Apr 18 2011
Turning Chives into Ramps
Saturday's dinner took an unexpected turn. After our morning run, we swung through the Greenmarket to see if we could spy any ramps. I'd heard Mountain Sweet Berry Farm was selling them at the Union Square Greenmarket and I hoped for some spill over for Brooklyn shoppers! I spotted kale, turnips, and pea shoots, but no ramps.
Unsure of what to make for dinner, but inclined to cook rather than go out, I paged through the latest Bon Appetit. Bon Appetit underwent a complete overhaul for the May issue, and new editor Adam Rapoport has successfully modernized the magazine with bolder type, creative layouts, and articles by chefs such Eric Ripert and Gabrielle Hamilton. The food photography is simple and poignant--some of the spreads were shot by one of my favorite food photographers, Ditte Isager.
The only downside to the magazine's new design is the apparent presence of more advertisements than before. Because of this, on my first scan I found asparagus recipes I can't wait to make in a few weeks but nothing appropriate for mid-April. I idly thumbed through the magazine again as I stretched (post-run) and found two recipes I had missed on my first read: roasted fingerling potatoes with chive pesto and whole wheat couscous with lemon, peas, and chives. Combining two sides=dinner!
We took off on a few errands and got caught in the middle of Saturday's windstorm/monsoon. Instead of going to the Union Square Greenmarket (which had probably blown away by then) we headed to Whole Foods.
Ironically, Whole Foods was sold out of chives…but had a basket full of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm ramps. We hadn't prepped for a ramp recipe--but ramps and chives are luckily somewhat similar.
Last year was the first I had cooked with ramps, so I'm a bit more prepared for them entering this Spring. Ramps are distant cousins to onions. They grow wild and only appear for about 6 weeks each year. The leaves are vibrantly green and delicate and the bulbs are incredibly pungent--our entire grocery bag smelled like them when we finally arrived home. Chives are the smallest member of the onion family and have a much milder onion flavor.
As we prepped the two dishes, we were aware of the pungent quality of the ramps. We didn't want to add so many ramps to the dishes that when we sat down to dig in, we could only taste ramps.
Because each dish uses ramps in a different way, these two side dishes compliment each other perfectly. When prepping the ramp pesto, be careful with the amount of garlic you add. You want the pesto to taste like ramp, not garlic. The ramps' influence were stronger in the pesto and more understated in the lemony couscous. Each dish tasted fresh and bright. Finally, making a ramp dish was obviously a last-minute decision, so check back for a future 'fresh from the market' profile on ramps--and more recipes!
*I just stumbled upon this interesting (and slightly horrifying) article detailing the current over-harvesting of ramps due to their culinary cache. The author states, "If there is such a thing as a sustainable harvest of ramps, no one currently knows what that number is. Clearly it is under 5%."
Whole Wheat Couscous with Lemon, Peas, and Ramps
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 4 as a main dish
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup diced onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup minced ramps (both stem and leaves)
zest & juice of one lemon
1/3 coup sliced almonds
1) Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add turmeric, onion, and garlic. Sautee until onion is tender (about 5 minutes).
2) Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, stirring to blend.
3) Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover. Let stand for 10 minutes.
4) Stir in the peas, zest, juice, and ramps. Season with salt and pepper.
5) Before serving, garnish with almonds.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Ramp Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 6 as a side
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 a cup olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 cup chopped ramps
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons slivered almonds (*or walnuts)
1/2 a garlic clove
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1) Preheat your oven to 425. In a bowl, toss potatoes with one tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Spread potatoes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast potatoes until golden brown, roughly 30 minutes.
3) Combine ramps, parsley, almonds, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
4) Gradually add oil and process until incorporated.
5) Transfer ramp pesto to a smaller bowl and stir in lemon juice, and two tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper.
6) Transfer potatoes to a plate or platter. Drizzle with half of pesto. Serve with remaining pesto.