The world can be divided into two camps. Folks who look forward to ramp season like it’s Christmas morning, the Superbowl and the premiere of Game of Thrones all rolled into one, and the opposing group, who say, “What are roasted ramps?”
You though I might go political for a minute there, didn’t you? Nope, this is just about food.
Of course, I wouldn’t want to be divisive, in these trying times. Maybe we should all just learn to live together, and accept each other, no matter how we feel about an annual wild allium. We all want a quick recipe, right?
That’s what ramps are, just a tasty wild leek and member of the allium family, that comes on in early Spring and then disappears. Like an elusive movie star or Bigfoot, the ramp knows how to keep us wanting more, always leaving the stage amid thunderous applause, always leaving us with a lingering whiff of onion.
And so it is in the world of local and seasonal foods, where chefs and diners can chart the calendar by the appearances of morels and raspberries, followed by blueberries, then crab apples. Ramps have the advantage of being part of Spring, when the seasonal forager has been waiting desperately for something new.
Last year, I made a Ramp and Quinoa Risotto, with Sorrel.
So when I saw ramps at my local Coop, I had to buy a couple of bunches.
And then I decided to roast them. Not too long, as the sweet bulbs are small and easy to burn. The caramelize quickly, in a hot oven. I also saved the greens, to puree in a pesto and slice thinly to toss with the salad. These perky green tops are too good to waste.
A little olive oil, salt and heat, and I had these gorgeous little flavor bombs, with crispy stems for a little crunch.
A handful of the greens went into the food processor, where I pureed them with some toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut oil, honey and vinegar. The fresh, mild garlicky flavor was a great addition to the dressing.
For the base, I wanted a good color contrast as well as a whole grain, so I went with a red rice. I love the sweet and nutty presence of the Burgundy rice from Lundberg. You could use Himalayan Red Rice, Wehani Rice, the red rice you have access to is the best one to use. The all have slightly different cooking times, so check the package.
It’s really a quick recipe, cooking the rice took longer than roasting the ramps or making the dressing.
To show off the ramps, I arranged them on top, so that you can admire them as you take bites around the plate. You have three levels of ramp flavor here, in the dressing, slivered, and roasted, so there is much ramp-iness to contemplate.
Who knows, maybe wild crafted leeks carry a little bit of wild energy to the table. The grow with no help from us, no chemicals, no genetic manipulation. They are ancient onions, so to speak.
Dig into some wild and tasty ramps, and reap their wild and authentic glory.
Roasted Ramps and Red Rice in Ramp Pesto with Hazelnuts
1 cup red rice ( I used Lundberg Burgundy Rice)
Water ( 1 1/2 cups for Burgundy, up to 2 cups for some red rice varieties)
2 bunches ramps
extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt for the pan
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a 1 quart pot, bring the water to a boil and add the rice. Return to the boil, then reduce to low and cover. Cook for 40 minutes, or as instructed on the package. When all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, let cool.
- Trim the greens from the ramps as shown, and toss the ramp bulbs with olive oil on a sheet pan. Roast for 5 minutes, then shake to turn the ramps and roast for about 5 minutes longer. Let cool.
- Chop about half a cup of ramp greens for the pesto, and place them in a food processor with half of the hazelnuts. Process to grind finely. Add the hazelnut oil, honey, vinegar and salt and process until smooth and emulsified.
- Pour the dressing over the red rice. Save a couple of ramp leaves for garnish, if desired. Julienne the remaining ramp leaves by slicing finely across the leaf. Add to the rice and toss.
- Chop the remaining hazelnuts. Serve the rice topped with roasted ramps and hazelnuts.