5.8.13 Salt Away

Ramp salt 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
I have a confession: I've never found a ramp in the wild. Embarrassing but true. Over the years, my foraging has turned up many prized mushrooms and choice plants, but the wild leek has remained elusive (as has the much-coveted morel). I am determined that this will be the year. In future, though, I won't have to leave it to chance. Because my crafty husband planted masses of Allium tricoccum in a shady cornder of our garden! The first patch, planted last year, came up successfully, so we planted another one last week. You're supposed to leave them mostly undisturbed for several years, allowing them to get established and really proliferate. But I've already taken a single leaf here or there. I've also bought ramps at the farmers market, where ramp frenzy is in full swing. Quite a few vendors are now selling only the leaves, because ramps have been over-harvested in many areas due to unsustainable practices. The trick is to leave at least as many bulbs behind as you take.
Ramps 790 xxx
home grown
I wonder how many Chicagoans know that their city's name originally came from a dense growth of ramps near Lake Michigan. The plant was known as shikaakwa (chicagou) among the native Indian tribes. Ramps are found across eastern North America, from South Carolina to Canada, where they are consideres a threatened species in Québec.
Cuttings 790 xxx
the gathering
Ramps have a strong oniony flavor with a hint of that wild funk. They are a wonderful addition to everything from potatoes fried in bacon fat to scrambled eggs to cornbread. I love them pickled, and these make an excellent garnish for a martini. Perhaps my favorite way that I've eaten them this year was in a creamy risotto I made with brown rice and crispy strips of pistachio-studded mortadella.
Dehydrated 790 xxx
all dried out
It occurred to me that a great way to preserve the intensity of flavor in ramps would be a salt. I used my dehydrator to dry out a small bunch of leaves, crushed them and then combined that with an equal portion of sea salt.
Salt2 790 xxx
green giant
I blitzed the dried ramps and salt together in my spice grinder and what emerged was a fine green powder with a delicious pungency. I can imagine ramp salt working wonders on steak or roast chicken, potato salad or celery root puree, cheesy pasta or a Bloody Mary.
Salts 790 xxx
salty tales
I can't say enough about concocting your own flavored salts. They are a quick and easy way to transform a dish (or a cocktail), sometimes dramatically. Salt can be a vehicle for whatever flavor you're mad about at the moment—chile, cumin, saffron, chocolate, rosemary, pink peppercorns, garlic...the sky's the limit. I like just one pure flavor or several combined. I even commissioned Lior Lev Sercarz, the New York-based Israeli spice king, to make me my own custom blend that's an inspired mix of salty, tart, hot and sweet. Stay tuned for more on that, including the chance to buy some for yourself!
Italian 790 xxx
top cellar
This Italian sea salt has flecks of lavender, fennel and orange rind. I love it on anything with tomatoes and it's also fantastic on braised fennel.
Truffle salt 790 xxx
bring in the funk
This truffle salt was a gift and I enhanced it further by adding my own dried black trumpet mushrooms. It's insane on anything with cream and makes scrambled eggs a truly sensual experience.
Cumin salt 790 xxx
top seeded
I'm addicted to cumin salt, whether it's rimming the glass of a grapefruit margarita, sprinkled on cold mango or accenting a lamb curry. It's a good idea to lightly toast spices to bring out their rounder, more intense notes before you grind them with salt, although it depends on the flavor you're after. So off to the salt mines you go!

Ramp Salt

makes about 2/3 cup
  • — a dozen ramp leaves
  • — about 1/3 cup flaky sea salt, fleur de sel or sel gris

Fully dehydrate ramp leaves, using either a dehydrator or your oven on the lowest setting.

Pulverize in a food processor. Measure and set aside. Then measure out an equal quantity of sea salt. Combine the two in a small bowl.

Transfer to a spice grinder and blitz into a fine powder. Store in an airtight glass jar.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


wow Laura, so beautiful! and I love the wabi sabi bowls!
kathleen duich on May 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm —
Both sets of bowls—two are glass, two are pottery—were gifts from dear friends. Aren't they gorgeous?
laura on May 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm —
I've been hearing so much about ramps lately, I hope I can find them at the farmer's market! Just found your blog via the Wimpy Vegetarian and it's just beautiful :)
Christy on May 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm —
Thanks, Christy! Depending on where you live, now would be the time to find ramps at your farmers market.
laura on May 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm —
What a great idea. Thanks for the salt inspiration.
Mily on May 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm —
How long do flavored salts keep? Thanks for the great post!
Devon on May 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm —
Devon, flavored salts keep for quite a long time, provided they are in an airtight container, preferably a glass jar. If the ingredients are not fully dehydrated they tend to clump a bit. I make mine in fairly small quantities and try to use them within 6 months.
laura on May 9, 2013 at 7:28 am —
I'm in awe of the way these incredibly tantalizing combinations seem to just tumble forth! Cumin salt on a grapefruit margarita, lavender, fennel and orange rind salt on tomatoes - mouth watering words. It would take me ages to dream up so many fine ideas. Can't wait for the specialty blend. Count me in for a jar!
Prairie on May 11, 2013 at 3:04 am —
The salts themselves are the inspiration!
laura on May 11, 2013 at 7:42 am —
Laura -- I dare you to try this - was just perusing the site, and SAL DE GUSANO sounds right up your umami alley! http://www.atthemeadow.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_126&products_id=1584
Amie Valentine on May 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm —
Sal de gusano—is this one of those macho dares?! I just may have to show some cojones and order a jar...
laura on May 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm —
How did I miss this wonderful post? I've never seen ramps, as they are not available for sale here in Québec. I love this particular shade of green (which is so blue) - we're looking for hostas this colour for a shade garden in our new home. I'll be tasting your ramp salt later this evening on heavily buttered popcorn. And these other photos and suggestions give me mad ideas about things to do with Rob's outrageous collection of sea salts. Thanks for this delicious inspiration. Hope you're enjoying the season. xoxo
David on June 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm —
Let me know what you concoct, David! xo
laura on June 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm —