Springtime Polenta
Adapted from www.mynewroots.org.
Snap up ramps when you see them—they make a very short appearance!

  • 4 c. water (plus up to 2 more cups if needed)
  • 1 c. polenta
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 small onions, finely minced
  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed, sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 c. peas
  • 1 bunch ramps, trimmed
  • 1 lemon, sliced in half
  • 1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano
  • olive oil
  • salt

Directions: Heat the water and a large pinch of salt in a large pot over high until simmering. While whisking, slowly pour the polenta into the simmering water. Continue to whisk for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Cook uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, whisking every 4-5 minutes, until no longer gritty and the consistency is smooth and creamy. If the polenta turns too thick, whisk in more water.    Stir in the grated Pecorino.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté about 10 minutes, until golden. Stir in the peas and asparagus, and sauté until just barely cooked, 2-3 minutes. If needed, add a tablespoon or 2 of water if the pan starts to dry out. Add the ramps, and toss to combine. Remove from heat as soon as the ramps are wilted, just 30 seconds or 1 minute. Squeeze half of the lemon on top, and season to taste with salt.

Scoop a spoonful of polenta onto each plate and top with the vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a wedge of lemon. Makes 4 servings.

Star Recommends: Tiamo Prosecco Organic
Fresh and rich fruity aromas of apple and pear with a hint of citrus fruit that fade into the floral bouquet. Fresh and fruity with fine bubbles.


Strawberries in Wine with Mascarpone Cream
Adapted from www.mimithorisson.com.
Strawberries macerated in red wine make a decidedly grown-up dessert. The recipe requires minimal effort—just make the mascarpone cream shortly before you’d like to serve it.

  • 1 lb. strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. mascarpone
  • 2 vanilla beans, slit in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out
  • 3 Tbs. powdered sugar, sifted

Directions: Depending on their size, halve or quarter the strawberries and place in a large bowl. Pour the wine over the strawberries, then sprinkle with sugar. Fold to combine. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours.

Combine the cream, mascarpone, vanilla seeds, and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until stiff, about 5 minutes. Spoon a generous amount of mascarpone cream in dessert bowls, then top with strawberries and wine sauce. Enjoy! Serves 6.

Star Recommends: Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d’ Asti
Pale sunshine yellow color and slight frizzante, this Moscato d’Asti has intense aromas of peaches, rose petals and ginger. On the palate it is delicately sweet and sparkling with modest acidity, good balance, good acidity complexity and a finish of fresh apricots.


Strawberry Sunrise Smoothie
Adapted from www.mynewroots.org.
This delicious smoothie is an excellent way to start the day. This recipe also makes incredible popsicles! Double or triple the recipe, pour into molds, and freeze.

  • 15 raw almonds, soaked overnight in water, drained
  • 1 c. water (or coconut water or orange juice)
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1 c. strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled, broken into chunks
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Directions: Place the almonds in a blender and blend for 15 seconds to finely chop. Add the water, coconut water, or juice, and scrape down the sides of the blender. Add the dates and blend for 1 minute. Add the strawberries, banana, and lemon juice, if using, and process until smooth and creamy, 1-2 more minutes. Pour into a glass and enjoy! Makes 1 serving.

Star Recommends: Zardetto Prosecco
The NV Prosecco Brut is a richer, creamier wine than the Brut Cuvee Private. Here the fruit tends towards ripe yellow peaches, with flowers, spices and minerals that add complexity. The finish is long, generous and nicely balanced.


Splayed Roast Chicken with Caramelized Ramps, Garlic, and Capers
Adapted from The New York Times.

  • 4 1/2 lb. whole chicken, patted dry
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bunch ramps, trimmed, outer layer removed
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 Tbs. capers

Directions: Rub the chicken inside and out with the salt and pepper. Set aside (at room temperature is fine). Place a large cast iron or other heavy, oven-safe skillet in the oven, and set to 500˚F. Allow to sit in the hot oven for 45 minutes. Cut the ramps crosswise where the leaves and bulbs meet, then rinse both. Tear the leaves into large pieces. Slice any bulbs thicker than a pencil in half lengthwise.

Transfer the chicken to a large cutting board. Use a knife to slice through the skin that connects the legs to the body. Splay the thighs open until you feel the joint on each side pop. Put half of the lemon inside the chicken. Set the chicken breast-side up in the hot skillet. Press the legs down so they lie flat on the bottom of the skillet. Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken, then roast. After 30 minutes, arrange the ramp bulbs, garlic, and capers around the chicken, and gently toss with the pan juices. Cook 5-15 minutes more, until the chicken is no longer pink, and the ramps are tender.

Remove the skillet from the oven, and toss the ramp leaves in the pan just until wilted. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken with the ramps, garlic, capers, and pan juices, and, if you like, the remaining lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Star Recommends: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages
Strong red purple color. Fresh red fruits on the nose with a hint of dark cherry. Slightly spicy with a touch of grey pepper, licorice and a touch of rose flower. The whole wine is very well balanced with a nice acidity and the tannins present on the finish.


Pickled Ramps
Adapted from www.chow.com.
Ramps are also known as wild leeks, and are similar to onion and garlic smashed together. These quick refrigerator pickles intensify their crunch, sharp bite, and pungent flavor, so only eat them with people who will still love you with terrible breath.

  •  1 lb. ramps, trimmed and washed
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

Directions: If the ramps have wilted or dried out leaves, slice them off 1/4 inch above where the stem turns white. If the ramps are very fresh and tender, leave the leaves on. Trim the roots, peel off the outermost layers, and rinse the ramps well, removing any silt or dirt hidden in between the layer. Set the ramps in a large non-reactive bowl.

