A few months ago when we were in the throes of absolutely miserable weather, I had this feeling that ramp season would be embraced even more fervently than before, if only because it was definitive proof that spring was finally here and the long tyranny of this winter had come to an end. There had been some backlash against the ramp’s trendiness over the last few years, with some sniffing that while good, the hype surrounding them had ballooned out of control. Even by the time I had first gotten my hands on a few bunches back in 2010 the eye-rolling had already begun, but thankfully that hasn’t stopped the influx of ramps into the Union Square Greenmarket. As J. Kenji López-Alt rightly pointed out in 2011, part of what makes the ramp special is that we do have to wait for them to come every year and when they are available we have to make the most of them—in our increasingly on-demand society, it’s kind of refreshing to exercise some patience when it comes to food.
During our travels on Saturday (I was very smart and made brunch reservations at a place not far from Union Square), I bought four bunches and quickly planned how I’d use each one: 2 would go into pesto, one would be made into ramp salsa, and the fourth would likely be turned into ramp butter because thanks to Franny’s I’ve been looking forward to the prospect of making ramp butter since I opened up that cookbook. (It’s literally the first recipe in the book.)
While I’ve written about both ramp salsa and ramp pesto in the past, I think I’ve stumbled upon solid recipes for each now. The pesto I try to keep as simple as possible: nuts (usually pistachios), olive oil, salt, and grated cheese ( a combination of Grana Padano and Pecorino because that’s what I had on hand) are the only other things I blend with the ramps, and therefore that garlicky flavor really shines through. As for the ramp salsa, I eschewed the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar and kept it very, very simple: ramps, scallions, lime juice, a serrano pepper, and salt. We had these on our weekly tacos in lieu of the regular cabbage, and neither of us had any problem polishing off the entire bowl.
If you’re out and about and particularly lucky, try to find a few bunches and give these a try; if not, well, there’s always next year.
Makes about 2 cups, or enough to coat 500g of pasta
- 2 bunches ramps, washed and root end trimmed
- ½-3/4 cup olive oil, divided if using a blender
- 1 cup grated hard cheese of choice (Parmigiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano all work well here), plus extra for serving
- ¼ cup pistachios
- Kosher salt to taste
Take the ramps and cut into a very large dice, add to either a blender or a food processor along with the other ingredients. (If using a blender, add at least half of the oil to the bottom of the carafe to help get blending started.) Blend together, adding oil as needed to bring the pesto into a smooth consistency.
If serving with pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it well, and then cook the pasta to about a minute shorter than recommended. Drain well, return to pot, and toss with pesto and serve immediately with extra cheese if desired.
Ramp Salsa 3.0
makes about 1.5 cups, or enough to top 6 small tacos
- 1 bunch ramps, washed well and root end trimmed, diced finely
- 1 bunch scallions, root end trimmed, diced finely
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1 serrano pepper, partially seeded (to taste) and diced finely
- Kosher salt
Combine chopped ramps and scallions and serrano pepper into a bowl; add the lime juice and salt and stir well to combine. Serve with chips or over tacos.