Cooking Inspiration + Spring Risotto with Ramps and Pan-Seared Scallops

People always ask me how I learned how to cook, and I have found that I don't really have an easy answer. Sure, I watched my mom and my grandma cook, enjoyed programs on the Food Network, and followed some recipes here and there, but that's not really how I learned.

For me, the pairing of flavors, choices of textures, and addition of spices is innate. I'd like to say once you start cooking, you'll have it all figured out, but I can't say that for everyone. But what I can say is that you'll start to learn, and if you're like me, you'll start to take inspiration from recipes. While I am not too fond of following recipes ingredient by ingredient, or by exact amount, I do love to get inspiration from other people's creations, and this comes from reading, watching, and experimenting (and also eating).

While it's easier for me to make dishes on my own now, there was a time when I wasn't so confident and needed some guidance. So I thought it would be a nice idea for me to share my favorite food sites to give you all a taste of what inspires me and what hopefully will inspire you.

Food Sites:
  • Food Gawker- Great for healthy and non-healthy food alike. I like to click the healthy tag, but I also like to type in an ingredient I have and browse all the recipes that include it. The site also redirects you to the blog the recipe originated from, so it's great for discovering new blogs. 
  • Pinterest- Love scrolling through the food section here. Just repin or click like to save!
  • Health Magazine- One of my favorite magazines, with great healthy tidbits and recipes.
Feel free to comment some of your favorites! I'd love to hear.

Today I've also included a dish featuring some in-season, spring produce, featuring ramps! For those of you who don't know, ramps are part of the onion and leek family, and they have a flavor similar to garlic. Restaurants on the East Coast go crazy for them when ramp season rolls around, and the demand is high as they are only available in the spring. On my way home through the Union Square Greenmarket a few days ago,  I grabbed some while they were still available, and thank goodness I did because they don't disappoint!

 Spring Risotto with Ramps and Pan-Seared Scallops

1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
3-4 small stalks of asparagus
3-4 white button mushrooms
4-5 ramps
1/4-1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic
3 scallops
Splash of olive oil
1/2 lemon
Parmesan cheese

1. Start cooking the barley in a small pot. Follow instructions on the package, but in general use 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of barley. Boil, and then simmer for around 40 minutes.

2. Chop your vegetables. Trim the end of the ramps, but leave the rest intact. Finely chop the garlic. 

3. In a pan, heat up some olive oil and sauté vegetables and garlic, but not the ramps. When finished, add to the barley, which should be almost cooked.

4. Sauté the ramps for 2 minutes.

5. At this point the risotto should be close to done. I set my ramps on the plate because they were done before, but when barley mix is cooked, top with the ramps. 

6. Heat up a tiny bit more of olive oil for the scallops. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. 

7. Add scallops atop the barley and ramps.

8. Squeeze lemon and grate Parmesan cheese to taste.