Monday, May 13, 2013

What's Cooking? Rampin' it Up

I had never tried a ramp. My mother had gushed about them over the phone. Food sections of various newspapers discussed the flavor notes and debated the merits when cooked with eggs or grilled. Foragers went nuts over this little wild leek-like herb. Chefs and food critiques alike breathed a sigh of relief with something new and exciting en vogue in the culinary universe. Yet I had not tried a ramp.

What is this plant of which I speak? A short-lived (4-8 week season) early spring green, the ramp is a perennial wild onion native to the Appalachian mountain region of the United States. Historically, the greens provided a dose of vitamins and minerals after a long winter without fresh produce...of course, prior to the advent of the global food economy and supermarket shelves that currently abound. Like many edibles before them, ramps now face threats from over-harvest due to a rise in demand.

So when I gratefully accepted a small bunch from a fellow marketeer at Dupont on Sunday, I was at a loss of what to do with the slender white roots and dainty greenish-pink leaves. Could I chop them up and stick them in a salad with my armful of greens? Should they be roasted alongside the perfectly purple asparagus? 'Eggs', I was told. 'Oh wait, you're vegan!' Thankfully, my market friends are more creative than that, and quickly the egg idea evolved into tofu scramble.

Ramped-Up Scrambled Tofu
4 ramps, finely sliced
2 green garlics, sliced
1 package of firm tofu, drained and mashed
3 tbs nutritional yeast
1/4 cup pine nuts (toasting optional)
1 tsp basil
Salt to taste
Grapeseed (or other high-heat) oil for the skillet

1. Heat about 1 tbs oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sliced whites of the ramps plus the bulbs of the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. 
2. Add tofu and greens of garlic and ramps. Season with nootch, basil, nuts, and salt. Continue to saute until tofu browns. 
3. Remove from heat and serve with some crusty bread or home fries or something else asparagus! 

So what did I think? Nice mix between garlic and onion (so, really garlicky with the green garlic...). Adds nice color to a dish and is a little more exciting than the wayward shallot. I'm a fan!

Smitten Kitchen makes Ramp Pizza (feel free to omit the cheese...)
101 Cookbooks takes advantage of asparagus season with stir-fry (sub ramps for green onions)
Finally, Serious Eats grills up some ramps!

Check out other comestibles on Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Wellness Weekends.

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