Tuesday, May 1, 2007

wild leeks for kelly

Last Friday I had dinner at Firefly with an old friend. On their new seasonal menu was a spinach & spring onion casserole with pickled ramps. What, in the world, we wondered are ramps? A “kind of a leek,” the waiter said. Ever an adventuress, my friend ordered the casserole and declared it delicious. I later discovered that ramps are a type of wild leek native to the Appalachian Mountains ~ and considered quite a spring delicacy.

At the farmer’s market on Sunday noticed a sign for “West Virginia Ramps.” They smelled divine, so I bought a bunch, not having a clue what to do with them. I immediately went through my recipe books, trying to find a recipe. No luck. So I turned to epicurious, and up popped “Spaghetti with Ramps” from Gourmet (April 2000):

1/2 lb ramps
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb spaghetti
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

Trim roots from ramps and slip off outer skin on bulbs if loose. Blanch ramps in boiling salted water, 2 to 3 seconds, and transfer to a cutting board with tongs. Coarsely chop ramps and put in a blender with zest and oil. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook a few minutes, then ladle out 1/2 cup pasta water and add to blender. Purée ramps until smooth and season with salt. Continue to cook spaghetti until al dente, reserving 1 cup additional pasta water before draining spaghetti. Return pasta to pot with ramp purée and toss with parmesan over moderate heat, thinning sauce with a little pasta water as needed to coat pasta.

Note: not being a huge fan of spaghetti noodles, I used bowtie pasta, which held the purée very well and made for a very pretty dish. The flavor of the ramps ~ a delicate, woodsy, onion ~ stood out perfectly.

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