The Wild Scent of Spring: The Elusive Ramp

Ramp and ricotta tarts

Ramp and ricotta tarts

People tend to go a bit crazy over the elusive garlicky ramps that appear for the briefest of periods during Spring. Ramps are basically a wild onion that is foraged for a few weeks in spring. Their taste falls somewhere between leeks and garlic. Their floppy leaf appearance tends to baffle many so do not be afraid to ask if you suspect you have found a stash for yourself.  But most definitely grab this delicious tuber before they disappear.  
 
I have to admit that I had never eaten a ramp before last year and truth be told, I actually did not know what a ramp was until last year when I attended a cooking demonstration at a local farm.  On a tour of the property, I watched curiously as the owner quietly snipped ramps along with other greens as we walked amongst the fields. Back at the kitchen, he passed around some of the ramps for us to taste. Their wild garlicky flavor made the thought of the long winter disappear in a blaze of Spring freshness. 
I have included two recipes here that will help highlight their wonderful flavor.  If you can find these wonderful treats, grab them before they disappear!
 
Ramp and Ricotta Tarts
Ingredients:
• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
• About 20 ramps, rinsed
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 medium shallots, diced
• Salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
• 1 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh if possible)
• ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• 1 egg
• Zest of ½ lemon
Preparation: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Trim the bulbs from the ramps and remove any loose outer skin.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until soft. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper.  Add the ramps to the pan and cook until tender and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
 
On a floured work area, roll out the sheet of puff pastry into a long rectangle, about ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into 2 squares or rectangles as shown in the photo.  Transfer squares to a parchment lined baking sheet.  
 
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmigiano, heavy cream and egg until smooth.  Stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Spread the ricotta mixture on top of the puff pastry squares.  Arrange the ramps over the cheese and drizzle with any shallots and oil remaining in the pan. 
Bake tart until golden and the crust is crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes. Cut and serve.
 
Spring Pea Soup with Sautéed Ramp Crostini
Ingredients:
For the soup:
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
• 2 cups leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
• 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade if possible
• 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas, divided
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Handful fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
For the crostini:
• 1 loaf Italian bread, sliced into ½ inch slices
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional
• 3 cloves garlic, diced
• About 25 ramps, cleaned
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation: 
Prepare the soup:  Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and leeks and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.  Reserve about 1 cup of the peas.  Set aside. 
Add in the stock.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.   Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and add in the peas. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the peas are tender.  Remove the pan from the heat.   
Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender or bowl of a food processor and carefully blend the soup until pureed and smooth.   Return the pureed soup to the pan over medium low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the reserved whole peas to the soup and heat until the peas are tender, another 3-5 minutes.  
For the crostini, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly brush each slice of bread with olive oil.  Arrange on a sheet pan and bake until golden brown on each side, turning once.  Remove from oven. 
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add in the ramps and sauté just until tender, about 1 – 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place on a cutting board. Coarsely chop.  Top each piece of bread with the chopped ramps. 
To serve soup, divide the soup evenly between bowls.  Place 1 crostino in each bowl. Garnish with the sliced mint and any additional ramps.  Serve hot. 
 
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com. 

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