Farmers’Market Foray – Or What to do with Ramps and Fennel

I find the challenge for us as a busy family is incorporating local foods into a busy lifestyle. Our neighborhood Farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays, and we don’t live near enough to Union Square to go there on a regular basis during the week.

And then, of course, there is the fact that Mr TBTAM likes to go to Fairway on the way home from work to see what’s there to inspire tonight’s dinner. So it was a bit of a tussle between us on Saturday as I convinced him to change it up a bit – see what’s at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday when we have time to go together, and plan the week’s menus around that.

We decided to start small. Really small. With a bunch of lovely garlic ramps and some baby anise from the Union Square market.

Our first dinner tonight with Victor, who is with us for two weeks from Barcelona on an exchange student visit, provided the perfect opportunity to use these ingredients in a meal that would show him some traditional American cuisine – Chicken and potatoes. “Ramped up” a bit, of course.

Ramps n’ Taters

Ramps, or wild leeks, are quintessentially American. Appalachian to be more specific. Native to North America and growing wild in the woods, they provide spring sustenance for early Native Americans and mountain folk for generations. Ramps with potatoes and bacon is a traditional Appalachian dish. We cut back significantly on the bacon, but traditional recipes will use up to a pound of it. Add eggs at the end to make it a complete meal.

3 slices Bacon
1 bunch of garlic ramps, thoroughly washed
6 potatoes, washed and cut into bit sized pieces
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

Wash the ramps well. Cut off the tip of the root and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. Spin or towel dry

Fry the bacon in a skillet till crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain.

Add the potatoes to the bacon fat and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the ramps and fry till done. Crumble and toss in the previously fried bacon and serve.

Sauteed Chicken with Fennel and Rosemary

This is a modification of a recipe from Food and Wine. I know it is probably a bit more Mediterranean than American in flavor, but we used the Farmer’s Market fennel and that made me proud. This dish has a very light and delicious sauce.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bunches baby fennel, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 organic chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil is a large saute pan over moderately high heat. Add the fennel, 1 tbsp rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is golden brown and almost done. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the fennel is tender. Remove the fennel and the cooking liquid from the pan.

Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over moderate heat. Season the chicken with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the chicken to the pan with the remaining 1 tbsp of rosemary and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until almost done, about 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the fennel and its cooking liquid and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let steam 5 minutes. Serve, scattering parsley atop the plate.

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