So I’m late on this post. Ramp season is just about over. I have been working like a madwoman and haven’t had time to post, but  it’s absolutely necessary to get an entry in on them, so better late than never. I promise I’ll be on time next year. What are ramps, you ask? In the restaurant world, ramps are the first sign of spring, after a long winter of butternut squash and apples but much more delicious than fiddlehead ferns (which are also an early spring thing but to me taste like dirt.) They are a type of wild onion, closer to a leek, with a delicious leafy stem and tender bulb and they grow wild in New York, but often come from places like West Virginia and Oregon first. In the northeast you can by them at greenmarkets, as I have never seen them in an actual store, but you better get there early before the restaurants snap them up. They are delicious and sweet yet spicy and grassy.  You can use them much like an onion or scallion, or just simply char them and serve them in a heaping pile of steaming deliciousness aside grilled fish or meats.  Trim off the root end, then use a paper towel to peel off the thin top layer, stem down to the root to get rid of the sand. If they are particularly sandy you can wash them, but be sure to dry them well or the tender leaves will rot and you don’t want that.

They are versatile and yummy and not at all difficult to work with. Anywhere you would put an onion, you can put a ramp, but since the flavor is more delicate you want to highlight it instead of mask it so keep the other ingredients simple.

Scrambled eggs with ramps is a great first dish, simple to execute but the outcome is totally sophisticated. Separate the white part from the green and slice the white finely. Then rough chop the green. Gently sauté the whites in butter or olive oil, until translucent and buttery. Sprinkle a little salt and then add your scrambled eggs. Toss in the greens and cook gently until the eggs are soft and creamy. Serve on toasted baguette, ciabatta or crusty whole grain bread.

Ramps lend themselves particularly well to other spring vegetables, because things that grow around the same time and area generally taste good together. If you want to expand on the egg idea, you can make a dinner fritatta with potatoes, asparagus, ramps and mushrooms. I like oyster or hen of the woods (maiatake) but any mushroom will do.

Spring Vegetable Fritatta

1. Parboil some spring potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from water and turn out onto a plate lined with a paper towel to dry.

2. In a large sauté pan, (preferably NOT non-stick*), heat some oil until just smoking and add your mushrooms, not too many so you don’t crowd the pan. Don’t touch the mushrooms. Don’t stir the mushrooms. Let them pick up some color before you move them. Moving them constantly won’t get that delicious caramelization that you want which will intensify the flavor. When you see some browning happening, then you stir them. You do, however want to monitor your heat. The pan needs to be smoking before you add the shrooms, which will then lower the temperature of the pan. But then the temp will rise again, and if you see lots of white smoke, or if your pan is looking too brown on the bottom, lower the heat. Conversely, if your temp is too low and your pan is not hot enough the mushrooms will steam as they release water instead of browning. Look at it and judge. Add a little salt halfway through cooking to draw out the moisture. Once you see color developing you can stir the mushrooms. If you need more oil because mushrooms inherently soak up oil, add a little drizzle around the edges of the pan. Cook until the mushrooms pick up color, throw in some asparagus sliced thin, sauté briefly to take the rawness out of the asparagus but leave still crunchy and then remove mixture to a bowl and reserve.

3. Cut up the potatoes to the desired size and cook in a sauté pan, along with the white part of the ramps in oil or butter until crunchy (just like home fries).

4. Scramble your eggs, add in the reserved veggies and season withe a little Salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the hot sauté pan with the potatoes. Cook until set and lightly brown on the bottom, adjusting the heat so it is hot enough but doesn’t burn.

5. At this point you have 2 options. You can turn it out onto a plate and then flip it over. Or you can stick the whole pan into a preheated 350 oven. The stove top yields a flatter fritatta with a creamier center. The oven yields a little puffier with a more cooked interior.

6. Cook until done. Turn out onto a plate and shave parmigiano over the top.

* Non-stick pans are not made for high heat. To get a good sear on something never use nonstick, as heating the pan too high will cause the coating to degrade and release chemicals into your food. Besides, you won’t get the beautiful browning you are looking for anyway. Non-stick pans are fine for scrambled eggs and omelettes, but not much else.