These little fritters are the quintessential summer appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Adults love them, kids love them, even picky eaters love them. They’re as addictive as they are easy to prepare. The basil leaves become crispy as they fry, while the lemon zest adds a bit of zing to the batter.
Asparagus might be available in supermarkets all year long, but they are never as sweet and delicious as when you buy them from your local farmer or pick them from your own garden.
Here in the northeastern United States, this year’s crop has been particularly good due to the superb spring weather we’ve been having. The result: tender stems with high sugar content and loads of flavor.
So for the last several weeks, asparagus has been a main ingredient for many of my recipes: delicate soups, crunchy salads, melt-in-your-mouth tarts, creamy risottos and buttery pasta sauces.
No matter how fanciful the recipes they inspire might get, I adore the simple technique of roasting asparagus with a little olive oil and salt. The tips get browned and intensely flavorful while the stems remain crunchy. (Take a peek at this video for a demonstration of the roasting technique and for another great recipe.)
The first time I laid eyes on these colorful wild leeks was in Vermont in the late 1980s. I had just moved there and was getting acquainted with local farmers and discovering local foods. I must say it was love at first sight.
Since then ramps season can never come soon enough for me — and I make sure they are on the menu every week until they vanish.
Now that I live near New York, I have to make a weekly pilgrimage to the Union Square Greenmarket to find my precious ramps. Fortunately, as they become more popular more farmers are growing them. So this year several stalls at the Greenmarket are packed high with perky bunches of ramps.
Although they look dainty, ramps are in fact quite pungent, so a little goes a long way no matter what dish they end up in. My favorite way to cook ramps is to sauté them briefly in a little butter and olive oil until they wilt. Then I toss them with handmade ravioli, add them to soups or risottos, or serve them alongside poached eggs.
Come winter, I start craving fresh, crunchy textures. Root vegetables, squashes and leafy greens have been on the menu for a while now and my palate yearns for something new.
The first time I tasted quinoa was in the mid-1980′s. I’d just moved to Vermont and was discovering all kinds of new foods. It was a thrill.
I remember eagerly looking for recipes for it, but in those pre-Google times, the only thing I had to go on were the directions on the package.
So I started experimenting on my own. Before long, quinoa was a favorite in our household; it was on the menu at least once a week, in one form or another.
For me, the most seductive thing about quinoa is its texture — it is so refined! And although I often serve it in place of rice, I also love creating more sophisticated recipes for it.
That’s how I came up with today’s dish. I wanted to make an elegant appetizer, something I could serve at dinner parties — something that would highlight this little seed’s delicate shape and subtle flavor.