When I lived in New York, I lived only a few blocks away from the green market. As a transplant from California and homesick for the amazing produce, I reveled in the bounty of summer and fall, when the market was laden with seasonal fruits and vegetables. By winter, the market’s colors waned as the leaves in Central Park also disappeared. But as soon as the first glimmers of spring came, I saw stirrings of the glorious greens to come.
It was at the green market that I first discovered ramps. RAMPS! I’m not sure exactly how my obsession began, but from the first time I brought these somewhat pricey alliums home, I could not get enough of them. I made ramps with soft scrambled eggs, ramp pizza, ramp risotto, and ramp pesto. Perhaps my obsession stemmed from knowing that their arrival meant the coming of warmth back to the City and the Park, which would regain the beautiful lush green that I enjoyed on my runs.
Back in California, I brought home a bunch of chinese chives* the other day to make dumplings. With a large portion of the bunch remaining, I decided to pay homage to the versatility of this other member of the allium family. They are wonderful paired simply with softly scrambled eggs, but I chose to make a simple soup with chives and tofu, and stir-fried them to accompany pan-seared tofu. Chinese chives and tofu two ways. Not quite ramps, but still delicious and evocative of meals from my mother’s kitchen.
2/3 block of organic tofu (10-12 oz), sliced
4 tsp canola or safflower oil, divided use
3/4 lb chinese chives, cut into 3 inch segments (about 3-4 cups)
1 tsp red chili flakes (or to taste)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1.5 tsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbl oyster sauce
- Heat a well-seasoned wok over high heat
- Add 2 tsp canola oil, swirling to coat wok evenly, and heat until hot.
- Add chives and red pepper flakes and stir-fry, letting chives rest on bottom and sides of wok several seconds between stirs, until chives are tender and slightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Season with salt to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
- Wipe out wok and heat over medium-high heat.
- Add remaining 2 tsp canola oil and pan sear tofu slices on both sides until golden, about 3-5 minutes each side. Set aside.
- Add 1/2 tsp sesame oil and swirl to coat bottom of the pan. Add minced ginger and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in oyster sauce, turn off heat, and return tofu slices to the pan, turning gently to glaze.
- Top stir-fried chives with the pan-glazed tofu and serve immediately.
* Apparently, raw chinese chives have quite the pungent odor, unlike their cousins the ramps. It was their ‘fragrance’ that led J’s friend Bao, who is no stranger to the likes of fish sauce, kimchi, durian, and other pungent Asian foods and condiments, to comment on how my kitchen smelled like a ‘proper Asian home.’ If that is synonymous with “Asian supermarket,” I’m not sure that’s a good thing.