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Ramp Compound Butter


A huge part of the allure of pungent, earthy, and exotic ramps, is that their season and availability is so fleeting. With only about a month to harvest until their flavor becomes too strong, the annual pilgrimages into the muddy woods for chefs and epicurians has commenced (or early-bird trips to the farmer's markets for the less adventurous, or more wise).  But now also begins the search for ways to preserve ramps, to be enjoyed alongside the bounty of summer produce that is just a couple of months out of reach.

I am a big fan of pickling ramps (and of pickled ramp martinis).  This offers a great way to preserve ramps for months from now, if you can keep them around that long.  I have also become smitten with ramp compound butter.

Compound butter is nothing more than butter that has been mixed with herbs or seasonings, but the whole is much more exciting than the sum of its parts.  It is a great way to add a little unexpected flavor or color to a meal, or to create an instant pain-free sauce for a dish.  Now that you've mastered homemade butter, this is a perfect way to compliment your new home-spun delicacy.

The flavored butter can be packed into a small ramekin or dish for slathering on warm bread, or rolled into logs, chilled and sliced.  Top a hot grilled steak with a slice of ramp butter, and ooh la la.  It is also beautiful on grilled fish, vegetables, dolloped on grilled oysters, or stuffed under the skin of a roast chicken.  Try it when making scrambled eggs, whipped into mashed potatoes or polenta, or tossed with pasta and some grated pecorino.  It will keep for several months in the freezer, giving you lots of opportunities to use ramps with foods that the weather isn't cooperating with just yet.

Experiment and enjoy, and be the envy of all your foraging friends when their ramps have long run out.



RAMP COMPOUND BUTTER

1 lb unsalted butter
4-6 ounces ramps, white and green parts, depending on how concentrated you desire the ramp flavor
zest of one large lemon
salt, to taste

Bring butter to room temperature to fully soften.

Trim root end and wash ramps thoroughly, making sure to remove all dirt and grit in the layers near the root. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of water with lots of ice. Blanch ramps in boiling water, for 30 seconds. Remove quickly and shock in the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread ramps out on paper towel to allow to dry a bit more.

Either thinly chop by hand, or mince in a food processor, the white and green parts of the ramps. Add lemon zest and then combine with softened butter. If you want a more uniform, very green, butter, puree it all together in a food processor (as in the photo of the butter above). If you want a more chunky, rustic butter, either fold the butter in by hand or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.  Add salt, tasting as you go, if you want salted butter.  If you think you'll be adding it to foods that are already sufficiently salted, perhaps don't add any or very little just to enhance the ramp flavor slightly.

Pack compound butter into ramekins, small dishes, or air-tight containers and store in the refrigerator for about a week. You can also roll the butter into logs, either in parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap, to be chilled and sliced. The compound butter can also be frozen for up to three months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.

 

Recipe credit: Catie Schwalb.


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happyrampmonday
A walk in our woods today very pleasantly revealed that these ramps...



which we dug up from friends' woods last spring, which is overrun with them, and attempted to transplant to our woods...have successfully made it through this relentless winter and have become these ramps...



having successfully taken root and are now growing for us here!

If you haven't seen them already, ramps will be out in all their garlicy-oniony-wild leeky glory at the farmers' markets and on menu specials very shortly.  Here's a piece I did on them just a year ago, with a lot more rampalicious information.  And here are two recipes to start the drool:

Spicy-Tart Pickled Ramps

Ramp and Potato Tortilla


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Spicy-Tart Pickled Ramp Recipe


This past weekend friends who live near us upstate, on an area overrun with ramps, graciously invited us over for our second annual swap of all-we-can-pick ramps for a pick-up truck full of our "like gold" sheep manure for their garden. (So very cutting-edge-hipster-locavore.   Then again, poop for weeds...)

After a very muddy morning, we brought home two substantial garbage bags of ramps with their roots and soil intact, to transplant to our woods, and a very generous shopping bag of loose ramps to cook and eat.   I got to work on a big batch of these slightly hot, slightly sweet, bright and tangy pickled ramps that night.  I am now addicted, and looking forward to ice cold pickled ramp martinis later this summer.  Oh, and picked ramps also go brilliantly with fish and roasted meats, on sandwiches, or alongside cheeses and charcuterie.


