Have you heard the rage about ramps? Those bunches of mildly pungent spring onions that pop out for a short time, to the delight of foodies? It has been called a “Mania” by more than one source, with Eater and Grub Street tracking the appearance of ramps on restaurant menus. My interest was first piqued this spring 2013 either when I came across the ad for Ramp Fest in Hudson, NY (decided it would be wasteful to drive through NYC-area traffic, by myself, to partake), or when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s latest post. I had never cooked ramps, but I was pretty sure I had eaten them before, in a restaurant dish (apparently chefs hoard them).
I learned that my friend Kelly is part of this cult. We were attending a mushroom-themed lecture and dinner, organized by our Cornell alma mater, when she brought up ramps, so I suppose that makes sense. She asked if I had had some yet this year. I lamented about western Long Island’s lack of good spring farmer’s markets, and told her I had not once seen them in ANY of my local grocery stores, but I didn’t feel the need to go out of my way when there are so many other vegetables to make use of. Then she offered to get me some, at the farmer’s market she walks by on her way to work at Columbia. Now was my chance! Who knows how long they will last?! I suggested we cook them together at her place that weekend.
Of course, I wanted to use the ramps at LEAST two ways. So here it goes.
Chimichurri Ramps Bread with Lemon Thyme Butter
discovered through Pinterest, on vegetarianadventures.com
1 bunch of ramps (about 10 stalks)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 red pepper flakes
dash of pepper
For the bread:
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded (apparently optional! Since we forgot to add it and it was still delicious)
For the butter:
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 heaping teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
Half of a lemon’s worth of zest – wash lemon well to remove any wax
To make the bread: Combine the warm water and yeast in the large mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes or until it becomes frothy. Add in the flours, salt, and olive oil and mix until combined. Knead dough in a stand mixer with hook attachment until smooth and elastic. If you don’t have a mixer, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for ten minutes. If you are at Kelly and Kevin’s house, this floured surface is their cleaned off dining table. Hey, it worked! Transfer kneaded dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for an hour.
While the bread is rising, make the butter: mash the lemon zest, softened butter, and thyme together. Depending on much your butter softened, wrap in parchment paper and place in the fridge until firm.
And make the chimmichurri: Rinse the ramps and cut off the roots and any rough tips. Slice into big chunks. Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) until a smooth paste forms. Taste for additional seasoning, and try not to eat it all right out of the container.
Next, turn the dough out onto floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 18 by 12 inches. Top with the chimichurri. At this point, you could add half of the shredded parmesan cheese too.
Roll the long side of the dough towards you (jelly roll style, like you would for roulades or cinnamon rolls) and pinch the ends closed.
This next instruction is a little messy: slice down the middle lengthwise, twist both pieces, and use the two parts to bread the bread by twirling around each other. (When I first saw this instruction, I pictured disaster. But with Kelly’s encouragement, I managed to keep most of the filling inside).
Transfer to a greased baking sheet…
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, ﬁnely chopped
Pinch of red-pepper ﬂakes
1 cup arborio or other fancy risotto rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth, simmering in separate pot on stove
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Kosher salt to taste
In a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Finely chop ramp greens and stalks, reserving greens for later.
Add shallot, ramp stalks, and pepper ﬂakes, and stir until the shallot is translucent, about two minutes.
Add rice to pot and cook over medium heat for two minutes, stirring to coat rice with oil. Pour in 1/4 cup of the wine and boil until almost absorbed. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of hot broth at a time, stirring the rice constantly until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/4 cup of stock, the remaining wine, and a tablespoon of olive oil, continuing to stir.
Add the ramp greens and more stock as needed and continue cooking and stirring until the risotto looks creamy but is still al dente, about 18 to 22 minutes.
Remove from heat and let the risotto stand for about 30 seconds. Add a drizzle of olive oil, butter, and cheese; stir until well combined. Season with salt.
In the end, I can understand the obsession with ramps. They are lovely. Their roots have a stronger flavor than leeks, more subtle than green onions, and more complex than yellow onions, with a slight flavor of garlic. And they are so easy to prepare! In spite of the fact that I have gotten pretty good at dicing onions, I don’t always enjoy the mess it makes with the little pieces going everywhere. The leaves wilt nicely too, retaining a bright green punch. If you like the idea of these recipes but can’t find ramps (surprise surprise) I will share Smitten Kitchen Deb’s suggestion of using a combination of green onions and a few spinach leaves, some pretty standard ingredients to have hanging around (or growing in a garden later in the summer). I’ll have to try this someday soon and let you know how it goes!