Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ramp Burps

Every year around this time a funny little thing pops up around the city. The ramp, a kind of wild leek; has an incredible onion pizazz, with good bite and near perfect aroma. It's somethin' else.
For New Yorkers, it pops up on fancy menus and in popular magazines with recipes for clipping. A seasonal food fad typical of a fashion city. The ramp becomes the IT ingredient for a few weeks. It explodes onto the scene, it rises to the top as though we've never seen it before and then, poof! It's gone, and all we have to show for it is bad breath.
I guess the secret of the ramp's success is in the marketing. It's not as though the ramp's quality changes every year, it is just so temporal. It epitomizes the seasonality of food. It's one of those things we look forward to when we're packing up our winter clothes, and then miss when it's gone. The question is: Do we enjoy it while it's here?
I certainly do, maybe a little too much. I'm sure to buy more than I know what to do with. Inevitably I find myself staring at a mess of ramps in my fridge wondering what I'm going to do with them all. I can't just let them go bad, right?
In a frustrated panic, I usually whip up a quick brine to escape this pickle. But in the months to come, I'm always glad I overbought. These little ramp pickles make their way into many little snacks. Pickled ramp cream cheese is a revelation on a bagel. The oniony punch is a great compliment to a salad, with the brine for a dressing. On a few hazy mornings, they've even been spotted draped over the edge of a bloody mary glass.

Pickled Ramps

2 Bunches ramps
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups vinegar, (rice, cider, redwine, or any mix thereof)
2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps honey

1. To prep the ramps, nip off the root, remove the outer leaf if it's slimy and rinse very well. Place them in a large bowl.
2. Over high heat bring the water, vinegar, salt and honey to a boil. Kill the heat and pour the brine over the ramps.
3. Using tongs, swish the ramps around a little to distribute everything. Allow to cool and transfer to a storage vessel (ideally glass)

These pickles are delicious in a few hours, but they'll mellow out a little over more time. With a group of students I spoke to recently we tasted crostini of pickled ramps with minted ricotta (just ricotta blended with mint, a little olive oil and pinch of salt) It's a pretty stellar snack . . . . that you'll be tasting for hours afterward.
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