This morning was my college town’s first Farmer’s market of the season, and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day to peruse fresh produce and chat up the locals. The baby leaves on the trees are still a vibrant, effervescent green, and all the flowering trees are almost drooping with fresh blooms.
I didn’t realize how much I missed walking through the market until I was surrounded by the youngest and hardiest spring vegetables, all calling out to me and pulling my vegetation-inclined heartstrings. I can be dangerous at an open market if I have too much money, so I limited myself to $25 knowing I’d be back on Tuesday. Ramps (wild leeks), fresh green onions, and pea sprouts all made appearances, though the asparagus was clearly the star, sitting bundled and tender on every table.
One of my favorite things about the Farmer’s Market is asking producers how they like to cook their own merchandise, because their suggestions are simple, stay true to the unique flavor of the product, and really let fresh ingredients shine. When I picked up a bunch of green onions I was advised to try them in a pesto, which I most certainly will. I’m thinking combined with wild ramps, garlic, walnuts, and olive oil, it would make an excellent rub for the chicken I bought two tables over.
Alas, today I lingered over seedlings and packages of home-smoked bacon a little too long, so lunch had to be quick and easy. But it needed to be a spring meal, so I turned to one of my favorite single-person dishes: Faux fried rice.
Fried rice is an infinitely comforting dish to me. If I was to have an origin dish, it would be my mother’s fried rice, resplendent with onions and eggs and pork and peas, stir fried to perfection in her old wok. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve sat at our wooden kitchen table with a deep bowl of fried rice in front of me. It’s known, it’s home, it’s family. So I guess it’s actually pretty horrendous I make a faux version of it.
Yes, yes. I’m a bad Asian. If I was a good one I’d use day old rice and a wok and lots of ginger. Cry me a river, build a dam, establish rice fields, and make your own. What I had after this morning’s excursion was ramps and asparagus and green onions, so I decided to make a spring inspired rice dish to go along with my leftover lamb and steamed broccoli.
To be honest, this recipe is kind of fussy and has lots of ingredients, but the result is seriously like putting virgin spring-time in your mouth. It’s also very hard to mess up mixing garlic and onion-y vegetables with rice, so this could easily be scaled up. Heck, just chop some veggies, sautee them until fragrant, and dump them in a bowl of rice. That’s the whole idea.
Spring Green (Faux) Fried Rice
2/3 cup of water or vegetable stock ( I used some previosuly made Leek top stock)
1/3 cup white rice
6 wild ramps, cleaned
4 asparagus spears, diced
4 small green onions, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp butter, 1 tsp olive oil
Heat your water/stock until boiling, then add your rice, a pinch of salt, and a pat of butter. Cover and lower the heat to a very gentle simmer. In 15-20 minutes the rice should be done (you could also use pre-cooked rice, I just don’t plan ahead particularly well).
Clean and cut your vegetables. Separate into two piles: one of the garlic, asparagus, and bottoms of the green onions and ramps, one of the ramp and green onion tops.
Heat a pan (I would suggest a cast iron skillet) on moderate heat, and when hot, add your butter and oil. Toss in your first pile with a sprinkle of salt and let them get fragrant, stirring occasionally. After two minutes or so, add your greens, and let them cook until wilted down. A splash of water or stock will help speed this process and keep the vegetables from burning.
At this point my rice has just about finished, so I spoon the veggies and rice into a bowl and mix them together. In the still warm cast iron, I very quickly scrambled an egg and then cut it into the rice. Voila! Faux fried rice!
It’s warm and fresh and garlicky, but the best part are the silky ramp and onion greens. They’re slippery on your fork, but they melt in your mouth. Mixed with a bite of fresh egg, it’s like letting the sweet, nectar-laden air of early spring straight into your heart – or perhaps your stomach.