An insightful essay by food-and-wine mavens Diane Darrow and Tom Maresca on the evolution of Italian-American cuisine brought me back to growing up in Brooklyn with a family that had survived the Great Depression. Although my parents and aunt were better off than most, having been gainfully employed and comfortably housed, during that dismal era, they nonetheless were deeply affected by it. My mother especially, who frequently recounted woeful stories of having witnessed people on breadlines in her youth, was extremely frugal, despite being the wife of a successful attorney. Moreover, as a family, our weekly dinner menus closely reflected the Depression-Era pattern described in Darrow and Maresca’s essay:
“Pasta three days a week was common; soups and frittate (Italian-style omelets, usually with vegetables or cheese sufficed for two or three other days. Monday, in almost every household, was soup night. Sunday was sacred to un buon’ pranzo. . . antipasto or soup, or at least a broth, followed first by a pasta course, then by a roast meat, most often a chicken. Dessert in the time-honored form of fresh fruit usually concluded the meal.”
I didn’t know what we were going to have for dinner last night until I walked through one of New York City’s premier farmers market in Union Square. As we walked from stand to stand, each with inviting displays of produce, I started to think of a lot of possibilities. But mid-way through the market, I saw a sign touting “the last ramps of spring.”
Ramps are an early springtime vegetable and are a type of wild leek. They have a garlic-like aroma but a rich onion flavor. They’re available for only a brief period in early spring and have become quite popular in restaurants specializing in seasonal cuisine.
I wanted a dish that would highlight their character and at first thought of a simple sauté served over spaghetti. But as we had had pasta the night before, I kept searching for a recipe. It wasn’t long before I found it: Puffy Ramp Frittata.
This is essentially a soufflé omelet, where egg whites are stirred into eggs beaten with the sautéed ramps. It’s started on top of the stove to set the eggs and finished under the broiler where the the whites help the omelet rise.
Served with a salad, some Italian flat bread, and a dry rosé from Provence, it was a perfect meal for a spring evening. Here’s a link to the recipe I used on Serious Eats.