When I was a kid, my Grandpop and I would sally down to the “crick” and its grove and harvest ramps and talk about fishing and what we were going to plant in the “garden” (small farm). My early youth, probably unbeknownst to the rest of my family, was full of encounters and experiences with the men of the field and farm and the women of the pantry and cellar. They were our grandparents. My many siblings may have been born too late or just never connected, even though we lived upstairs or next door. These were the blessings of being the oldest child of many, I suppose, though most of the time, the eldest ones are considered …just older… and maybe out of touch. For me, these wandering encounters with another generation and the innocence of the earth have endured and became fundamental to my understanding of the way of the world, personal relationship with the land and its sustenance, and love of family. They’re all related, you know (note lesson for future).
Because of Grandpop, ramps hold a special place in my idea of the food world. I don’t forage for them now, mostly because I haven’t discovered where, but also because the current popular rage for them could create endangerment and I want no part of that. However, at the market this past weekend, there were ramps for sale, and I couldn’t resist. Not exactly a Proustian moment, but intriguing.
Ramps are part of the allium family (like leeks, onions, garlic) and grow in the wild. They have stems and roots like scallions and broad green leaves. All parts are edible. For the risotto, I sautéed the bulbs and stems before adding the rice, and added the slivered leaves in batches over the course of cooking the risotto. Lightened with lemon zest instead of salt, this was a very flavorful and full-bodied dish.
Risotto with Ramps
12 ramps (about ¼ lb)
¼ c white wine
4 c or so of chicken stock or vegetable broth
Olive oil and/or butter (about 1 tbsp)
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Optional: lemon zest, garnish of chives and blossoms
Wash the ramps. Cut the root ends and stalks into thin slices and set aside. Cut the leaves into ¼-inch ribbons and set aside.
Saute the root ends and stalks slowly in the oil and/or butter. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Add 1/3 cup of stock, turn the heat to medium low or low (so it just simmers) and stir until the liquid is absorbed. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/3 cup of stock, wait until it’s absorbed, stirring occasionally, and then repeat until the rice is tender but still al dente. This process will take about 20-25 minutes. Every 5 minutes, add a portion of the ramp leaves. When the risotto is finished, add the grated cheese, season to taste with salt and a pinch or so of lemon zest if you choose. Garnish with snipped chives and tufts from a chive flower. Serves 4.