Ramp it Up
BY TOM YATES
Ramps are the fleeting darlings of the early spring farmers’ market. With a very short three to four week growing season, they’re usually the first thing to arrive at the market and the first to go. Blink and they’re gone. Members of the allium genus, ramps are also referred to as wild onions, wild leeks, or wild garlic. With feathery leafy tops and long purplish stems, they have a pronounced garlic aroma with a strong onion flavor, making them interchangeable with both garlic and onions in most recipes. If you run across ramps at the market, catch them while you can because they’re very versatile and utterly fabulous.
Even with their beautiful leafy tops beckoning in the morning breeze, most of the people in line are buying eggs and bacon. I fill my bag with ramps.
I toyed with the notion of tossing the ramps over burning coals to char before serving them on newspaper like Spanish colcotes (early spring green onions) with a ruddy Romesco sauce. I even thought of roasting them and twirling them into nests to cup gently poached eggs. In the end, I went with a very simple spring soup.
Chilled Ramp Soup with Blackened Sea Scallops.
Typically, ramps — much like leeks — are a bear to clean. They’re usually covered in dirt and take time to prep. These were stored in buckets of water to keep them fresh, so they were practically pre-prepped and ready to go. I simply snipped the roots from the bulbs and gave them a quick rinse. After slicing the greens from the stems, I set them aside before roughly chopping the stems and bulbs.
After heating a skillet over a medium high flame, I sauteed the ramp stems in a combination of olive oil and butter. When they started to caramelize, I deglazed the pan with white wine, let it reduce by half, and added two cups chicken stock. I brought the stock to a boil, reduced the heat, and added two peeled and chopped Elmwood Stock Farm new potatoes. While the potatoes simmered away in the ramp stock, I blanched the ramp greens along with a handful of fresh spinach (in heavily salted water) for exactly 45 seconds before plunging them into a salted ice-water bath.
When the potatoes were tender, I scooped them into a blender along with the cooked ramps, stock, and drained greens. After adding 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, a splash of fresh lemon juice, salt, and white pepper, I blitzed the soup into a verdant puree before sliding it into the refrigerator to chill.
To counter and play off of the delicate spring ramps. I slid a small cast iron skillet over a blazing hot flame. When it started to smoke, I added a whisper of oil to the pan, dredged the dried scallops in cajun seasonings, blackened them on each side for 90 seconds, scooped them out of the smoky mess, and set them aside.
I ladled the chilled ramp soup into shallow bowls and nestled the blackened scallops into the center of each bowl before topping them with slivers of mango, red bell pepper, and shallots. After scattering Garey Farms micro mizzuna and arugula over the scallops, I finished with a few drops extra virgin olive oil. Simple. Bright. Light. Spring!
This article also appears on page 16 of the April 2021 print edition of ace magazine.
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