Lemon Rice with Ramps & Cashews
I give up.
Actually, I'm giving up for the second time: the first instance was supposed to have been the basis for a blog post - a post that simply refused to be written. After three weeks of trying to coax a reasonably interesting essay from a jumble of thoughts, all I have to show is a screenful of blah. So, I give up . . . again.
And it's the smartest thing I've done in a while.
I ditched an entire blog post with a few simple keystrokes, though the decision to do so was not as easy. Those now-deleted words represented a considerable investment of time and effort, which in hindsight might have gone toward reading a book, taking a walk or baking some cookies. Given these costs - what I put in and what I gave up - the idea of erasing all of my work seemed too hasty. It just needs a little more time, I thought, a bit more effort. After all, winners never quit . . .
Hmph! How many of us have been shackled to a lost cause, thanks to that bit of misguided motivation? More than enough, it seems, to warrant its own economic term: the Sunk Cost Fallacy. By its flawed logic, abandoning an endeavor wastes the precious resources already invested; therefore, the investment of even more resources is justified in order to make it all worthwhile. In reality (and rationality), a futile continuation only compounds those losses and the end result is often a big, fat zero. At its optimistic best, the sunk cost fallacy prods us to persevere at a difficult task; at worst, it traps us in a Sisyphean challenge.
Warning: Fruitless Effort Ahead
(photo credit: fouro)
Well, the boulder rolled back on me one too many times, so I finally left it where it lay and started over with a more reasonably sized rock. I may not be able to recoup the hours spent on the discarded project, but at least I can direct the rest of my time toward more enjoyable and satisfactory activities.
Oh, wait! I almost forgot: Would you like to know what it was that I first gave up on - or rather, gave in to - and started it all?
Jumping on the Rampwagon
When it comes to trends and fads - say, skinny jeans or the latest iThingie - I am usually standing on the curb as the bandwagon zooms by. Frugality and a rather contrarian nature keep me from impulsively latching onto a current craze, but they can't entirely suppress the instinct to follow the herd.
In a process known as an informational cascade, the adoption of an idea (or product) by a community spreads as each individual sees others before them taking it up:
"[P]eople form their beliefs using information obtained by observing the behavior or opinions of others . . . 'It is optimal for an individual, having observed the actions of others ahead of him, to follow the behavior of the preceding individuals without regard to his own information.'"
Finally, I'll leave you with one more iteration - Ramps, Cottage Bacon and Herbed Goat Cheese Pizza!
According to the article above, such behavior has economic advantages by saving us the time and energy of gathering information ourselves, and the risk of making potentially bad decisions based on that information. Instead, we can watch others, such as role models and peers, for the results of their actions. When it comes to fads and the food blogosphere, this is quite easy to do.
Take for example the springtime phenomena known as ramps. I might have remained in blissful ignorance of this elusive wild leek, if not for the flurry of recipes, tweets and sundry news articles that sprouted early in the season. And I might have been unaffected by the frenzy if I hadn't seen respected friends and admired bloggers among the enthusiasts. Honestly, it felt rather lonely reading rapturous accounts of cooking with ramps and not being able to say "Me, too!" So, in spite of my general aversion to crowded spaces, I finally gave in to the fad and bought myself a bunch of those wild and crazy greens.
It turns out that in giving in and giving up, I had a lot to gain.
Lemon Rice with Ramps and Cashews
(Adapted from a recipe by my friend Nitya I.)
Depending on the source, ramps are to be lauded ("The New Arugula!" declares Time Magazine) or lampooned ("Stop talking about ramps!" implores Shut Up Foodies). Either way, at least now I can say I've tried them. While I'm embarrassed to admit that I searched for ramp recipes - it's an onion, Noodle-head! - at least it gave me an idea of how they are most often prepared, which is pretty much any way you darn well please.
For my bunch, I chose this sunny side dish of Lemon Rice, made by Nitya I., a friend and former neighbor. The original recipe called for asafoetida, a pungent flavoring made from the resin of giant fennel and ubiquitous in Indian cookery; when cooked, its aroma is reminiscent of garlic and onions. Sound familiar? I had no asafoetida on hand, but I had plenty of ramps . . .
1 cup Basmati rice, uncooked (will yield 3 cups cooked)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsps raw cashews, coarsely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup chopped ramps, leaves and bulbs
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 Tbsps fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
Fresh cilantro, chopped
2. In a sauté or frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp ghee over medium heat and add mustard seeds. Cook until seeds start to 'splutter' (i.e. they start popping up - watch your eyes!);
3. Add cashews, red pepper flakes and turmeric powder, and cook until nuts turn golden brown;
4. Add ramps and garlic, and sauté until greens are wilted, then turn off heat;
5. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and salt;
6. In a large bowl, add 1 tsp ghee to warm cooked rice, then add sautéed seasonings and lemon juice mixture. Stir well to combine.
7. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with grilled meats, such as lamb.
As mentioned, I was persuaded to join in the 'rampage' after seeing the marvelous dishes created by some of my favorite food bloggers. Ramps are nearing the end of their season, but there may still be some available at specialty grocers and local farmers' markets. So, check out these great recipes, then head out and forage some wild leeks of your own!
- Kat of A Good Appetite offers Wild Things Pasta with ramps and wild morel mushrooms, and a rustic Ramp and Potato Tart.
- Aiofe of The Daily Spud shows how it's done across the pond with a Wild Garlic Pesto - a close relation to ramps.
- Phyllis of me_Hungry has a great primer on how to prepare these greens in Ramps 101.
Pizza, Before the Oven