I guess when the recipes are all written, the essays polished and placed, and all the photos (but for a couple) taken, and my editor tells me I'm off her hook for a few weeks, until there are laid-out pages to proof, that my work is pretty well finished. It's just that, as it all came together in bits and pieces, with mucho editing, rewriting, swapping recipes in and out, it's hard to feel that it's really done. I'll feel differently when I see those page proofs, for sure.
For now, I'm not going to think about it. I've got new laces in my wading boots, my line is dressed--even washed my vest, haven't done that in years! Tomorrow I'm heading out down U.S. Highway 52 to the Whitewater, to wet a line for the first time this year. Gone fishin'.
Before I go, a recipe: From a Wisconsin woods I was able to gather a sack of ramps this week, and for dinner last night I prepared this pasta dish, a wild and smoky carbonara:
Cut a thick slice of bacon into 1/2-inch pieces. Take a good fistful of ramps, separate the green tops from the bulb and stem sections; slice the greens thin, chop the rest. Sweat off the bacon in a big skillet, and as it's starting to brown, add the chopped ramp bulbs. Cook those until they're a bit brown, and turn off the heat.
Meanwhile you're cooking some pasta--we used thin spaghetti--five or six ounces serves two at our house.
In a small bowl combine an egg with 1/3 cup of cream and mix well. You also need some grating cheese--Wisconsin asiago for us, about a half cup grated. And then just salt and pepper, a good pinch of espelette or cayenne pepper.
When the pasta is done save about 3/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta and cooking water to the skillet and turn the heat on to medium. Add the egg-cream mixture to the pasta, tossing with tongs to thoroughly distribute it--also mixing in the bacon and ramps still in the skillet. Add half the cheese, and the ramp greens, a few grinds of black pepper, couple pinches of salt, and the espelette or cayenne. Serve it out and bring the rest of the cheese to the table to add to taste.
The aromas of this were amazing, especially as these were the first ramps of the season. Those wild alliums have gotten caught up in a lot of retro-culinary hoopla and trendy cheffiness in the last few years--you'd think they were as rare and precious as saffron or truffles. They're not, but they're maybe just as good; for a few weeks in the spring, it's worth eating your fill.