Ramp Risotto & Pickled Ramps
So remember when I made mention of those wild leeks everyone goes crazy for in early spring? Well brace yourselves, people. I know it’s difficult, but try to reign in some of that enthusiasm because we don’t want anyone to get trampled now, do we? The ramps have arrived. (They actually arrived about 10 days ago, but I’m a busy woman.)
What’s a ramp, and precisely why should I care? you ask. Well, you should care first and foremost because ramps are trendy (more so a few years ago), and you don’t want to be left in the dark when it comes to being up on the latest food craze now, do you? No, I didn’t think so.
Ramps are wild leeks that grow in the eastern woodlands of North America, from South Carolina up through Canada, in early spring. They are gathered by professional foragers. Apparently, there are numerous ramp festivals as well as a National Ramp Association. Ramps are the daffodils of spring. They are also the Heathcliffs. Fragile and uncultivated, their days are numbered, which tends to throw people into a passionate desperation over them. They’re exciting for another reason, too: they are utterly unique. Ramps are compared to leeks and green garlic and spring onions, but the comparison doesn’t really do them justice. I’ve never tasted and smelled anything so harmoniously subtle and pungent. Once you cut into these babies, the stench will knock your socks off. Kind of garlicky but milder, kind of leeky but sweeter and stronger, perhaps, ramps are like nothing I’ve had before, and for that reason, and not because they’re trendy, I urge you to pick up a bunch if you happen to spot them at the farmer’s market (they are not, to my knowledge, available in grocery stores).
Ramp risotto: a no-brainer.
Risotto and I have a love/hate relationship that tips toward the side of love. Starchy, creamy, velvety, cheesy, decadent love. And I love making it. Sipping wine, stirring, adding broth gradually, stirring, sipping, stirring, broth, sipping. It’s mesmerizing. It’s relaxing. Until it’s been 25 minutes and it still isn’t done and the rest of the meal is getting cold and dammit why does this always take about double the time I think it’s going to take, and why does risotto get to be the queen bee while everything else just has to take a back seat and follow her schedule? (You would think all the sipping would relax me, but you’d be amazed at how impatience and stress can override a pleasant wine haze in about two seconds.)
Mmmmm but it’s worth it. It’s worth it every time. When is risotto not one of the most delicious things you’ve ever put into your mouth? Never.
But I only used six ramps for the risotto. What to do with the rest? Why, I pickled them! This was my first stab at pickling (not counting those quick pickled cucumbers), and I was pretty impressed. I found the pickling liquid a little too sweet for my taste, personally, but that could easily be rectified by cutting down on the sugar or eliminating it entirely.
Now what to do with pickled ramps? A worthy question. But they’ll last long enough in your fridge (about a month) that you’ll figure out ways to put them to use. Thus far, I’ve simply gobbled them straight from the jar and also topped a turkey burger with them. What will be my next pickled ramp victim? Patience, my sweets. Time will tell.
(Scroll down to the end for more ramp recipes around the Interweb.)
- 6 ramps, trimmed, cleaned, loose skins removed, and chopped (separate the white and green parts)
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 to 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, as needed
- 1 to 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 to 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, heat 5 cups chicken stock (you may not use all of it) on medium-low heat to keep it warm the whole time you’re making the risotto.
- Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat next to the pot with the chicken stock. When the foam subsides, add the shallot and white and light-greenish-purple parts of the ramps. Saute for about 5 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the rice, stirring to coat it in the butter-olive oil mixture, and heat until slightly toasty, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the white wine, and stir until almost absorbed. With a ladle, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the warm broth at a time, stirring constantly until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding ladlefuls of broth and stirring. After about 10 minutes, add the ramp greens. Continue adding broth and stirring until the risotto is creamy but still al dente (or however you like it), 20 to 40 minutes. Stir in the cheese, 2 Tbsp optional butter and/or olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Pickled Ramps, adapted from Serious Eats
- 15 to 20 ramps (I just used the rest of my bunch)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp mustard seed
- 1/2 tsp coriander seed
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1/2 Tbsp salt
- Kosher salt for blanching
- Cut the ends off the ramps and trim down the leaves leaving about 1/4 inch of green, saving the green ends for another purpose (I put mine in pasta). Wash the ramps well under cool running water, peeling off any loose skins.
- Blanch the ramps quickly (30 seconds) by plunging them into a large pot of salted boiling water, and then shock them in ice water. Drain the ramps and place them in a glass jar.
- Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the mustard, coriander, and fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and bay leaf.
- Turn the heat off (wait until it stops boiling) and pour the hot vinegar mixture into the glass jar over the ramps. Let cool, seal, and transfer to the refrigerator.
Pickled ramps will last 3 weeks to a couple of months in the refrigerator.Good-looking ramp recipes around the Interweb:
Ramp and Parsley Pesto from Simply Recipes
Ramp Compound Butter from Serious Eats
Ramp Soup from Gourmet
Ramp and Green Garlic Pasta from The Amateur Gourmet
Spaghetti with Ramps from Babbo