Every year with the arrival of spring comes the short-lived season of ramps. From about April to May ramps are available in farmers' markets in the Northeast. Here people go crazy over ramps. Sometimes I wonder why they're loved so much. Last year I cooked and pickled ramps for the first time and grew very fond of them. Ramps are unique in that they're harvested from the wild. If you know where to find them or know of a forager who can find them for you, then you're very lucky to get them for free. But the rest of us have to buy them at the market.
This past Saturday I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and was excited to find ramps still available at one of the market's best stands. Mountain Sweet Berry Farm is know for their stellar ramps. You can't miss them, they have a very large ideas board on display that includes recipes for ramps from local chefs. So if you're ever in the city this month, stop by the market and look for the long line of customers and the board of famous scribbled recipes. Not only will you grab a bunch of these unusual edibles, but you might pick up a few new cooking ideas. Read more about ramps and see the board in this great article at Leite's Culinaria.
Ramps have bright white bulbs, purple stems, and broad green leaves that resemble tulip leaves. They have a pungent flavor not unlike garlic. I'm a lover of all things garlic and onion, so enjoying them raw or semicooked is not a problem for me. That's why this year, inspired by Marc at No Recipes, I decided to make a raw ramp pesto to toss with pasta. For an appetizer, the pesto works great spread on crostini and then drizzled with quality olive oil. If you're a lover of all things onion, this is the recipe for you.
Fettuccine with Ramp Pesto
Tip: Choose ramps that are small and tender. Their flavor will be milder in this recipe, which uses them raw. Any nuts will work in this recipe, but I like almonds for their mellow flavor.
1 pound fettuccine
20 whole ramps, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup raw almonds, toasted in a dry pan
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Cook fettuccine according to package directions in liberally salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, combine ramps, almonds, cheese, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Stream in oil and process until smooth paste forms.
Drain pasta. Return to pot and stir in pesto. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.