Monday, April 20, 2009
In Season: Ramp It Up!
They're in season but, sadly, not around here. The habitat for Allium tricoccum, commonly known as ramps, is pretty much relegated to the eastern half of the US (see map below). But fortunately for us, several restaurants in the area will be including them on the menu in the next month or so.
Our friends Bruce and Mary Fishback at Bread & Ink Cafe love this odd member of the onion family and bring in some every year to feature as specials. We joined them for dinner the other night and got to try several dishes, starting with the sautéed ramps salad with ricotta cakes and orange (top photo). The cooked ramps were tender and tasted much like sauteed green onions, and I asked Bruce why ramps have the reputation of being strong-flavored and stinky when these clearly were not.
His conjecture was that ramps can become more strongly flavored as they mature and these, being about as slender as cooked spaghetti, were extremely young and tender. This was proven by the several strands of raw ramps on the side which were lovely when sliced and eaten with the ricotta cakes, orange and chevre.
The ramps with asparagus and prosciutto on polenta (right) was the essence of spring, the ramps lending a lightly garlic-and-onion backdrop to the crisp green spears of asparagus. The other entree, ramps with spaghetti, wasn't listed on the menu but was basically pangrattato tossed with sauteed ramps, a simple and delicious way to enjoy these unusual harbingers of spring.
Ramps are also being featured on the café's breakfast menu, but you'll need to get in soon or, like spring itself, they'll be gone before you know it.
Details: Bread & Ink Cafe, 3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Phone 503-239-4756.