Now that Spring has — finally — officially sprung and we are luckily being flooded with new fruits and vegetables coming into season, we wanted to take a closer look at these ephemeral ingredients that herald the start of the harvest. Each week we will look at what they are, how to use them and what some of our favorite chefs and the Cooking District team are doing with them right now. Got a favorite ingredient or preparation? Let us know. First up, ramps.
Very few vegetables inspire the passionate delight and hatred that ramps provoke. Are they a garlicky harbinger of the new season, or just an overrated onion? New York CIty-based Chef Oliver Gift knows which side of the fence he is on: "This vegetable is so versatile and delicious. It has become very cliche over the past 5 years but I don't care. I know people out there have never had it. Some of my servers have never seen or tasted it. So the term "cliche" is being used by elitist and snobby foodies. I know that once I make this soup, spring has finally arrived." So there.
What they are:
A wild allium native to North America that resembles a scallion but with a pinkish stem and broad green leaves. Ramps have a garlicky-onion flavor. The plant proliferates in wooded areas from Canada to Georgia. Fun fact: The humble ramp may have given the city of Chicago its name; chicagoua
appears to be a native Illinois name for what French explorers referred to as ail sauvage
, or wild garlic. They are mild, sweet and have a pronounced funk to them. They are in season for just about 6 short weeks, so get'em now.
How to use them:
You can refrigerate ramps in a plastic bag up to one week. Trim root ends just before using. Uncooked they are like a pungent cross between garlic and scallions. Grilled or roasted they take on a mellower tone. Pickled they are tart and tangy. Try ramp butter, pickled ramp bottoms, grilled ramps, roasted ramps, raw ramps in a salad. Creamed ramps. Ramp pesto. Also fabulous in a potato gratin.
What some chefs are doing with them right now:
We've been on a bit of a ramp-age here at Cooking District's NYC HQ. We had a lovely ramp custard at Gramercy Tavern in NYC this week — with shiitake mushrooms, pickled ramps and arugula flowers. The always sensational seasonal toasts at ABC Kitchen currently include a ramp toast with ramp butter, pickled bulbs, and goat cheese, while it's newly opened Latin-tinged cousin, ABC Cocina offers up a peekytoe crab fritters with ramp remoulade. And in Brooklyn, Vinegar Hill House’s Long Island fluke dish features ramps and uni.
At TWO in Chicago ramps are transformed into a creamy risotto with Wisconsin Parmesan and housemade bacon, topped with roasted ramp bulbs and a fried duck egg.
Elizabeth Button of Curate in Asheville North Carolina serves up her ramps Spanish style with a Romesco sauce. In Spruce Pine, N.C., Nate Allen, chef and co-owner of Knife & Fork, uses ramps in as many dishes and forms during the short season as possible — they get sauteed with morels and served over cheesy grits, made into a pesto, tempura battered and deep fried, and scattered on flatbreads.
At Foreign And Domestic in Austin, Ned Elliott had two ramp dishes on the menu Eggs & Ramps —fried eggs, morels, ramps, bacon, and toast — and a ramp risotto with pickled ramps and Parmesan. And at Sean Brock's Husk in Charleston, Caper’s Blade Oysters on the half shell are served with spicy preserved ramp “Mignonette”, loquat and grapefruit.
We are also looking forward to trying the grilled ramp tortellini recipe that chef Camille Becerra just posted on her blog.
So what say you, yea or nay on ramps? And what is your favorite way to prepare them?