Ladies & Gents,
Let’s talk for a minute about ramps. No, not the kind that people skateboard on — the vegetable kind. You might also know them as ‘wild leeks,’ ‘spring onions,’ or ‘wild garlic,’ since in Ontario, we are more interested in consuming these tasty stinkers than we are in uniformly naming them. And stinkers they are! Even food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith isn’t impressed by these odoriferous little babies. So let me break it down for you: if you are someone who is going on a date and you are worried about how your breath is going to smell, ramps are not for you. If you already dislike/are allergic to leeks, onions, or garlic, these are not for you. And if you are at one of those crazy yoga retreats where alliums in general have been ruled out, good luck with that whole enlightenment thing. Also, ramps are not for you.
By contrast, if you are someone who sees that a recipe calls for one clove of garlic and you throw in three or more, if you take a sort of perverse pleasure in casting your oniony breath on loved ones and coworkers, or you’re just really, really into seasonal produce, ramps are for you. Also, let’s be friends.
Since ramps aren’t around for long — usually just a few weeks in the late spring, you’d better go hunt some down before they’re all gone. You can find them at any farmers’ market, or probably even at some of the better grocery stores like Fiesta Farms. Once you’ve got them, you really, really should make this fabulous ramp & spinach pesto. It comes together super quickly in the food processor, and when whirled into some pasta, it happens to pair very well with two other spring produce darlings: mushrooms and asparagus.
Mind you, I prefer to spoon the stuff straight into my mouth so I can maximize the effect when I start breathing on people. I feel like it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a dragon.
Ramp it up pesto
Based on Saenyc‘s recipe. Makes enough for 3-4 servings of pasta.
- 1 large bunch of ramps
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach (or roughly chopped regular spinach)
- 1 scant cup of toasted walnuts (or pecans)
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
1. Wash the ramps and spinach well. Discard the hairy tips of the ramps, then roughly chop up the remaining stems and leaves.
2. In a food processor, pulse together the ramps, spinach, and walnuts with the lemon zest and juice. Then add the Pecorino, a dash of salt and pepper, and continue pulsing until the mixture begins to appear uniform. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and blend until the mixture’s come together completely. If it’s still a little chunky, add another tablespoon of oil and pulse again.
Pasta with Ramp-it-up pesto, asparagus, and nebrodini mushrooms
- dried pasta of your choice, but find a nice curly one for pesto, like fusilli or cappelletti
- 1 large bunch of asparagus, washed, tough ends discarded, and cut into 1.5-inch pieces
- 1 lb. nebrodini mushrooms (or king oyster mushrooms), chopped to roughly the same size as the asparagus
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- salt & pepper
- ramp pesto (see above)
- goat cheese, for garnish
1. Set a large pot of water on high heat with the lid on. Turn on the oven’s broiler on high, and line a rimmed baking sheet.
2. When the water’s boiling, add the pasta and cook, uncovered, for the specified amount of time on the package. In the meantime, place the chopped asparagus and mushrooms on the baking sheet. Drizzle them with the olive oil, then sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste.
3. Broil them on high for 3 minutes, checking on them and stirring if necessary. Reduce the broiler to low, and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green and can be pierced easily with a fork, and the mushrooms are browned and tender. Remove from the oven, set aside, and turn broiler off.
4. When the pasta is ready, drain it, and rinse in a colander under cold water to stop it from over-cooking. In the now-empty pasta pot, heat the pesto on medium until it’s warmed through. Add the pasta, asparagus, and mushrooms, and stir until they’re hot enough to serve. Crumble goat cheese on top of each bowl as garnish.
Happy breathing, little dragons.