Ramps are trendy. Ramps are somewhat scarce. Ramps are DELICIOUS.
I’m apparently a little behind the ball, because ramps started to see their heyday back in 2010. I found this article on Time touting chef’s newfound love for and obsession with ramps. Despite all the hype, the author says, “I don’t actually believe ramps are any better or more wild-tasting than garlic chives or 860 other related wild onions that nobody pays attention to.”
Sure, knowing that there are 860+ wild onions out there makes ramps a little less exciting. But I’m all for falling subject to food trends. And part of the fun and interest in ramps is their scarcity – not in numbers, but that they have a short window of availability. You’ll likely see them in your local green or farmer’s market for a mere 2-3 weeks (though now they’re sold at many Whole Foods).
My curiosity in these scallion-looking bunches peaked when Brooklyn-based photographer Nicole Franzen went on a Instagramming ramp frenzy. For a week or two, it seemed that she was consuming pounds of ramps and only ramps. I’m a huge fan of Nicole’s food photography – it’s inviting and friendly, always filled with warm colors and a hint of sophistication. She pushed me over the edge to try these little guys.
But what to do with them? I actually wasn’t terribly inspired by many of the recipes I found online. Many called for simply sautéing them or grinding them up to make a pesto/soup/spread. I bought the ramps one Saturday afternoon (the last of the bunch at my farmer’s market for a steep $10 a bag) for a shoot that Sarah and I were going to do the next day. She wanted to photograph some raw vegetables for her portfolio, and I thought the ramp’s majestic purple streaks would be fantastic.
I ended up stumbling – okay, fine, searching directly – on Cooking Light, and found this recipe for warm potato salad with ramps and bacon. Bacon? I’m in.
This recipe also caught my eye because I really do love potato salads, but hate the quintessential summer BBQ mayonaise-y globs. This potato salad has a Dijon mustard vinaigrette – put Dijon on almost anything and I’m sold. I also liked that you cooked the potatoes and then browned them in the skillet. That crunchy outside is the perfect intro to the soft, starchy centers.
Before we got things rolling, I fried some bacon straight. Because…why not? I honestly can’t remember the last time I cooked bacon on my own. I’ll order it sometimes at brunch and get it crumbled on top of a salad, but I tend to avoid pork (for no real reason, it seems). So, as you probably already know, bacon is AWESOME. After it was perfectly crispy, I threw some ramps into the pan and sautéd them in the bacon fat. Best decision I’ve made in a while. The leaves got charred and crisp, and the ends were browned and soft inside. They tasted like eating roasted garlic heads. I could have eaten the entire bag of ramps like that.
Fortunately, I exerted some will power and thinly sliced the rest for the potato salad. The original recipe called for raw ramps, but I fell so hard for the bacon-fat-sautéed ramps that I had to cook them like that for the salad, too.
So next time you’re hosting or invited to a BBQ, put this dish on your list. If you can find ramps, the unique garlicky but still onion-y taste will be sure to impress.
Potato Salad with Ramps and Bacon
- 1 pounds new potatoes (the small ones)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 10 ramps
- 6-8 radishes, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place the potatoes in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle the potatoes evenly with the 3 tablespoons of water. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork through the potatoes. Remove the foil, and cool for 15 minutes. Cut the potatoes in quarters and set aside.
- While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl.
- Cut the very bottoms off the ramps (where the stringy stalks hang off). Thinly slice the ramps on the diagonal up until the leafy green part.
- When the potatoes are out of the oven, fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Throw in the sliced ramps and sauté for 2-3 more minutes or until the ramps are tender and beginning to brown. Remove the bacon-ramp mixture from the skillet using a slotted spoon, and keep all those delicious drippings (i.e. liquid fat) in the pan.
- Increase heat slightly under your skillet to medium-high. Place potatoes in pan and cook for 5 minutes, or until a golden brown crust begins to form on them. Remove the potatoes from the pan and place in a medium bowl.
- Add the ramp-bacon mixture and radishes to potatoes. Drizzle the Dijon mustard vinaigrette over the potatoes, and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.