Ramping Up!

A ramp is one of the first green veggies to sprout-up in springtime. It is aka wild leek or spring onion; fitting, since it adds a sweet onion + bit of garlicky flavor to a variety of dishes. Add ramps to pep-up a dish; ideal for soups, eggs, potatoes, and seafood. One of my favorite ways to prepare ramp is grilled, which brings out its natural sweetness. Ideal served atop a grilled pizza.  

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The how-to is simple; Grilled Ramp: After cutting off stem-end, wash whole ramps and dry. Drizzle olive oil over the white and greens, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill on a high heat until lightly charred. Cool, then place on pizza before baking as you would add any topping. 

No time to make the dough? Then, top with my easy Nann style flatbread pizza recipe with grilled ramps. But, I encourage you to make time and toss the dough my flatbread pizzas as seen on George Hirsch Lifestyle TV series.

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Grilled Three-Cheese Naan Pizza

Makes four appetizer servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle 

1 pre-baked Naan Bread Crust

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1/2 cup goat cheese or feta

6 fresh basil leaves, lightly torn

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pre heat grill to medium or an oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush Naan on both sides with olive oil. Top Naan on one side with cheeses leaving a half-inch border around crust. Place Naan on grill top shelf or bake on a pizza pan for about five minutes until crust is crisp and cheese is melted. Remove top with fresh basil and pepper, serve immediately.

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Spring Spears

Join me + Tune-in/DVR CreateTV GHL Sat 4/13 8AM/8PM + Sun 4/14 2PM

I am reminded it's spring because the calendar says it's so. But, what do you do on those days when the weather says otherwise, like all this rain lately? I suggest bringing spring into your kitchen with ingredients that say spring flavor. What first comes to mind is asparagus. It's so versatile; you can steam, sauté, roast, and if you must, fry it - preferably tempura. 

Ricotta Asparagus Bruschetta

Ricotta Asparagus Bruschetta

Some conversational tidbits to keep in your pocket for your next dinner party or in a full elevator:

- The word asparagus comes from the ancient Persian word asparag, meaning a sprout. The ancient Egyptians cultivated asparagus and dedicated it as an offering to numerous Gods. It must have been considered very important back then. And the Romans have an expression, "Velocius quam asparagi coquantur" - meaning, faster than you can cook asparagus. 

- It was a rare and expensive vegetable in the 1890s in the United States, but then cultivation helped to tame the price. 

- It was inevitable that the asparagus should be considered as an aphrodisiac given its shape, which an Elizabethan writer remarked it 'manifestly provoked Venus'. 

- Asparagus is a young edible shoot, commonly known as "spear". The spear rises from an underground stem called a "crown", which is capable of producing spears for 15 to 20 years. Most asparagus is harvested in spring, when it is 6 to 8 inches high and has tender, fleshy spears and tight compact heads. Once they reach maturity, the asparagus stalks become woody and fernlike foliage grows from the heads, making them inedible.

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Tips:

Although grown in quite a large scale and in many countries, asparagus is available in abundance from March to late June. There are over 300 varieties of asparagus, only 20 of which are edible. 

They are divided into three main categories:

Green asparagus. This is the most common type of asparagus. It is harvested at a height of about 8 inches. 

White asparagus. Grown in the dark (covered with soil to keep it from turning green), white asparagus is harvested as soon as it emerges from the ground. Although more tender than the green variety, it tends to be less flavorful, and is more expensive, since more work is required to grow it. 

Purple asparagus: This variety has a fruity flavor and is harvested when only 2 to 3 inches high. 

How to buy asparagus:

Whether asparagus are thin or thick, choose them with firm, crisp stalks and compact brightly colored heads with no trace of rust or softness. The bottom of the stalk should be moist when squeezed, not dry and woody. Avoid yellowish asparagus with soft stalks that are beginning to flower, these are signs that it is old.

Store asparagus vertically in 1 inches of water in a container, stem-side-down in the refrigerator.

 

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All Tossed

With spring’s arrival, I'm inspired to toss up a fresh seasonal salad. Now is the time to really enjoy spring greens when they are sweet and at their peak; later in summer the flavors tend to bitter a bit with the heat. Whether you are preparing salad for two or planning your Mother's Day brunch, here are few tips + recipes to make plating up your spring salad even better.

Be sure to do the prep with your delicate spring lettuce; submerge leaves in cold water repeatedly until there is no evidence of soil or sand. Then give those leaves a good spin, so your homemade vinaigrette will easily coat your leaves. Wet leaves repell the dressing.

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Good Stuff Pick - OXO Salad Spinner

George's Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Makes 2 1/2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

1 Tablespoons chives

1 tsp chopped parsley

1 tsp capers or chopped green olives

1/2 tsp lite soy sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton

1 recipe Basic Vinaigette (recipe to follow)

Combine the chives, parsley,capers or olives, and lite soy sauce with the cream and half the cheese and blend well. Add the vinaigrette and stir in the remaining cheese. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for a minimum of 1 hour before serving.

George's Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

"Use whichever vinegar appeals to you: If using balsamic, cut the amount in half." 

1 1/4 cups virgin olive oil

3/4 cups vinegar

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a fork or a whisk to blend. Or place the ingredients in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until they're well blended.

Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to develop the flavor.

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There are four main kinds of lettuce to choose from: Butterhead (Bibb), Crisphead (Iceberg), Looseleaf (Cutting) and Romaine. 

Looseleaf

Looseleaf lettuce make colorful tender leaf salads in chartreuse, deep green and bronzy reds. 

Crisphead

Crisphead lettuce contain curved, overlapping leaves which form crispy, firm round heads. Inside, creamy white leaves are tightly packed. Deep green outer leaves are delicious too.

Romaine

Romaine lettuce contain elongated, thick leaves which are crisp and savory.

Butterhead

Butterhead lettuce is the largest and best-flavored group of lettuces. Tender leaf lettuces form a tightly folded head with delicate buttery flavor. Typically smaller heads than other types. 

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