I have a confession – yes, again. I have never eaten a ramp before this year. Well, actually, its bigger than that – I didn’t even know what a ramp was until this year. (Don’t judge, ok?) But last weekend, I spent a delightful morning at a cooking demonstration hosted by a local farm, Blue Moon Acres. The engaging guest chef, Ian Knauer was a former food editor for our-much-beloved-now-defunct Gourmet magazine and has his own award winning PBS series called The Farm.
Ian, now living locally and managing a farm that has been in his family for generations, is all about savoring and honoring the seasons of food. As we toured the farm with one of the owners, Ian quietly snipped ramps for our risotto demonstration. I, the food blogger, couldn’t dare admit that I actually had never seen a ramp before! Ian then stayed behind to dig up some dandelion greens that he had spied nearby. (Apologies but I must digress for a second, as dandelion greens are very familiar to me. As a child in the spring, we used to happily tumble into our grandfather’s car when he shouted ‘ We go to pick!’ in his heavy Italian accent. Armed with butter knifes, we would sit alongside the banks of a local creek and dig out dandelions to be added to our grandmother’s pasta or salad. How fondly I remember crouching down along the water’s edge following my grandfathers lead as the bags filled with nature’s treat.) But back to ramps! We proceeded to watch Ian flawlessly execute a gloriously creamy risotto made with fresh vegetable stock and loaded with spring greens. My mouth is watering even now as I type this.
So it was with a squeal of delight that I spied a box of fresh ramps at our local farm market this weekend! If you do see ramps, I implore you to give them a try. After reading more about these tasty treats, I learned that ramps are only found on the east coast. They are one of the first spring greens to appear in our area and their season is fleeting. Their wild garlicky flavor is not to be missed. Here I paired them with a simple ricotta and puff pastry backdrop to allow their wild flavor to shine.
Lastly, a tip from Ian – if you do find these beauties, cut off the roots with a bit of the bulb and soak in water overnight. Plant them in your garden or near a tree. In the years ahead, you will not have to forage far for your very own wild ramps. My own little ramp roots are settling in now beneath my maple tree. Stay tuned in the years ahead!
Happy spring! Buon primavera!
Wild Ramp and Ricotta Tarts
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
About 20 ramps, rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh if possible)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano
¼ cup heavy cream
Zest of ½ lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trim the bulbs from the ramps and remove any loose outer skin. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until soft. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Add the ramps to the pan and cook until tender and lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
On a floured work area, roll out the sheet of puff pastry into a long rectangle, about ¼ inch thickness. Cut into 2 squares or rectangles as shown in the photo. Transfer squares to a parchment lined baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmigiano, heavy cream and egg until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the ricotta mixture on top of the puff pastry squares. Arrange the ramps over the cheese and drizzle with any shallots and oil remaining in the pan.
Bake tart until golden and the crust is crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes. Cut and serve.