Until I moved to the East Coast, I don't think I had ever even heard of ramps—and, during the first spring I spent in New York City, I remained skeptical. Surely obsessing over an expensive regional allium with a short growing season bore all the hallmarks of a Brooklyn cliché. But once I actually tried them, I suddenly understood what all the fuss was about: Ramps have a sweet and complex flavor—one that's fresher and less harsh than that of scallions or leeks—that can be addictive.
To preserve those essential qualities, it's best to keep it simple when preparing ramps. Sautéing them in butter brings out even more depth of flavor; once you've done that, you don't need many other ingredients. Because ramps are so closely identified with this time of year, some of our recipes pair them with other springy vegetables, like asparagus in a bright green soup, or snap peas and English peas in a salad bursting with seasonal freshness. Others just use them to add a dash of oniony flavor to everyday items like drop biscuits or quesadillas. Study up on your local farmers market schedule, show up early to beat the crowd, and dig into the list of 11 recipes below, certain to keep you busy throughout the fleeting ramp season.
To fully appreciate your ramps, especially if you're trying them for the first time, you can't do much better than coating them in extra-virgin olive oil, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and charring them quickly on a ripping-hot grill. The high heat is perfect for emphasizing the vegetable's complex sweetness.
Spring Salad of Asparagus, Ramps, Snap Peas, and Peas With Poached Egg and Lemon Zest Vinaigrette
As long as you're spending your early mornings stalking your favorite ramp supplier at the farmers market, be sure to pick up some of the other terrific spring produce available. This salad is like a fresh spring cornucopia tossed together in a bowl—ramps, snap peas, asparagus, and English peas. You can substitute almost any other green vegetables you've got on hand, though, including Brussels sprouts, young broccoli, and fava beans. A delicate poached egg, a bright lemon zest vinaigrette, and an asparagus purée top it off.
Extra-Rampy Ramp Risotto
If you've gone ramp-crazy (and maybe brought home a few more than you know what to do with), this pretty green risotto will deliver the most intense ramp flavor possible by incorporating the allium in three ways. First, we sauté ramps and garlic together instead of the more typical shallots and garlic—using the whites of the ramps only, since they hold up better to long cooking. We stir in a purée of blanched ramps just before the dish is finished for freshness of flavor, then top each bowl with a sautéed ramp.
Orange-Glazed Carrots With Ramp Barley and Spinach
Stir-frying cooked whole grains is a great way to infuse them with flavor from the other ingredients in the skillet. Here, we sauté ramps and spinach and toss them with cooked barley, then serve the mixture alongside carrots glazed in sugar and orange juice, which bring out the carrots' natural sugars. A sprinkle of toasted almonds adds a nice crunch.
Bacon and Ramp Dumplings
Though the flavors of smoky bacon and sweet ramps work wonderfully together, getting them to balance in dumplings takes some finesse. Using only bacon would overwhelm the ramps, so we cut it with ground pork for these dumplings and add cabbage to serve as a counterpoint. Bring out the ramps' flavor by lightly charring them before mixing them into the filling.
Ramp and Chorizo Quesadillas
In the spirit of treating ramps simply, this recipe combines them with just a few ingredients: chorizo (either fresh or cured works); grated jack, cheddar, or Oaxacan cheese; and soft flour tortillas. Before mixing everything together, cook the ramps quickly in the rendered chorizo fat so they get a chance to soak up that flavor. When constructing your quesadillas, we recommend using a single tortilla and folding it in half—it's way easier to flip compared to the two-tortilla design.
Asparagus and Ramp Soup With Yogurt
For this easy, creamy soup, we sauté ramps in butter until they're lightly browned and blend them with blanched asparagus, broth, and yogurt—the latter adds both richness and a little acidity. We garnish each bowl with reserved asparagus and ramps and a generous drizzle of olive oil, for a dish that's as pleasing to look at as it is to eat.
Mapo Tofu With Ramps
Mapo dofu (or, more commonly in the States, "mapo tofu") is a Sichuan classic made with silken tofu, a little ground beef, and a variety of spices and sauces, Sichuan peppercorns key among them. In this recipe, we simply substitute in-season ramps for the standard garlic, giving the dish a deep onion flavor that pairs well with the mouth-numbing peppercorns.
Puffy Ramp Frittata
A super-simple frittata flavored with ramps sautéed in butter, this one is made extra fluffy by whipping up half of the egg whites into soft peaks. The whipped whites puff up during the cooking, making for a much lighter, airier frittata than you'd get from beaten eggs alone.
Ramp Drop Biscuits
The mild, unobtrusive flavor of biscuits makes them an ideal conduit for ramps; try substituting the herbs and garlic for chopped ramps in these drop biscuits. Use young ramps, if you can find them, slicing the bulbs and mixing them right into the dough; more mature ramps will work, but stick with the leaves in that case, or caramelize the bulbs in butter first.
Ramp biscuits not rampy enough for you? Your obvious next step is to serve those ramp biscuits with ramp gravy, a simple cream gravy that achieves a new dimension of flavor thanks to the pungent allium. If ramp-on-ramp sounds like overkill to you, try the gravy on chicken-fried steak or mashed potatoes.