Tis The Season!
This is my favorite time of the year: Ramp season. But celebrate promptly. These savory wild leeks that are found up and down the east coast from Quebec to Georgia and as far west as Missouri and Minnesota sadly have a short season. They are the scouts of summer, the first greens of the year, but disappear from markets in late May.
Ramps’ arrival is so exciting both because of the symbolism of the onset of spring with each bite, and because of how a simple dish becomes elegant and memorable with the addition of these greens.
Toss roasted ramps with pasta, parmesan, and olive oil. Sautee them in a bit of butter, or bacon fat, and pour beaten eggs over them to make an omelette. Sautee the bulbs, add the stems, and serve them as a bed to poached eggs.
Last week with my first ramp purchase of the year in hand, I couldn’t wait to make dinner: Ramp Risotto. The dish, garnished with bacon, was so satisfying; we’re going to indulge again this weekend with the very same dish. Here’s the recipe:
4 strips bacon
2 dozen ramps, cleaned and white & bulb separated, each roughly chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
3 Tbsp dry sherry or white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt & Pepper
Sautee the bacon in a fry pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon, leave the fat. Add ramp bulbs and sauté until the bulbs began to smell aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the rice, coat with the bacon fat and stir, about 3 minutes. Turn heat to high, add the sherry/wine and let absorb, stirring moderately. Add one cup of stock, turn heat to simmer and stir frequently until most of liquid is absorbed. Repeat with liquid, one cup at a time. With the last addition of liquid, add the ramp greens. Once liquid is almost absorbed, add cheese, salt and pepper. Drizzle with some truffle oil if you’re feeling exotic. Serves 4.
With the few ramps left over from the risotto, I adorned a simple brown rice and bean salad to make it a memorable meal.
Brown Rice, Black Bean and Ramp Salad
½ cup short grain brown rice
1 cup water
1 kirby cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
¼ tsp kosher or Maldon salt
1 jarred roasted red pepper, rinsed and chopped
2-3 ramps, cleaned and finely chopped
1 cup black beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
Bring water to a boil, add rice, turn to simmer and let simmer, covered, until almost all water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. When there’s still a little water apparent, give the rice a stir and let sit, covered for about 5 minutes. Let rice cool.
Combine cucumber, salt, vinegar and let ‘marinate’ for 10 minutes. Add peppers, ramps and black beans. Once rice is cooked and cooled to room temperature, add rice, olive oil and S&P. Serves 3.
My hope for next year is to go foraging with my friend ‘farmer Kenny’. Check him out, he made the New York Times last year, and is probably playing in the woods right now, digging these gems up. Kenny, save some for me!