Monday, May 09, 2011

r is for ramps

Ramps have become code for "foodie". Perhaps not in the most flattering way. If someone asks me what I'm making for dinner and it happens to contain ramps, I get one of two reactions:

1. What the hell is a ramp?
2. You're such a f*&%ing foodie.


It's still not so easy to find ramps, you generally have to trek to a farmer's market or specialty produce store, but seriously I saw some in the Key Foods recently and that place is full-on ghetto. They are only in season for a couple of weeks, but I don't know if that's reason enough to find them snobbish.

Because, after all, what's not to like? Slightly oniony and a bit garlicky, those are two of the bestest flavors on the planet. To me, ramps are a sign that spring has really arrived, along with fresh peas, good strawberries and rhubarb. So last night's dinner was a simple pesto of peas, ramps, and lemon, followed by a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. Call me a foodie, I don't care, at least my life is always delicious.


1 1/2 cups fresh shelled English peas
1/2 pound wild ramps (about 6-7 medium-sized ramps), trimmed at the root end
zest of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano cheese
1 tsp kosher salt, to taste
1 lb fettucine or other long flat pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch the peas for 3 minutes, then remove from the water with a skimmer to a bowl of cold water. Add the ramps to the boiling water and blanch for two minutes, also removing with a skimmer and setting aside. Add a handful of kosher salt to the water and bring back to a full rolling boil before adding the pasta, cooking as directed on the package or until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, drain the peas and add 1 cup to the bowl of a food processor, reserving the remainder. Coarsely chop the blanched ramps and add to the food processor with the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon zest. Turn on the processor and begin to slowly drizzle half of the olive oil through the lid opening until a paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the salt and cheese and begin to process again. Continue drizzling the remaining oil until a shiny paste forms, you may not need all of the oil to reach your desired consistency.

When the pasta is done cooking, drain well, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. In a large bowl, toss the hot pasta with the pesto, adding enough cooking water to loosen the paste. You want the pesto to coat the pasta well without being too thick and clumpy. Add in the reserved peas and toss. Serve with additional grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

NOTE: This recipe makes more than enough for a pound of pasta, so store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, with a layer of olive oil on the surface to preserve the green color. It is excellent spread on crostini with some fresh ricotta cheese.

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