On the surface, ramps are a lovely harbinger of spring, wild leeks that are unable to be cultivated, hence part of their mystique (think truffles).
They also are one of the first vegetables to appear in farmers markets and on chefs’ menus after a winter of tubers and citrus.
They essentially taste like a very garlicky leek or scallion. But the attention they’ve had has put them firmly on a pedestal, seeming out of reach of mere home cooks.
At the moment, some people still think it’s cool to worship the mighty ramp, and others pronounce ramps “yesterday.” I think the very idea of fashion and a member of the onion family in one sentence is just weird. I also think the flavour is fantastic, and I love that you can use the whole thing, stem to stern.
But what I think is even better is the fact that I can drag my kids into a wooded area in Connecticut where we have discovered that ramps grow rampant (sorry, I had to).
So, I will let the foodies duke it out. I will just continue to prod my children into the trees and derive a perfect shiver of pleasure from cooking with something we pulled up from the ground and didn’t even plant.
PASTA SALAD WITH CHICKEN, GREEN OLIVES AND RAMP VINAIGRETTE
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 pound dried penne
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
About 40 ramps, cleaned, roots trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (including leaves)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup roughly chopped green olives
1/2 cup packed torn fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, then rinse under cool water. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the ramps and saute for 10 minutes, or until very tender. Set aside.
Once the ramps are cooked, in a food processor combine a little more than half of the ramps, the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, the vinegar, honey, Dijon, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
In a large bowl combine the cooked ramps, cooked and cooled pasta, vinaigrette, chicken, olives and basil. Toss well to combine thoroughly.
Nutrition information per serving: 550 calories; 220 calories from fat (40 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 1070 mg sodium; 53 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 26 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman/