Ramp season is here! Albeit a little early with the unseasonably warm weather we've been having, but I'm not complaining. Hopefully it just extends the season this year.
If you're unfamiliar with ramps, they are wild leeks that grow in the forests of the eastern US. You can learn a little more about them here.
I was out and about this past weekend and stumbled across a few (ok, a lot of) patches of ramps growing in the woods.
I decided to harvest a small handful (practicing sustainable harvesting methods, of course) and use them as creative inspiration for one of the weekend dinners.
I did a little digging online for some recipe ideas and really liked the idea of making a pesto, but I only had about 10 small ramps and wasn't sure how far the pesto would go with a pile of pasta. Still, I REALLY wanted to make a quick pesto, so I decided to go for it, and drizzle it on a white pizza instead.
I started out by cleaning the ramps.
You clean them much the way you would a scallion or a leek. I trimmed off the root and cleaned out any dirt trapped where the leaf comes out of the stalk. Sometimes you need to remove part of the papery stalk, much like on a scallion. Then I chopped up the white parts and the greens (you can use the entire plant!) and threw them in my food processor with a handful of toasted walnuts and about a 1/2 cup of grated parmesean. With the food processor on, I drizzled extra virgin olive oil into the processor until it looked like pesto. You'll probably use about 1/3 cup olive oil, depending on how many ramps you have and how thick or thin you like your pesto.
So this is what mine looked like:
Then I decided to attack the pizza. I like making a basic white sauce for some of my pizzas, I find its a bit more versatile (there are a million recipes out there online, pick any one). I also wanted a little something more on the pizza, and in the food world, things that grow together often go well together. This is where I wish I had a large field of morels. A bad day morel hunting usually is still a good day for ramp gathering. The two are the epitome of Michigan spring. But since I haven't found any yet this spring, I sauteed up some cremini mushrooms instead.
Now for the cheese. Mozzarella seemed a little too bland for the intensity of the ramp pesto (if you've never had ramps, they have a bold, sweet onion, garlicky flavor), and I wanting something with a lot of flavor that also melted well, so I decided to use the Raclette cheese from Leelanau Cheese Company.
From here it was just a matter of assembling the pizza and baking it. Well, and then the best part, eating it. And if you're wondering what wine we had to go with it, I opened a bottle of the 2 Lads 2011 Rose of Cabernet Franc. Perfect.
There are so many variations on this. Like I mentioned above, next time I would love to use morels. You could omit the white sauce and spread the pesto on as the sauce and build up from there. The pesto would be great on pasta with asparagus and mushrooms, or in your omlette, or smeared on some fresh bread, or... What are some of your favorite ramp recipes?
What you need:
-A handful of ramps (about 10-12)
-a handful of toasted walnuts (about 1/2 cup). You could also use pine nuts or any other preferred nut!
-About 1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
-1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
What you do:
-clean ramps and chop up a little
-toss ramps, walnuts and parmesean into a food processor
-drizzle the olive oil into the processor as its running until you find the consistency you want.