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, which thanks to the never ending winter are still in the farmer's market as we approach June.
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 kicked off ramp season this year by sitting in on a seminar at the most excellent Bite Baldor
event in NYC where Aldea's George Mendes and Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria's Justin Smillie went head to head giving their interpretation of a ramp dish. "This is winter breaking and giving us the introduction to spring" explained Mendes who did a Portugal inspired dish with an olive oil poached salt cod with a ramp puree topped with crispy dehydrated ramps, while Smilie went Italian with a ricotta and charred ramp dish, which also featured dehydrated ramps. (Watch the video below)
Other great ramp dishes that we've spotted near CD's NYC HQ are: ramp toast with both ramp butter and pickled bulbs, as well as goat cheese from Dan Kluger at ABC Kitchen
and more butter at Pearl & Ash
— Richard Kuo's Whiskey & Ramp Butter had us swooning. At Kin Shop
, Harold Dieterle
featured Thai-inspired ramp-stuffed dumplings with soy reduction and pickled long chilies. Ramp pizzas at Motorino
have temporarily replaced their Brussels sprout pies in our affections, and new opening General Assembly
had a Skuna Bay Salmon cooked a la plancha with grilled baby bok choy, rhubarb chutney, and an awesome ramp aïoli. Cull & Pistol
ramped up their fried Chesapeake oysters by wrapping them in a ramp crêpe topped with a peanut aïoli, and at Bar Bolonat
Einat Admony served a super spring-y dish of ramps and asparagus with a Meyer lemon sauce and breadcrumbs mixed with baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend flecked with cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. And at Gato
, Bobby Flay has been serving up a super spring-y crostini with soft shell crabs, harissa, and ramps. Another great crostini at elm restauran
t in New Canaan, CT, featured local pork with pickled ramps.
in Portland, Maine also gets porky with ramps with a dish of Maine Farm Pork Sausage, grilled ramps, pickled mustard seed aioli, with sweet & sour peppers. And in San Francisco, State Bird Provisions
combined ramps with sweetbreads.
In Philadelphia we have seen them folded into frittatas at Talula’s Garden
, whipped into butter with mint and fennel pollen at Pub & Kitchen and baked into cheesy scones at High St. on Market