For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading menus and recipes that feature ramps prominently. Never having seen them before, I figured they were a type of mushroom, not unlike a morel.
I was wrong.
Ramps are actually a member of the lily family and are closely related to onions. They look like a flowery scallion, taste like a leek, and take little effort to prepare. After a thorough cleaning, trim the little hairy end from the bulb, toss any of overly tough leaves and you are done. For this recipe, you use both the white and green parts of the ramp.
So, why are ramps so difficult to find? First, most people do not know how to use them. They are most widely found in the wild through the Appalachian mountains. In addition to being a largely regional food, they grow only during the spring months. Last, because they are mainly a wild vegetable, there are concerns about sustainability and overharvesting. So, don’t look for them anytime soon at your local Wegmans. I found them at the Central New York Regional Market recently and the staff at that particular farm’s table said that they may only be around for another week.
If you see them, grab a bunch.
WHAT WORKED: The ramps have a delicate and subtle flavor, not unlike the leek. In fact, ramps are also referred to as wild leeks. They are not nearly as fussy to clean and prep as a leek, though not as hardy.
WHAT DIDN’T: Good luck finding carnaroli rice. Arborio is fine here.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: She told me it was good three different times. I guess that’s something.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: This recipe? Probably next spring when ramps return. Ramps themselves? I hope Heller’s Farms is back next week with more.
Wild Ramp Lemon Risotto
Inspited by Timothy Wastell of DOC restaurant for TheKitchen
- 32 oz. vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 1 bunch of ramps, cleaned thoroughly and sliced, with the white and green parts divided
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Heat broth in a small saucepan to a simmer over medium heat and keep warm on the stove. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. of butter over medium heat and add the white parts of the ramps. Render the ramps translucent, but do not let them get to the point of browning. This should take about 2 minutes.
Increase heat to between medium and medium-high and add the rice. Stir to coat the grains in the butter and let the rice toast on the burner until most of the rice goes from opaque to translucent. Drizzle the white wine over the top and let it evaporate. Season with salt and pepper, and ladle in enough broth to just cover the rice. Stir and simmer to let the rice absorb the stock. Continue adding liquid, ladle by ladle, until all of the broth is absorbed by rice. If you have a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind available, add one to the pot and let steep while cooking. At most, the ladling process should take 15 minutes. The rice should be like al dente pasta, cooked but firm when chewed.
Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the lemon zest and juice, and butter. Add the green parts of the ramps and stir in. Adjust the flavors with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve at once.