In the 100 Reasons I Love Living in Romania series that I started at number 58 a few months ago, I talked about the piata and the pleasure of eating real fruit and vegetables - a luxury that is now almost non-existent in North America thanks to supermarkets and seed providers like Monsanto. This Top 100 wouldn't be complete without a post on a very important discovery made at the piata: Leurda, the Romanian word for Ramson, or, Allium Ursinum.
Basically it's garlic.
And who doesn't like Garlic? Vampires, that's who.
The rest of us should forever be grateful that garlic exists and that it make any dish taste better. It's like the bacon of non-meat ingredients. But common garlic is by no means practical; crushing it, peeling the skin, adding it to cooked dishes, and having to wash your fingertips really well after doing all that it make it a chore-like ingredient to deal with. It's worth it, but it's a chore.
Not so with Ramson(s). Like any leafy green, you just wash it and use it, pretty much however you like. Though it tastes of garlic, the flavour is rather more aromatic and less pungent than its bulbous cousin. It's perfectly acceptable to add it raw to salads, or to use it as garnish, as with chives. But I'm going to give you the best recipe for a ramsons salad -my own creation.
At the piata, leurda is sold in generous bunches at 2 lei per bunch. If you were to use it all up in one dish, you'd be scaring vampires away for days, especially if consumed raw. When you cook it, it's a whole other matter.
Here's my recipe for Sauteed Ramson and Tomato Salad with Quail Eggs, Feta & Radish (serves two as a side salad, one if that's your dinner). You can be pretty liberal in your interpretation as long as you keep to proportions.
- Cut some feta into cubes. Greek salad portions, according to your taste.
- Chop two or three red radishes into rounds
- Prepare 6 quail eggs: boil for 10 minutes, peel and cut lengthwise in half
- In a hot pan (wok is good), add a fistful of ramsons along with several cherry tomatoes.
- You will see the the ramsons quickly shrinking in the heat as the tomatoes begin to sear
- Add salt, pepper, olive oil and give it all a quick toss - this is fun, but don't get carried away
- Once the tomatoes' skin begins to split and the ramsons have become bright green, algae-like strings, this part is done (about a minute).
Add everything to a salad bowl, sprinkle with olive oil and fruity balsamic vinegar (pear or apple is fine), add salt and pepper to taste, and you're done.
You will notice the following.
Sauteed ramsons taste a bit like baby bok choy with garlic. The combination of ramson, tomato and feta, is predictably delicious while the quail egg and radish add great contrast with their respectively soft and crunchy textures. The fruit-infused balsamic vinegar serves as the great unifier, bringing harmony to the ingredients and creating a well balanced dish.