Despite the slow spring, Madison's farmers' markets are roaring. Ramps, or wild leeks, are still the highlight this week, their delicate flavor perfect in any recipe calling for onions or garlic.
Duck eggs have made a triumphant and long-awaited return to the Eastside Farmers' Market, courtesy of Nami Moon Farms in Custer, Wis. Their higher fat content makes them ideal for baking, or for a rich breakfast.
A new item this month is Proprietor's Reserve from Bleu Mont Dairy. "It's like our Bandaged Cheddar aged an additional year in a drier environment," says cheesemaker Willi Lehner. "Think of it as a Grana Padano."
The Reserve is a bit crumbly with an intense nutty flavor, and is a salty foil for treats like morels, fiddleheads, asparagus and pea shoots.
Savory versions of panna cotta, the Italian cream and gelatin dessert, have been a trending item at restaurants. Flour + Water in San Francisco recently made a pea leaf rendition served with huckleberry jam. Why not employ cheese?
Food blogger Patrice Johnson has an easy-to-follow base recipe (see below). Use Bleu Mont's Proprietor's Reserve, and the reward will be a stunning do-ahead dish that provides the perfect backdrop for all of spring's delicate greens.
Pair a salad and the panna cotta - and welcome the warmer weather- with bright, acidic wines that are lively and refreshing.
The Lustig Grüner Veltliner 2011 is an entire liter of enjoyable wine (lustig means "funny" in German). This is a crisp easy-drinker with citrus and green apple notes that even plays nice with that notoriously difficult pairing vegetable, asparagus. At $11, it is a smart summer quaffer.
Edelzwicker translates as noble (edel) blend (zwicker). An Alsatian wine concocted from multiple varietals, it is dry but fruity. This is light-bodied, easy-to-love salad wine. But it also works with charcuterie.
The Meyer-Fonné Edelzwicker 2011 from importer Kermit Lynch is an agile everyday bottle for $20. There is an elegance to it that isn't common at this price point, and it screams picnic or low-key gathering in the backyard. It also likes Proprietor's Reserve by a certain Swiss cheesemaker now available at the Dane County Farmers' Market.
Parmesan Panna Cotta
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 3/4 cup shredded Bleu Mont Proprietor's Reserve
- 1 envelope gelatin
- Fresh ground nutmeg and black pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring half-and-half to simmer; stir in cheese. Remove from heat, add gelatin, and whisk until smooth. Season with nutmeg and pepper. Push mixture through a wire mesh strainer and into buttered ramekins. Chill 4 hours.
Panna cotta can be served right from the ramekins. You can also unmold it by dipping the ramekin in hot water for 30 seconds before running a butter knife around the edges. Turn out onto serving plate and garnish. (Adapted from Called to the Table by Patrice Johnson.)