Ramps are wild leeks that grow in the spring in the woods of the Northeast. The two lbs of ramps in the vase above were harvested on private land in Connecticut. This is my first adventure with cooking ramps. I will be trying various recipes this week, grilling the bulbs, sautéing the whole ramp in butter, and separating the bulbs and the tops, sautéing the bulbs till soft then wilting the tops. I will use them as a side dish for Sautéd Shad and for Grilled Lamb Chops, with eggs over easy, and in spaghetti.
I got to thinking about ramps when I found a recipe in a Spanish cookbook two years ago for Grilled Asparagus and Calçots with Romesco Sauce. Calćots are wild green onions that grow in Catalonia that are similar to ramps. I made the Romesco Sauce that year and used it with some local asparagus and spring onions from the Old Saybrook Farmers Market:
The Romesco Sauce was amazing. I think it would make cardboard taste good. Romesco Sauce is named for the Romesco pepper, which we don’t have here, but which is close in taste to the Ancho chile, a dried Poblano chile. Besides Anchos, the sauce includes roasted red Bell peppers, almonds, hazel nuts, garlic, a piece of fried country bread, red wine vinegar, EVOO, tomato paste, paprika and cayenne.
Here’s how you make it:
Most of the work in making Romesco Sauce is the prep of the almonds and hazel nuts, and the Ancho chiles and roasted red peppers.
Put a half-cup of raw almonds into boiling water, immediately drain and rinse in cold water, thus loosening the skin, which can then be squeezed off. Lightly toast the almonds for 5 minutes at 325F. Toast a half cup of raw hazel nuts for 5-10 minutes at 325F until just beginning to brown, then rub in a towel while still warm to remove the skins.
Bring two dried Ancho chiles to a boil in a small pot of water, then set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Once cooled, stem and seed the chilies and brake into pieces.
Slice two red peppers in half, stem and seed, then broil till the skin is blackened. Tent under foil for 10 minutes, then peel off the skin and tear into pieces.
Blitz the nuts in a food processor into fine crumbs with 4 cloves of garlic and a piece of country bread that was sautéed in olive oil till golden and broken into pieces. Add the peppers and chilis and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 T tomato paste, 4 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp cayenne. Blitz to blend.
While the food processor is running, slowly add 1/4 cup of EVOO to emulsify. Pictured below is the finished sauce. At this point, taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt to taste, and additional red wine vinegar and cayenne to taste.
Ramps with Romesco Sauce
I have been thinking about using Romesco Sauce with ramps for the last two years, and this year I started looking for ramps in the forest as I was hiking the New England Trail with Money, the youngest of my five Portuguese Podengos. No luck. But then on Saturday night at a Cinco de Mayo cooking class (blog to come on that), I was told of a local guy who harvests them from a piece of private land nearby where they are abundant. Last night he delivered the two lbs of ramps above to my house, so I made a batch of Romesco Sauce, and to go with the sauce, I grilled some of the ramp bulbs and some asparagus along with some lamb chops and sautéd some Yukon Gold potatoes in olive oil.
Since this was my first outing with ramps, I didn’t realize that you can use the whole ramp, top and all. So today I did it right. First I cleaned another bunch of ramps and cut off the roots.
Then I caramelized the whole ramps in browned butter. I had them with Shad, which I seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and paprika, then sautéed in bacon fat. I deglazed the Shad cooking skillet with some dry white wine, butter, lemon juice and capers. Thickened this into a sauce and poured over the Shad. Garnished with some lemon slices, Trifecta amaranth microgreens and dabs of Romesco Sauce. This was stupendous. River meets forest. I feel like I just ate the Connecticut spring. This is one of only two or three weeks each year when you can experience this taste combination.
I did this again for some friends with potatoes and asparagus.
Other Adventures with Ramps
And then I fried some bacon, took the bacon and most of the rendered fat out of the pan, then sautéed the ramps and fried some eggs in the same pan, then plated with the bacon.
This was really good. The taste of the ramps in a little of the runny egg yolk was divine.
I also pickled some ramps to use in fish tacos with Shad, which I describe in my blog Shad Tacos with Pickled Ramps.
