Remember last year when I started rhapsodizing on ramps and specifically ramp salsa? Well, now I’m wise enough to know when the little buggers are actually in season, and I can say that my nose has turned into a ramp-seeking missile: three weeks ago I swore I could smell them, but could find them to no avail, and then two Saturdays ago we emerged from the Union Square subway at the 16th Street exit and my nose literally led my hand to point us to the ramp stand, even before I could focus my eyes on that familiar, rudimentary sign. I think I was still looking for the blue tent that they had last year, but the weather has been so gloomy this spring that it really hasn’t been necessary, and the late spring has made every trip to the market more and more worthwhile as the ramps improve in appearance and in size. (The price, happily, remains the same.) Suffice it to say, I spent $12 on four bunches of ramps two Saturdays ago, and then I spent another $12 last Wednesday when I went there on my day off (the first weekday market visit they had made), and despite knowing we’d be away for Easter weekend, I figured they’d keep in the fridge for a few days…and I was right. We were able to take a stab at two versions of ramp salsa, and while both were delicious, one was decidedly more of a crowd-pleaser than the other.The first attempt was by me, and honestly, I can tell you the exact point where I f-ed up the recipe: I was a little too generous with the crushed red pepper flakes and the final product was at times so damn hot that I’d have to guzzle the last of our orange juice to regain feeling in my mouth. (For the record, it really wasn’t that much, but when you figure in how much raw ramps, garlic and scallions you include in the recipe, and even a little bit can pack a punch.)
So yesterday, when I was guiding Michael in the finer points of making ramp salsa (the prep work in exchange for me dropping off the recycling and getting the chips and chipotle peppers in adobo) I was fine in giving him a fairly heavy hand in adding the white balsamic vinegar and some salt, but refrained from adding any heat whatsoever. And honestly? It worked really well–you have so much bite from the ramps, scallions and garlic that you don’t need extra heat, and the flavors you really want to complement all of that is the vinegar, some salt and a touch of olive oil to give it a bit more depth.
This is kind of the perfect salsa to serve with spicy chicken tacos because it adds all of the flavor when you combine the two into the tortilla (or beany blankies as Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation would say) but doesn’t require cooking diced onion with the chicken. The salsa and the chicken just fall together beautifully within the folds of flour and lard.
Ramp Salsa, the Good Version
makes 2 cups or so of salsa–it depends on the availability of chips and your self-control
- 1/2 lb ramps, cleaned and roots trimmed, diced well
- 2-3 cloves garlic, diced
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 2-3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (use 2 to start, then add as necessary)
- 1 tablespoon (at most) olive oil
- Kosher salt
In a bowl, combine ramps, garlic and scallions and mix well. Add in two tablespoons of vinegar, a drizzle of oil and then a healthy pinch of salt (it will dissolve) and stir well to combine; taste and add more vinegar and/or salt/oil to taste. Serve immediately with tortilla chips or with tacos (it will keep for a few days in the fridge).