Combine the sugar, rice wine vinegar, water, salt, peppercorns, sesame seeds, crushed red pepper, and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Pour the hot brining liquid over the ramps. Let sit until the mixture cools to room temperature. When cool, transfer to a non-reactive container and tightly cover. Refrigerate about 12 hours before enjoying. These will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Star Recommends: Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel—Aroma of black cherry, raspberry, dried herbs, spice and even a bit of smoked meat. When tasting don’t judge this wine too hastily as it needs a good amount of air to show its best. After some time to breathe you’ll find a smooth and a bit brambly wine full of black cherry and black raspberry fruit plus some lovely spice notes.


Sesame-Ginger Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry
Adapted from www.bonappetit.com.
For a quick dinner, try this homemade version of a classic Chinese dish.

  • 1 lb. lean top sirloin, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 lb. thin asparagus spears, trimmed, sliced diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, trimmed, sliced diagonally into 1 1/2-pieces
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar

Directions: Place the beef in a large bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch. Use your hands to coat beef in the cornstarch.

Heat 2 Tbs. of the peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook the beef in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches, depending on how large your skillet is), undisturbed, about 1 1/2 minutes, until the meat starts to blacken on the bottom. Flip over and do the same to the second side. Transfer to a large dish.

Lower the heat to medium-high, and add the last 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and the sesame oil to the skillet. Add the asparagus, green onions, and ginger, and sauté until lightly browned and crisp-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Pout the broth into the skillet and stir in the fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil. Return the beef to the skillet and cook about 1 minute, until beef is heated through and the sauce thickens. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Star Recommends: Foris Pinot Gris
This wine shows fresh apple and quince notes on both the nose and palate. A hint of baking spices adds complexity while a seam of minerality leads to a long clean finish.


Ramps in Shallot Butter over Toast
Adapted from www.notderbypie.com.
Sautéing ramps with shallots in butter is a great treatment for these yummy harbingers of spring.

  • 2 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of ramps, trimmed but not sliced
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 baguette, sliced in half lengthwise

Directions: Melt a tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until soft and lightly golden. Add the second tablespoon of butter and the ramps. Sauté until stalks are soft, 1-2 minutes.

Toast the baguette and top with the sautéed shallots and ramps. Serve while still warm. Serves 2.

Star Recommends: Leese-Fitch California Zinfandel
A delicious Zin that offers aromas and flavors of plum, Indian spices, and blue fruits. This blend is assembled from two vineyards in Lodi, California and one from Paso Robles—each offering different attributes to the final wine. The Lodi grapes deliver ripe fruit and wonderful aromatics, while Paso Robles brings fleshy raspberry, earthy notes, and structure to the blend.


Ham and Asparagus Strata
Adapted from www.mykitchenaddiction.com.
This breakfast casserole filled with ham and asparagus is easy to make, but looks elegant, and would be great for a weekend brunch.

  • 7 eggs
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 heaping Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 c. cubed bread, preferably day-old and dried out
  • 6 oz. diced ham
  • 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 c. shredded white cheddar cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch casserole, and set aside. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk. Whisk in the milk and Dijon mustard, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the bread in the casserole dish, then layer the ham over the bread. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and ham, then allow to rest for 10 minutes. Line the asparagus spears on top of the strata, then sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the eggs are set. Serves 4-6.

Star Recommends: Grooner Gruner Veltliner
Faint meadow grass herbals on the nose become more prominent on the palate. The wine may tingle on the tongue at first. There’s a touch of chalk, which underlines an almost watery first impression, but the wine soon opens up, and the palate and finish expand.


Strawberry Jam with Black Pepper and Fresh Mint
Adapted from Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber.
Black pepper and fresh mint pair with strawberries for a delicious, uncommon jam. The strawberries do need to macerate for a couple of days in the refrigerator, so plan ahead.

  • 2 1/2 lbs. strawberries, rinsed under cool water, patted dry, hulled
  • 3 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns, coarsely ground in a mortar and pestle

Directions: Place the strawberries in a ceramic bowl, then toss with the lemon juice and sugar. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and let macerate overnight in the refrigerator. Then next day, pour the strawberry mixture into a non-reactive stockpot (copper is ideal for jam-making). Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Pour it back into the ceramic bowl, cover with parchment again, and refrigerate overnight. The third day, set a mesh sieve over the stockpot. Pour the strawberry mixture into the sieve and bring to a boil over high heat. (Reserve the contents of the sieve and set aside.) Skim any foam from the top of the syrup, and continue cooking over high heat until the temperature reaches 220˚F. Add the strawberries from the sieve, and stir in the fresh mint and black pepper. Return to a boil, skim again, lower the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Use a small ladle and a funnel to pour the jam into sterilized jars (see note). Fill right up to the top. Seal with sterilized lids while the jam is hot, then turn the jars upside down and wipe them off with a clean, damp towel. Allow to cool before labeling, and store in a cool, dark place. Makes 5 half-pints.

Notes: The strawberries need to macerate a couple of nights in the refrigerator, so plan ahead! To sterilize jars, submerge them right-side-up in boiling water for 10 minutes. For more tips on safe home canning, see: http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/home_canning.html.

Star Recommends: Fonseca Bin 27 Port
Big and ripe, with notes of blackberries, black currants, black cherries, pencil lead, cigar tobacco, and spice. This was smooth, warm, and expressive.