Romance is an experience that is hard to define. If you asked me when I was 16, I would have no doubt said that it involved flowers, fancy dinners and jewelery (preferably platinum.) Much older, I have come to the conclusion that romance is complicated, tied to the moment, and, most importantly, ephemeral.
Spring is particularly romantic. After all, nature is in love at the time: the trees are in bloom, the robins are laying their egg. In Cleveland, after a winter cooped up with a toddler, the arrival of spring was particularly welcome. The spring market offered us so many lovely and welcome additions to our diet--nettles, pea shoots, morels and, of course, the wild spring leeks--ramps.
The Allium family is a sort of aphrodesiac--or more accurately they do promote comraderie and pairing. Only one person in a couple consuming garlic bread results in, well, no kissing. When both consume, anything is possible.
When our friend told us that we could forage for ramps on their wooded lot, we jumped at the chance. Like all good romantic experiences, the sweetness and enjoyment of the event snuck up on us.
My husband and I arrived at the lot just before sunset, bag and shovel in hand. The air was moist--it had rained this morning. On the way down to the river, as we passed the newly blooming primroses, we spoke. Nothing special, we just talked. When you spend so much time talking about work, bills, errands, babies, just talking is an incredibly romantic moment.
When we returned home with our ramps, the sun was just about gone. For my husband, Italian food is comforting and homey. The culinary prowess of his Nonna lives on-- a full decade after her death. The best of the Italian kitchen profits from the freshness and seasonality of the ingredients. Our ramps were in the ground only 1/2 hour before we cooked them.
Homemade gnocchi is one of my husband's favorite meals as it quick, filling, adaptable. Squash gnocchi with sage, potato gnocchi with tomato sauce, beet gnocchi with brown butter, ricotta gnocchi with zucchini blossom...well, you see the kind of wonderful cook that he is. For the ramps, the goal was something that didn't overpower these spring treats. We debated making a potato based gnocchi, as potatoes and ramps are a classic, but we went with ricotta, in order to achieve soft pillowy dumplings. The ramp gnocchi were delicious--light and fluffy. Sauteed ramp bulbs and bacon dressed our ramps.
We ate our dinner off one plate, snuggling on the couch. Ramps, spring, Italian food equals romance.
8 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese (that has been drained)
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped ramps
Once this mixture is combined add
¾ cup flour
Work gently until a dough is formed
Let rest, roll into long snakes and then cut into bite-sized pieces. You may roll it against a fork to get the characteristic indentations.
Boil until they come to the surface—watch not to over cook them.
Dress with bacon and sautéed ramp bulbs or if vegetarian with ramp bulbs and pecorino.