SPICY-TART PICKLED RAMPS

by Catie

2 large bunches of cleaned ramps, stalks only, trimmed of greens (about 2-3 cups, loosely packed) (Save greens for scrambled eggs.)

Kosher salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp peppercorns, white, green, or black, or combination
2 1/2" piece of ginger root, cut in 1/2" pieces
1 dried thai chili, about 2" long, seeds removed for less spice
1 bay leaf

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready nearby. Blanch ramps in salted water for about 30 seconds, and then shock in ice water to stop the cooking. This will preserve some of the ramps' color. Dry and transfer to a quart sized jar.

In a non-reactive pot, combine vinegar, sugar, water, ginger, chili, bay leaf, and spices. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and pour over blanched ramps.

Cool, cover and refrigerate. Ramps will be sufficiently pickled in about 3 days, and will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks. If you'd like to preserve them longer, process in a canning water bath to seal jar.



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Ramps!
It is that time of year.



The ramps have arrived.

Ramps are wild leeks, and belong to the same genus as onions, garlic and chives.  Their flavor is a wild and woodsy combination of the three.  You can eat the entire plant, the bulb, stalk, and leaves, and can use them in recipes where you'd use garlic, onions, leeks, or scallions.  They are native to North America, and thrive in damp woodlands.  They are one of the first splashes of green in the woods, and an unmistakable sign that spring has finally decided to come to the party.

(here is one growing in our yard--that I had planted from a few extra I had bought at the farmer's market two seasons ago).



To make them even more of a produce rock star, they are only around for about a month, after which the flavor grows too aggressive.  During that time, these slender green devils send the culinary world into a bit of a frenzy.  In Appalachia there are many community-wide festivals devoted solely to ramps.  In New York City, it's tough to walk into a restaurant in April and not find at least one ramp special on the menu.  At Rick Bishop's Mountain Sweet Berry Farm stand in Union Square's greenmarket, there is a sign propped up by his ramps with business cards from spectacular NYC chefs (who get their ramps from Rick), and handwritten notes of how they each prepare this seasonal delicacy:

The Modern: ramp ravioli

Gramercy Tavern: grilled, pickled, salsa verde with ramp greens, sauteed with scallions, salad of leeks with grilled ramps

Butter: chopped eggs on toast with grilled ramps and ricotta

Corton: ramp wrapped quail breast and lardo ballantine

SD26: ramp risotto

Mas Farmhouse: sauteed with bacon cream

Co.: grilled with lamb shoulder

Dell'anima: Tajarin "alla carbonara"--ramps, speck, egg, and pecorino

When I visited the stand yesterday, I told Rick I was in a bit of a "ramp rut" and needed some new ideas.  And did I get some!  (Tip:  always chat with the farmer at the stand to find out their favorite way of preparing their vegetables.  Amazing resource!)  Great new ramp recipes to follow...and in the meantime, get some while you can.



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Rick Bishop
Farmers are my heros.  As a chef and food fanatic, they are the mamas and papas, surrogates and midwives of my most precious ingredients.  As an upstate resident, they are the fierce protectors of our land, farming heritage, and heirloom varieties of animals and vegetables.  And since moving upstate, I have had the great pleasure of getting to know many of these amazing neighbors--and then getting to visit them at the market in Union Square.

Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm is one of the rockstars of the Greenmarket, and a friend of ours.  He is adored by the most brilliant of chefs and grows the most magnificent strawberries (Tristar) and heirloom fingerling potatoes, among many other treasures.  Keep an eye out for his table overflowing with ramps in the early spring.

Seriouseats.com did a great short film about Rick  a little while back.  Definitely worth a few minutes of your time, particularly in the doldrums of winter.

I love Alexandra Guarnaschelli's comment about Rick in the video:

"When I buy your potatoes, and I bring them back to the restaurant, and I put them in the oven, I can smell your soil, baking, in the oven...I love your dirt, and he said "It's not dirt, it's soil, and it's a living, breathing thing."

Yes.




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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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