My dislike of onions has existed for as long as I can remember. My mother swears I used to eat them when I was very young, but I have no recollection of this. On occasion, she would accidentally add a bunch of onions to something before separating out an untainted portion for me, then try to pass it off as onion-free in the hopes that I wouldn’t notice. That never worked. I could spot them in food from 10 feet away. I could smell them from even farther. I’d smush my dinner all around the plate, pick out every onion I could find, then still refuse to eat it, igniting a dinner table standoff: Carey: Hater of Onions vs. Parents: Lords of After-Dinner TV Privileges. Even today, finding them in my food ignites a childish, fussy frustration within me. If I order a dish sans onions at a restaurant and the waiter asks if I have an allergy, my go-to response is, “I’m mentally allergic to them.” This is usually met with a somewhat bemused look, but it keeps them out of my food.
Then a year or so ago, J and I were having dinner at a local restaurant, and I ordered an entrée that came with these strange little soft-as-butter bulbs around the edge of the dish. I ate one and promptly declared it one of the most delicious things I’d ever tasted. J tried one, gave me a somewhat baffled look, then said, “Carey, that tastes just like an onion.” I paused, contemplating my next move. I decided that screaming “LIAR!” and demanding he retract his statement while I threatened him with a butter knife was not the best course of action in the middle of a crowded restaurant (though that was my first instinct). So instead, I took another bite. And wouldn’t you know it, they were still delicious. And in that moment, I found a glimmer of hope. Hope that I might actually be able to overcome my longest-standing, most-neurotic food phobia. In a world where people seem to love to define themselves by what they don’t eat, I take a somewhat-fierce pride in being an ex-vegetarian that no longer imposes labels or restrictions on herself. Instead of constantly passing up things or fearing that I’ll have a meal ruined by some sort of hidden meat product simply because I don’t eat that, I’ve learned to understand the benefits and drawbacks of the various things I eat. I’ve paid attention to the effects that different foods have on my body, and I eat what makes me feel good. And on the whole, that’s still what would qualify as a mostly-vegetarian diet. But sometimes it’s a bloody steak. Or an ungodly amount of chocolate. Point is, if I can overcome all of that, I should be able to get past this darn onion phobia too! If I could make that happen, it would kind of be like reaching Food Nirvana.
Sadly, I haven’t made too much progress on the onion front. One occasion of note, however, occurred at my favorite restaurant in town, when I asked if the risotto dish had onions in it. One of the chefs was nearby, and I (being somewhat sneaky) assumed that he’d say yes but offer to leave them out. Instead, he looked me square in the eye and said, “yes, but I’ll make them so small you won’t even notice them.” I, momentarily taken aback, had a brief staring contest with him (that was probably entirely in my head), then responded, “OK, yeah, do it.” And it was delicious. I could see the tiny little bits of onions, and I didn’t even care. So I guess that is progress. And clearly, I still love those weird little onion-like ramps. I don’t understand why they’re so amazing, but they are.
Asparagus & Caramelized Ramp Hand Pies
yield: approximately 18 pies
- 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 2 oz. parmesan (around 3/4 of a cup), grated
- ½ cup of ice water
- 1 small bunch of asparagus
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 small bunch of ramps
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups of ricotta (I can’t quite remember how much I used, so start with 1 cup and adjust as needed)
- 3/4 cup of parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp of water (for the wash)
To make the dough:
Combine flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add butter and pulse until crumbly, then pulse in cheese. Add the ice water a little bit at a time, pulsing in between, until dough comes together. Turn out dough and gather it together, then divide into two pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
To roast the asparagus:
Preheat oven to 450°. Snap off unripe ends of asparagus, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a pan with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes, or until asparagus has some slight browning.
To caramelize the ramps:
Wash and trim off roots. Cut off bulbs, then roughly chop greens and set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add ramp bulbs, then stir to coat and cook over medium heat for around 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, then continue to cook bulbs, stirring occasionally, until they’ve softened a begun to brown — around 8 minutes. Add sugar and stir until everything begins to caramelize — around 2 minutes. Add in greens and stir for approximately 1 minute. Cover pan and turn off heat. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until greens have wilted.
To make the pies:
Preheat the oven to 375° and remove dough from the fridge.
Combine the asparagus, ramps, and all of the remaining filling ingredients (except for the egg wash) together in a bowl.
Roll out both dough rounds into a large rectangles, approximately 11 x 14 inches each and 1/8″ thick. Place heaping tablespoons of filling across one rectangle, top with the other, then cut into 3 x 3 squares. Press edges of pies together with a fork to seal, trim off any excess on the ends, then combine with the rest of the dough trimmings and re-roll out into a 1/8″-thick rectangle. (Refrigerate before re-rolling if dough feels too soft.) Spoon out the remaining filling across half of the dough, cut other half and place on top, and repeat the sealing/trimming process.
Place pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Brush egg wash on each pie, then score with a sharp knife. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the edges of the pies begin to brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.