I also sautéd some to go with Blackened Shad Roe, which I describe in my blog Shad Roe with Bacon, Ramps and Green Rice.
Then, using one-half of a recipe from Bon Appetit, I made Spaghetti with Ramps, described below:
Spaghetti With Ramps
Below are the simple ingredients in this delicious dish:
From left to right: 9 oz of ramps, 2 T butter, 1 T olive oil, 6 oz spaghetti, 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, 1 1.2 tsp lemon zest, 2 lemon halves, sea salt and freshly grated pepper.
You cook the pasta in salted boiling water to just before al dente (as the pasta is going to cook a little in the ramps). While the pasta is cooking, cut off the bottoms of the bulbs and separate the tops and the bulbs:
Slice the bulbs and sauté in the melted butter and olive oil, season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, then cook till translucent and tender, about 4 minutes:
Chop the tops into 1 inch pieces and discard the stems, add to the bulbs, and stir to coat with the oil and butter:
When the pasta is just pre al dente, reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, add to the ramps, then add the water as needed 1/4 cup at a time to coat the ramps and pasta with a thick sauce.
Add the lemon zest and Parmesan, season with sea salt and pepper, toss to combine, then divide into bowls, topping each with more grated Parmesan. Pass lemon halves to sueeze over.
Really good. When I heated up the leftovers, I added some crushed red pepper and a beaten egg. Even better.
I made this with the last of my Ramps, using a recipe from Food Lab. Here’s a link to the recipe:
it uses the whites of the Ramps, sliced and sautéd at the beginning, and the greens of the Ramps, blanched and puréed and added at the the end. Also uses whole Ramps, sautéd in butter, on top of the finished risotto, with a dollop of herbed ricotta.
I made a vegetable stock, to serve as the base of the risotto, from scratch, also from a Food Lab recipe.
Here’s the Mise En Place for the vegetable stock:
Ingredients include: a large leek, 2 Granny smith apples, 8 oz of mushrooms, 2 large carots, 2 large yellow onion, 6 sprigs of parsley, 4 celery, stalks, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp whole black peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, 1 oz (4 packets) of gelatin activated in 4 cups of water, and additional water to cover,
Here’s the Mise for the Ramps risotto:
Ingredients include: 1 T chopped parsley, 1/2 cup ricotta, 6 T butter, 1 cup Parmesan, 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice, 24 ramps, 2 T chopped chives, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, 2 T olive oil and 5 cups vegetable stock. Not shown: 1 tsp of lemon zest and 1 tsp of lemon juice.
Here’s the step-by-step:
Roughly chop the vegetables for the stock, put in a large pot with the spices and the gelatin water, add additional water to just cover, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.
Strain in a fine meshed strainer lined with cheese cloth. Then return to stove, bring to boil, lower to simmer and reduce to 2 quarts.
Combine half of the parsley and chives for the risotto with the 1/2 cup of ricotta. Mix and refrigerate.
Put aside 8 Ramps, then separate the tops and bottoms of the remaining 16 Ramps.
Blanch the greens in boiling water for 45 seconds, put in a strainer under running cold water till cooled, then purée in a blender to a smooth paste.
Sauté the whites for 3 minutes in 4 T of the butter and the 2 T of olive oil.
Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice, toss to coat and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add the 1 cup of dry white wine, bring to boil, then simmer, stirring, till almost absorbed.
Add half (2 1/2 cups) of the stock (which should be simmering on the stove next to the risotto), cook till almost absorbed, then add 2 cups of the remaining stock, one cup at a time, cooking each till almost absorbed.
Meanwhile, sauté the 8 reserved Ramps in 3 T of the butter till soft.
When the whole Ramps have finished sautéing, add the purée of the Ramp greens to the risotto, along with the 1 tsp of lemon zest, the 1 tsp of lemon juice, the remaining chives and parsley, the 1 cup of Parmesan and the remaining 1/2 cup of stock. Cook till the liquid is absorbed and the risotto is loose and creamy,
Divide the risotto among bowls, and put some of the sautéed Ramps on top of each, along with a dollop of the ricotta.
This was awesome!