‘Tis the season! Ramps are here, and ready for us to enjoy. At first blush you might think you are looking at a scallion, but these delicate beauties pack a nice sharp garlic-onion punch. Ramps, or wild leeks, can only be found now in the Spring. Unlike their Spring cousins fiddleheads and favas, which can sometimes be found later in the frozen form, fresh ramps are their best and brightest now.
All ramps coverage here: lohudfood ramps.
READ MORE ABOUT RAMPS: Ramps: Spring’s First Local Gem
When you see ramps at the markets, snap them up. Here are three great recipes for using them.
Making a pesto from ramps is the surest, purest way to taste them. The charred tomatoes adds a different dimension to this dish. Topped with freshly grated ricotta salata cheese, its not only beautiful, but quite delicious. This Ramp Pesto Pasta dish can be served hot or at room temperature and comes together in about 30 minutes. This recipe will end up making enough for another batch, so take the left overs and freeze them. I like using an old ice cube tray for pestos. Each cube represents one serving, so you can use as many as you need.
Ramps have a sharp flavor: a cross between an onion and garlic. Giving them a quick sauté helps take the edge off and mellows them slightly.
- 1 lb dry pasta, I used the Casarecce shape
- Kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Ground black pepper
- 2 bunches of ramps, cleaned and roughly chopped, about 4 oz
- 6 cups spinach, packed
- 2 dry pints cherry tomatoes, rinsed
- 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, divided, roughly chopped
- 1/4-1/2 cup grated ricotta salata cheese
- Bring a small pot of water to bowl and add one teaspoon of salt for every quart. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions to al dente.
- In a small sauté pan, over medium high heat, drizzle with a little oil and cook the ramps for 1-2 min, to wilt and get a little color. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add the spinach to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and place in a bowl to cool slightly.
- Add the cherry tomatoes to the hot pan and drizzle a little oil over them and cook for 3-5 minutes until they char a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and leave them in the pan.
- Place 1/4 cup if the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to break up. Add the ramp-spinach combination and process until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. With the motor running slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil. Scrape down the sides. Your pesto will be thick. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the pasta water and slowly drizzle that into the processor while its running. Scrape down the sides. Taste for seasoning.
- Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water, and place in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 of the pesto, the remaining nuts and 1/4 cup of the cheese and mix, making sure you get all the pasta covered. If the pasta is a little sticky drizzle in some of the pasta water to smooth it out.
- Add the tomatoes and fold in carefully, trying to not break them up. Serve warm or room temperature topped with the remaining cheese.
Take the remaining pesto and place in an ice cube tray sprayed with a little Pam and freeze to use later.
Read an essay and step-by-step instructions on this dish here: Ramps: Truly the Harbinger of Spring.
When you want to use ramps as an accent on a dish, try this veggie burger. The ramps blend with the beans, vegetables and grains, but don’t take it over.
These quick veggie burgers are loaded with flavor using your spring ramps and fresh herbs. Once ramp season leaves us substitute the ramps for three scallions and one large garlic clove.
- 3 - 4 ramps, roughly chopped
- 2 - 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed
- 1 cup carrot grated, 2 -3 using a box grater
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 lemon, zest and juice divided
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 egg, whisked
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- Place the ramps in a food processor and run for about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides and add the beans and pulse 3 or 4 times to break them up. Don't over process as they will leave the patty with a mealy texture. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the carrot, cooked quinoa, mint, parsley, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix to combine and taste for seasoning before adding the egg.
- Add the egg and combine well. Scoop out into 1/2 cup patties and pan fry in a non-stick pan coated with a little oil, until brown on both sides.
- While the patties are cooking mix the lemon juice, yogurt, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well and taste for additional seasoning.
- Serve the patty slightly warm topped with the yogurt spread.
Cook time does not include cooking the quinoa. To cook quinoa bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Add 1 cup of quinoa. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and steam for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pot and fluff with a fork.
READ MORE HERE: How to choose and store ramps.
The best way to store ramps for longer than a few days is the old fashioned way: pickle them! Serve pickled ramps with cocktails, or toss them in a salad to give it a bright note, or use as a garnish alongside meats and fish.
This is a quick pickling liquid that can be adjusted to you liking using various whole spices and vegetables.
- 2 kirby cucumbers
- Kosher salt
- 2 bunches of ramps, cleaned and green leaves reserved
- 1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 1 cup baby carrots, I use Bolthouse
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorn
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
- Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in quarters and then cut in half. You should have 8 pieces for each cucumber, about 1/2" by 2 1/2" in size. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and set aside in a colander.
- Bring a small pot of water to boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt for every 4 cups of water.
- Make and ice bath with ice cubes and cold water in a separate large bowl.
- Add the cauliflower florets to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Immediately remove and place in the ice bath to shock (stop cooking) them.
- Add the ramps to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove immediately to the ice bath.
- Add the carrots to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove immediately to the ice bath. Adding a few more ice cubes if necessary. You want the water to be ice cold.
- Once the veggies are cold strain them into the same colander as the cucumbers pouring the water over them to rinse off the salt and draining all the vegetables. Shake it a little to release as much of the water as possible, removing any ice cubes that remain. Set the colander aside.
- In a small pot bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer, dissolving the sugar completely.
- Divide up the vegetables evenly between 3 or 4 small glass jars, arranging them so you can see a pretty pattern. Or use one large jar.
- Carefully ladle the seeds over top dividing between the jars, then add the liquid. Cover the jars and give them a little shake to distribute the seeds. Then uncover and let the liquid cool to room temperature.
- Replace the lids and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. (If they last that long!)
This recipe is adapted from Saveur. Along with the ramps, when is season, use your favorite vegetables; averaging about 1 3/4 - 2 lbs in total. The cook time noted above includes cooling. Actual cooking time is between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on what vegetables you end up using. If including ramps use the reserved leaves in another recipe. I used mine in a salad!
Yesterday I took my pasta dish on the road to visit my friend Kate Schlientz of Intoxikate, Living Life Deliciously. She has a daily radio show on WFAS AM called Fork This! Every day at 11:00 am you can catch her, and Dana, talking food, glorious food, in the Hudson Valley. At the Noon-time hour you can hear a rebroadcast of the previous day’s show. So if you missed me yesterday, tune in today at Noon!
Ramps are only here for a few more weeks, so get them now. I’ve found them at Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, and of course your local farmers market.