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Thursday, May 7, 2009
In this part of the country when the snow recedes, foodies and foragers anxiously exchange messages on the food boards about when ramps will be ready for the season. When? When? When? they ask growing more and more impatient as Spring creeps forward. Of course, once ramps (also known as wild leeks or green garlic) are ready to be picked, these foodies and foragers go delirious descending upon their secret outdoor locations and farmer's markets to get their fix.
I am a bandwagon jumper when it comes to these things. People have loved them for many years yet I only discovered these little gems last year after reading an article about them. When I realized that they were making their rounds in professional and home kitchens everywhere, I had to find out what the fuss was about.
Ramps are part of the onion family, its stem is long and slender (slightly leaner than a scallion) imbued with a plum-pinkish hue and long broad verdant leaves. To the uninitiated, the pungent smell of ramps may be off-putting, but for those who love garlic, the smell is irresistible. When we brought them home from the market, we kept them in a separate bag lest they transfer their fragrance to an unsuspecting block of cheddar or an cherry strudel from the pie lady. (Also consider the same when storing them in your fridge.) But oh the taste, its slightly onion, slightly garlic, and just a little bit earthy. If you ever see it in the market, I encourage you to try them, just at least once.
They grow widely and freely in wooded areas from the mid-eastern United States all the way up to southern part of Canada. For those who are unable to forage for them (or grow them), they can be purchased at the farmer's market for a prince's ransom. (Last year, my CSA sold them for $18/lb and this year, I bought two small bunches weighting 50 grams for $4.) A small price to pay for this fleeting treasure.
This year, we tried ramps in two different ways. We pickled the stems using Tom Colicchio's pickled ramp recipe and with the leaves we made a delicious spring vegetable frittata.
Spring Vegetable Frittata
10 small morels (or 5 large ones) - sliced in into thin strips
2 plum tomatoes - diced
1 c ramp leaves - loosely packed - julienned
1 c baby spinach - loosely packed - julienned
4 stalks asparagus - cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
salt & pepper
1 c shredded part-skim mozzarella (more or less to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Light oil 1.4l baking dish.
2. Arrange tomatoes, morels, asparagus, ramps & spinach in the baking dish.
3. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add salt & pepper and beat until incorporated. Carefully pour into baking dish.
4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Check around the 18 minute mark to make sure the eggs are not cooking too quickly. Do not overcook. (The eggs will have body but will still look wet and glossy.)
5. Remove from the oven and turn on your broiler. Sprinkle mozzarella over top of frittata and return to oven until the cheese melts, and starts to bubble & turn golden.