Sunday, April 22, 2007

On Ramps

Crocuses, robins and allergies are all harbingers of spring I'm familiar with. But one sign of the new season I've been missing out on is the wild leek, also known the ramp. I noticed magazines trumpeting their early spring arrival. So yesterday ramps and I met our destiny. I spotted them at the greenmarket at Union Square with my friend Deena, and we both bought some. The saleswoman/farmer gave us some tips on cleaning and cooking them, and off we went.

Ramps grow on forest floors, and their season lasts between three and five weeks, in April and May. They look like mini-scallions, white bulbs and tender greens with complex roots that twist and curl. Like leeks, ramps are very earthy and require some pretty intense washing. Then you have to trim them, snipping off the root and peeling off the little membrane wrapped around their bottom halves. Everything that's left, from bulb to leaf, is edible.

Mario Batali tosses sauteed ramps with spaghetti; Emeril Lagasse pickles them. I decided to try the farmer's suggestion and go the pasta route. I sauteed them in garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and a sprinkling of kosher salt. As they sizzled, I cooked some fresh linguine and then added the drained pasta, plus a little pasta water to the frying pan with the ramps and garlic. Once the linguine was heated through and all flavored, Fork and I dug in. We also enjoyed a nice, crisp Caesar salad (with cousin G's excellent dressing recipe).

Look for ramps at your local greenmarket over the next few weeks. They're delicious, sort of an onion-garlic hybrid, as Fork says a cross between a green onion and a green garlic. And, yes, Tic Tacs for dessert.--S

UPDATE: (4/26/07)
New York has officially gone ramps crazy.

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