Thursday, May 3, 2012

Red Wine Pickled Ramps

The gift that keeps on giving.  Pickling allows you to eat spring and summer veggies all year round.   Historically pickling is how people survived hard winters.  Lets face facts back then people didn't have supermarkets with produce from Chile, or hydro Tomatoes from New Zealand, they had their crop in the late summer and that's it. They HAD to find a way to preserve there crop so there kids didn't starve.   It's amazing how our ancestors took a necessity and made it an art form.  Even today adults, kids around the world eat pickles everyday but not out of necessity. You can buy fresh cucumbers at any supermarket around the world.  They eat them because they are sweet, sour, spicy and delicious.  They are even super healthy snacks as well.  Stop the bull shit and go get some jars (they come with pickle recipes!), hit a farmers market get your favorite veggies and give it a go.  Here is a real simple recipe for pickled ramps.  Chef Jeff inspired me with his red wine ramps but this has my own twist on it.    

  • 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1.5 lb ramp bottoms
  • 5-10 piquin peppers
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 2 tbs honey
heat up vinegar and water until steaming then add salt, honey and peppers.  when salt and honey are dissolved, fill jars 3/4 up with ramps and then fill with pickling liquid to the line on the jar.  Let ferment for 2 weeks before enjoying.  


Growing up in my house especially in the summer pesto was always a favorite.  Most of the time it was the traditional genovese style with basil, garlic and pine nuts.

Ramp greens are just as flavorful as the bulbs so there is no reason to waste them.  Simple saute: garlic oil pancetta, or garlic oil anchovies but I'm doing a pesto with sage, parsley and toasted almonds.

  • 3 large bunches of fresh ramp tops
  • 2/3 cup of almond slivers (toasted)
  • 1 buch of fresh parsley with the stems
  • 10-20 sage leaves ( depends how sagey you want it)
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated hard Pecorino 
Blanch ramps, parsley, and sage in salted boiling water for 2-3 min then shock in an ice bath.  add to a food processor with almonds and pulse.  Stream in EVOO until all ingredients are incorporated but not completely smooth.  If you have any balls you will grind all of this in a giant mortar and pestle.  Salt to taste.  Now this can be spread on toasted crusty bread topped with burrata, tomatoes, you can dress  pasta with it, put it in pasta like a ravioli or tortellini.  The flavor is like nothing else you can get at the market.

Ahhh Italian comfort food but with a North American twist. Italian food is all about getting the FRESHEST ingredients from dirt to table in the shortest amount of time no matter what part of the world your in.  On Long Island we have Ramps baby.  This is a great quality Rigatoni Napolitana dressed with the ramp pesto,  home made peperoncino and some ridiculous olive oil my family brought back from Puglia.  Dusted with Pecorino Crotonese from my father in law's town in Calabria and boom...spring and passion in a bowl.  

Ramp it up

My first time finding ramps was a mistake. A few years ago  I was walking though a Long Island state park in late March and the trees barley had leaves most of them still just budding.  I've come to love these woods after mushroom hunting there so now I will go for walks all year round.  Ground cover was primarily dead leaves but out of the corner of my eye I notice a huge patch of what looks like giant grass blade patches.  They were beautiful so I took a photo and went on my way.  Later that day after a little due dille I discovered they were ramps and have been harvesting there every year since.

Because of some business in L.A. I worried I may not get the chance this year.  Over the past 7 weeks I've eaten ramps at almost every restaurant we went too, Michelin rated or not so needless to say I am inspired and need an outlet. The morning after I landed was an ugly rainy day but there was no keeping me out of those woods.

It took a while but I finally found a few nice patches between all of the other ground cover.

This is by far my favorite wild edible to eat. Amazingly flavorful when eaten raw. It docent have the spicy bite you would get from raw onion and they are extremely sweet.  You can saute, roast, braise these bad boys but I'm going to pickle most of them.  I love popping a jar of them in the middle of the summer and eating them with some BBQ or a sandwich.  This way I can make them last all year and wont be such a ramp crack head come fall.

Bright green leaves, purple stem and stark white bulbs they are the most STUNNING!   Not to mention at a farmers market the cost three dollars for a small bunch so get off the couch, put down the beer, and get your hiking boots on right now.  They are in there waiting for you but only for another week or so.  Take action!