We all love a good rags-to-riches story. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of ramps, the oddly-named yet unassuming vegetable which has been driving chefs and foodies into a seasonal frenzy of excitement. This simple root vegetable, whose growth is more similar to a weed’s than of its close cousin, the leek’s, has somehow managed to acquire a mystique that has led chefs to clamor for it. Whether to puree into broth or pickle in vast amounts, everyone wanted to find a way to incorporate this quirky plant into their dishes. From relative obscurity, a veritable ramps rage has taken form. Ramps have risen to become the unsung-heroes of the produce world, and yet you still might be wondering–what’s the big deal? Actually, what even are ramps?
Ramps look like something that might grow in your backyard, something you might toss out with the weeds. In fact, ramps are abundant and popular in places like Appalachia, where they can easily be pulled from the swampy earth and eaten on the spot. While ramps are native to North America, you might not know about them due to their very short window of availability–two to three weeks tops, in the beginning of April. Ramps tend to be the first green things to sprout from the ground as winter thaws into spring, and in West Virginia, their emergence is even celebrated with festivals.
Evanston limits its celebration to a two-for-$5 ramps sale at Whole Foods, but that’s still plenty of reason to stop by and grab some of these peculiar, fragrant, leafy things. Their flavor falls somewhere beguilingly between onion and garlic, with a pungent and distinctly rich quality that lends itself well to combination with cheeses, eggs, pasta, and other savory staples. Ramps are also easy to prepare and fun to cook, giving you an excuse to melt lots of butter in a pan and watch as the leaves expand and then collapse into the wilted, buttery form they’re eaten in, all while your apartment fills with a savory, springy aroma.
If you’re looking to break free of your typical produce grind, open your mind to the world of possibilities presented by ramps. They’re cheap, spring-y, and trendy, so you should want to be their friend. This recipe is the perfect introduction, and the first step to becoming ravished by ramps. The tangy, salty Pecorino nicely accentuates the garlicky ramps, which serve as almost a bed of pasta for a perfectly runny fried egg. Eat this at any meal for a ramps recipe that’s fresh, hearty and easy, and feel free to toss in other cheeses or vegetables as you see fit. Enjoy!
Sautéed Ramps with Pecorino and Fried Egg
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
1 stalk ramps
3 tablespoons butter
Sprinkling of Pecorino-Romano cheese
1. Rinse ramps in cold water to remove any dirt.
2. Chop off the root ends of ramps; leave the bulbs on if desired, or chop them off.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Once melted, place ramps in pan and cook until they are shiny and wilted.
4. Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
5. Crack egg on side of pan and drop into direct center of pan, aiming to get the yolk as close to the center of the egg whites as possible.
6. Raise heat to medium-high and cook egg until outer edges are white and a ring of about one inch of semi-clear egg-whites surround the yolk.
7. Splash a tablespoon of water into the hot pan and quickly cover pan with a lid, creating steam which will cook the rest of the egg from the top down.
8. When yolk is still bright yellow and runny and has a soft whiteness to its edges, egg is finished frying.
9. Sprinkle Pecorino-Romano cheese over ramps and toss in pan until coated.
10. Arrange in salad form on a plate and slide egg on top. Add salt to taste, and enjoy!