Truly, Madly, Deeply in Love with Ramps
Ever heard of ramps? Me neither. Well, that’s a fib. Until last month though, I thought the only use of the word ramp was to describe an incline, possibly for a skateboard. But use of the word ramp in culinary terms? huh? A recent magazine article had me pretty excited though. I knew they came into season sometime in March and were only around for a short time, so I’ve been on the lookout at the local Whole Foods. The excitement when I finally saw them yesterday was, well, hard to describe. Something similar to listening to a new album from one of your favorite bands that’s received fantastic reviews from Rolling Stone – you know they’re reputable, but you don’t always agree with them, so you’re excited – but you still wanna listen for yourself. That’s exactly how I felt about ramps.
From what I’d read about these little green delights, there wasn’t much not to like. Unless you’re strange and don’t like garlic. or green onions. Having been described as a combo of green onions and strong garlic, I was pretty much sold on the sheer idea of them. They are most popular in, get this, West Virginia and Quebec! (picture furrowed brow of confused blondie here) And furthermore, in Quebec they are considered a delicacy. In WVa, they hold annual celebrations for them: “Ramp Feed” and the “International (yes, international) Ramp Festival”, which is the last weekend in April. Oh crikey – I just missed it…. maybe next year.
If you’re wandering aimlessly (or with aim, rather) in the g-store trying to find them, they easily stand out among their green, frumpy counterparts. They’re sexy – rounded white bulbs that look like shoes of a ballerina, long slender stems, purplish in hue, transitioning once again in color to soft green delicate leaves. And their smell? Not nearly as dreamy but rather pungent, as if you stuck your entire snout into a bottle of minced garlic – and then it got stuck. Yeah, strong is right, buster. But hold up cowboy/girl – you won’t find them in your local Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, or Dominicks. Only the specialty g-stores or farmers’ markets. If possible – go to a local farmers’ market and support the local growers – consider it your good deed of the day.
Others to get while the gettin’s good: asparagus, fava beans, strawberries, rhubarb, fennel
I bought 2 bunches of ramps yesterday. On looking back at my receipt, I suppose they were gratis (I now recall the ringer not being able to find the code for them) so I can’t tell you what they’re going for. But nonetheless, I would concur with the previous assumptions about them – onion-y, garlic-y, gorgeous, and downright de-licious. I had a recipe from the April Bon Appetit in mind, which also called for Marcona almonds. These little buggers are also something to write home about. Spanish, heart-shaped, milky & nutty, (did I mention fried in olive oil, lightly salted, and stored in sunflower oil?) they are without a doubt my new favorite almond. But given their price (~12 buckaroos for 12 oz) I won’t be buying them often and will settle for their roasted unsalted version given their healthfulness and better price. If I can keep Chris away from them long enough, there’s enough for another recipe in my stack. Keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t find the hiding spot.
I’ll have to say – this recipe tops the charts when compared to some others I’ve made lately. The salmon, simply seared and seasoned with salt & pepper, goes perfectly with the robustness of the pesto; and the little dollop on top brings it all together. Perfect with a glass of sauvignon blanc. Plus, pesto is one of my favorite sauces, and I love the multiple iterations (except for the tarragon pesto I made Thursday… not a fan.). And now that I’ve tried them, I am head over heels in love with ramps and will for sure be gettin’ my hands on some more before they’re out. I’m sure it would go great in biscuits, spaghetti, in a casserole… what else? Send some ideas people!
Seared Salmon w/ Linguine & Ramp Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009; serves 6*
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 2/3 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems
- 1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
- 1/3 cup Marcona almonds (available at Whole Foods or online)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- 12 ounces linguine
- salt & pepper
- 6 6-ounce salmon fillets
Pesto: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup ramp bulbs and stems to skillet and sauté just until soft but not browned, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning, about 5 minutes. Transfer sautéed ramps to processor (do not clean skillet). Add green tops, cheese, almonds, and tarragon to processor; process until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup oil and puree until almost smooth. Transfer pesto to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to skillet and cook just until opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.
Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot; add all but 1/4 cup pesto and toss to coat, adding enough pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide pasta among plates. Top with salmon. Spread remaining 1/4 cup pesto over fish and serve
*Note: I made this w/ 4 fillets and cut the pasta by 1/3 and made the same amount of pesto. I’m sure it’s great with tons of other things, like on bread or on other pastas with some tomatoes or something oohh… maybe even in scrambled eggs? yummers