The season is brief. Ramps are increasingly endangered and so to be enjoyed in mindful moderation. Generally, the only recipe you need is “sauté in butter; eat (with or without eggs and/or pasta or toast points and maybe some ricotta).”
Or you can coat them with olive oil and put them on the grill. But Bill has found several patches so vast that even very modest gathering has put us in ramp heaven.
I have now made Pasta with Asparagus and Ramp Hollandaise; Ramp-wrapped Meatloaf; Ramp, Winecap and Ricotta Stuffed Ramp-Wrapped Sole and some quite spiffy Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes.
Cook’s Note: Ramps are really two vegetables: 1) the tender young first harvest, basically rampscallions – almost evenly thick white stems that gradually become purple as they meet big fans of wide leaves, and 2) the later, more mature version, with a fat oblong bulb, narrow purple neck and the same leaves, now much tougher. The young ones are more strongly oniony on tongue and breath but also sweeter and more complex. Larger bulbs are crunchier until they’re really fat. At the end of the season they can be mealy if cooked whole.
Pasta with Asparagus and Herbed Ramp Hollandaise
For 4 servings:
8 to 10 oz. orecchiette
8 tbl. butter
1 ½ c. minced young ramps, both stems and leaves
3 egg yolks
2 tsp. lemon or lime juice plus more to taste
2 tbl. minced garlic chives (optional)
@ 1 tbl. each minced fresh marjoram and bronze fennel (optional)
1 to 1 ½ lb. fat asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
1. Start the pasta water, then add the pasta as soon as it boils. Melt 2 tbl. of the butter in a small heavy saucepan, add ramps and cook over medium heat just until wilted.
2. Beat yolks with citrus juice in a small, heatproof bowl. When ramps are wilted, add herbs if using and cook about a minute more. Put the rest of the butter in the pan and let it melt and heat.
3. Slowly beat the herb butter into the egg yolks, whisking all the while, then return sauce to the pan and put it over super-low heat. (Put it in a double boiler if your stove has no super-low.) Cook until thickened, stirring constantly, salt to taste, then set aside to keep warm.
4. When the pasta is done, stir the asparagus into the pot with it. Remove a cup of the pasta water, then drain immediately. Return mixture to the pan with ½ cup of the water, cover and let steam until asparagus is done, 2 to 5 minutes. If necessary, stir in just enough of the remaining water to moisten. Serve with the sauce.
Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes
Or maybe that’s Roasted Morels with Ramps, etc., because there are a lot of morels in this. Suffice it to say using lots of morels is one of the perks of foraging.
For 4 servings:
2 tbl. butter
1 tbl. olive oil
1 lb. small new potatoes, rinsed but not dried
8 to 10 oz. firm, clean morels, cut in large pieces (small, very firm cremini are not a substitute but do make a tasty alternative ; use slightly less – 6 oz. or so.
1 to 1 ½ c. mature but not huge ramp bulbs
coarse salt such as Malden salt, to taste
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the fats in a small jellyroll pan/ sheet pan and put it in the oven just long enough to melt the butter. Put the wet potatoes in the pan, cover tightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
2. Uncover the pan, roll the potatoes around with a spatula, then add the morels and ramps. Return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes. Stir with the spatula again. Repeat until potatoes are very soft and the other vegetables are cooked and starting to brown. This usually takes about ½ hour from uncovering the potatoes but a lot depends on your oven. Sprinkle with the salt and serve.
Endive Wraps with Roasted Vegetables and Chicken
A one-dish dinner, which you can serve as classic meat/starch/veg if your taco-loving husband for some reason looks askance at vegetable wraps.
For 4 servings:
1 batch of Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes (above)
½ c. dry vermouth
1/3 c. orange juice
¾ to 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken thighs
12 to 16 broad, mild loose leaf endive leaves – spring loose leaf lettuce that’s about to bolt and has therefore acquired a bitter edge would be a good substitute
1. While the potato mixture is cooking, choose a shallow pan wide enough to hold the thighs in one layer. Put in the vermouth and juice and add enough water to make the liquid 1 inch deep.
Heat to boiling, add the chicken, cover the pan and lower the heat so liquid barely simmers.
2. Turn the chicken after 5 minutes, give it 5 minutes more and then start testing for doneness.
3. As soon as the meat is barely cooked, remove it and keep warm, covered. Raise the heat under the pan and reduce the cooking liquid to about ¾ cup. Return the meat to the pan and set aside, covered.
4. When the potato mixture is cooked, scrape it onto a cutting board (or for classic, into a bowl). Pour the chicken liquid into the roasting pan and stir it around with the spatula, picking up all the browned bits. Pour the sauce back into the chicken pan and turn the meat to coat.
5. For classic, you’re done, put a little puddle of sauce on the plate and some of the chicken on it. Fan on a couple of endive leaves, then spoon on some vegetables. For wraps, cut the potatoes in halves or quarters and the chicken in roughly 1 inch chunks. Reheat meat and vegetables in the chicken sauce and serve in a bowl with the leaves on the side.