I am well aware that this post is going to piss some people off. I understand. I would be pissed too, if I didn’t have access to this foraged wild onion called Ramp. I learned about ramps a few years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, ESS (Empire State South). This was back when we were baby free, young, and dumb. You know when you drop $100 or more on dinner and don’t even think twice about it? Anyway, they were pickled in one of the dishes. I got the feeling they were special and foodie worthy. I began to hear about this special onion every now and then. In David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook and in Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South cookbook (owner of ESS). I thought what in the world is so special about this wild onion. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I had seen them, at the farmers market. In all their onion glory. I made them mine, two bunches! Cost us $12 bucks but, worth every penny. I admit the cost is a bit steep, but I learned they are foraged and only in season for a very short time. So we indulged!
Even though I know the masses don’t have access to this limited wild onion, I am sharing this post because in this house, these days we have all of our culinary adventures at home. Currently, we don’t eat out because we are paying off my student loans and I have found that I can fulfill all my foodie experiences right in my own kitchen. It seems a majority would rather learn about food at a restaurant instead of in their own abode. I mean, I get it. No dishes, no skill, no patience required. I guess, if I am really being honest we didn’t have a choice, I had to embrace it. We needed that extra cash to step up our “get out of debt” game. The reality is, eating out can be very expensive and for a very long time we thought we had a right to that, even though I had a student loan elephant in my closet. Is it possible, that a lot of people in this country are eating their retirement, their child’s college fund, or choosing to keep their student loan around so long it becomes a member of the family, all for the sake of eating out? Think about it. I digress, this post is about ramps and not about liberating people from their debt so they can have financial peace.
Below are two ramp recipes. They are in season now and if you come across them, buy them. Or else, someone other than you will. My hope is that because of this post when you see them you won’t hesitate to purchase them, because you will already know what to do. Ramps have a pretty strong aroma but are milder and sweeter than onion or garlic, which is why they are in high demand when the season rolls around. Use ramps any place you would onions or garlic. A lot of people pickle ramps because the season is so short and this is a great way to get longevity out of them. Pickled ramp leaves don’t last as long, so I pickled the bottom half (bulbs and stems) and used the leaves in a pesto. The pesto can be tossed with pasta, topped on crusty charred bread, or added to scrambled eggs. The pickled bulbs can be used on pizza, salad dressing, hot dogs, just about any place you want a zing of flavor.
Adapted from David Chang’s and Peter Meehan’s Momofuku
1/2 cup water, boiling
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp gochugaru flakes
1/2 tbsp white peppercorns
1 cup ramp bulbs (about 2 bunches), scrubbed and whiskers removed
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, gochugaru, and peppercorns in a glass bowl, add the boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the ramps in an 8oz mason jar and pour the hot liquid over the ramps. Cover with a lid and cool. Then refrigerate.
Recipe adapted from Florence Fabricant’s Basic Pesto
2 cups of chopped ramp leaves, packed (about 2 bunches)
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 of a lemon zested
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup ramp pesto
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp pasta water, reserved
1 tbsp cream cheese, room temperature (optional)
additional Parmesan cheese, for serving
In a food processor, add the ramp leaves, walnuts, Parmesan, lemon zest, and salt. Puree until smooth. While the processor is running slowly stream in the olive oil. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.
Cook pasta according to directions. Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta. In the pot you used to cook the pasta or in a large bowl add the spaghetti, pesto, salt, 3 tbsp pasta water, and cream cheese if using. Toss very well to combine. The cream cheese cuts the sharp onion flavor and gives it a creaminess. Top with additional parmesan cheese and serve.