Monday morning always brings me the blues, but not in the way you’d imagine. Monday is the day when Mathieu Palombino, chef/owner of New York City’s Motorino comes over to take blues guitar lessons from my fiancé, James. The two guys bang out riffs by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Memphis Slim for an hour or so, as James, the seasoned pro, explains the finer points of string-bending and soloing. After that it’s back to business as usual, but this week Mathieu called in a special order for us: Motorino’s new seasonal sensation, the ramp pizza.
Ramps, also known as “wild leeks,” or “spring onions,” are a fleeting spring treat that makes New York chefs rub their hands in delight—and gets them to the farmer’s market at the crack of dawn in order to buy up the whole supply before they sell out. They have slim white stalks that turn pink at the top and widen into green leaves. The whole vegetable is edible, with the bottom having a strong (bordering on rank) allium scent, while the green leaves are mild. These miniature leeks are the first harbinger of spring produce, and are prepared in both home and restaurant kitchens in diverse ways. Seasonal chefs are excited because, after a long winter, there’s finally something other than a root vegetable to work with.
Now, everyone in NYC knows Motorino makes great pizza. They’ve been recognized by The New York Times for serving “the city’s best pizza,” and named best pizza on the East Coast by Rachael Ray’s Everyday. But perhaps not everyone knows that they serve really interesting seasonal food as well. From a grilled artichoke side dish to beet salad to Brussels sprout pizza, I look forward to their changing menus, both at their Manhattan and Brooklyn locations (in fact, the latter is right down the street from our home).
The ramp pizza is a simple one, with marinara sauce, a little Pecorino, and the chopped ramps, which are added raw and then cooked to a tender consistency simply by the extreme heat of the pizza oven. The flavor of the ramps is set off against the mild sweetness of the tomato and the perfectly charred crust. Accompanied by a green salad, thinly sliced prosciutto, and Motorino’s new local beer offering Pork Slap (yes, someone in my home drank a beer at 2 pm on a weekday; it might have been the musician…) it made for a terrifically satisfying spring meal. (The Pugliese pizza with broccolini, sausage, Burrata cheese, thinly sliced garlic, and fresh chilies was great, too.) Now I can’t wait until Monday and our next seasonal surprise from Motorino. I won’t be singing the blues when the food arrives, I’ll tell you that.