the fennel wedges evenly. I then added the chopped olives, bacon and the ramps in-between. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg and gave it a final sprinkle of grated cheese... and then I folded-over the outer edges decoratively to give myself a lovely crispy border.

I let the pizza/focaccia first "bake" on my stovetop for 5 minutes, until the base was crispy and golden brown, let my oven warm up to maximal temperature in the meantime and then popped the hot frying pan inside for the focaccia/pizza to bake and become a wonderful golden brown... which only took around 5 minutes!

So all in all this was quick and easy... but it was also fun and delicious! Time for you to go out and find them-there ramps... and for you to enjoy them for yourselves! 

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