Ramps knock me out, Fellow FoodBeest. They’re like the first robin you see or those first really early shoots that pop up through the snow. They mean that spring is here!!
The truth is that I had never even heard of ramps until just a couple of years ago and then I began notice foodies mentioning them or writing about then or I’d see them included in the description of some early spring menu item.
And then, one day, I was wandering through the produce aisle at a Whole Foods, where I saw these strange green wing-like leaves protruding from the shelf. Ramps. I smelled them. I picked up two delicate bunches, put them carefully into one of those plastic produce bags and into my cart.
Now I anticipate them eagerly every year as winter begins to fade off.
Ramps are wild leeks and look pretty much like green onions – if green onions had wide green wings to unfurl.
They are sweet and a little pungent – like a cross between young spring onions and garlic. But they’re also just a funky enough that you know they are a wild flora and not cultivated. They’re the first fresh, locally grown produce of the spring and they’re barely available for even a month, heralding the arrival of the good local stuff to come: asparagus, fiddlehead ferms, garlic scapes, and rhubarb.
Some of the things that ramps pair up really well with are pasta, cheese, bacon (Or ham. Or salt pork. Or procuitto. Or pancetta. You get the picture here), eggs, potatoes, polenta or grits, mushrooms and meat and poultry. They are perfectly suited to tarts or quiches and biscuits or scones and omelets and some people like to pickle them.
So I started playing around a little bit with things I really like – and that I conveniently had in the house. And I came up with “Ramps for Any Meal.” This is a dish that works for breakfast or a weekend lunch or a wonderful dinner.
You could certainly add to it by sprinkling it with freshly fried bacon bits or sliced grape or cherry tomatoes. What’s awesome about this dish is that the moment you cut into that egg, the yolk flows down into the polenta and over the ramps and provides just the right sauce for the dish.
What It Takes to Cook Ramps for Any Meal
just short of 1C polenta
2T unsalted butter
¼C half and half
2T grated Parmesan
2T grated cheddar cheese
4 oz wild mushrooms
[I used crimini, oyster and shitake]
2T olive oil
8 oz (two bunches) ramps
How To Cook Ramps for Any Meal
Bring water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add salt. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Know that when polenta first starts to cook, it spits (like an annoyed goat). Just don’t stand too close. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently while the mixture thickens and the polenta is tender. It will take about 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Add the butter, cheese, and half-and-half and stir them in as they melt. Then fold in the mushrooms and stir. Hold this aside.
Clean the ramps and cut off the roots, leaving the white end on the ramp. Toss them in olive oil and grill them over a medium heat on a grill pan on the stove. The whites will brown just a little and the green leaves will wilt. Don’t let them burn.
In a separate saute pan, gently fry eggs in butter. I like eggs over-easy, but sunny-side-up will work just as well.
Put the polenta on the plate, top it with a fried egg or two and adorn the plate with the grilled ramps. Enjoy the onset of spring on your plate.
Update: Since this was written I’ve used those grilled ramps to enhance tacos and frozen pizza – with very good results. Love those ramps!
What’s your favorite recipe for early spring, Fellow FoodBeest? Does it include ramps? Could it? Share it with us in the “Comments” section below.