4.23.12 On a Rampage
I still haven't found any ramps, but it has begun to rain at long last and this is a promising sign for foragers. The forecast includes some nights in the 20s this week, though, and with everything in full bud, I fear for some of the less hardy plants. It was a strange winter and is shaping up to be a very strange spring indeed. Still, for some people it's ramp business as usual, as you can see by the bunches I brought home from the local farmers market. Here are some ideas for how to use them if you, too, have access. Green garlic or slim scallions would also work with these recipes.
As more than one person has pointed out lately, ramps—like all wild edibles—must be harvested responsibly. They have that wonderful wild taste that Euell Gibbons talked about, not quite like anything else, and people have gone so nuts for the whole locavore thing, that there has been a lot of pillaging and plundering of ramp patches from here to West Virginia. We've actually planted a bunch in a wet corner of our backyard, so we'll see what happens there...
You can roast or grill whole ramps to great effect, but you can also separate the bulbs from the greens and use them in different ways. Like other alliums, they have a sheer, sometimes slimy membrane that needs to be removed along with the root end.
I love to pickle ramps. You can pour hot brine over raw ramps, if they're slimmer than your pinkie; otherwise you should probably blanch them first. Here is my recipe.
Pickled ramps are delicious with cheese, grilled meats and roast chicken, on sandwiches and in martinis. They brine is also excellent mixed with seltzer or cocktails, or instead of vinegar in salad dressings.
The greens are quite good sauteed in olive oil and butter, mixed into a frittata or mashed potatoes. They can also be blanched and pureed into a soup, or mixed with butter as I did.
This surprisingly mild ramp butter was the perfect dip for peppery French breakfast radishes. I also stirred a little into soft-scrambled eggs, and slathered some on roasted fish.
With the rest of the ramp greens, I decided to try replicating a delicious preparation I had recently at the beautiful Japanese restaurant in Manhattan, En Brasserie. They served a fat stack of room-temperature, cooked ramped greens topped with tender ramp bulbs, in a pool of what I determined to be warijoyu, a combination of dashi, soy sauce and mirin that is traditionally served with steamed vegetables. What's amazing is how silky the ramp greens become when poached. It was a bit of work to stack them up like this, but worth it for the presentation and the satisfaction of getting a nice compact mouthful.
I served the ramp greens with scallops also poached in the warijoyu, a drizzle of wasabi-spiked mayonnaise and a sprinkling of sansho pepper. Light and quietly rampageous.