Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Let Mario Batali pronounce it for you.
"Ramps...huh?" "What the heck is ramp puree?"
As soon as we posted the menu for last night's White House State Dinner, the question began rolling in from my colleagues, commenters, folks on Twitter - and I realized I oughta get my head out of my ramp patch and explain.
Ramps are a member of the allium family (Allium tricoccum if you care to get all categorical about it) and are akin to a wild onion. The flavor is pungent and slightly nutty - somewhere between garlic and leeks, and both the leafy tops and tender bulbs are edible.
Food fanatics get all het up about them because they're, well, incredibly delicious - but also because they're somewhat of a rarity. They're difficult, if not impossible to cultivate, so they must be foraged from the wild or as is often the case, bought at a premium from someone else who's gone out to do the dirty work.
These people are wrong. Ramps remain thoroughly scrumptious, year after year - a springy little "Huzzah!" from the earth - and I thoroughly support the ridiculous grousing because I live in fear that these people will find and plunder my secret foraging spot over by the...wait, I'm not telling you.
Oh - how to eat 'em. Not raw, lest you've got a vampire garde a manger you're attempting to ward off. They stink in that state - at least according to my husband, who pulled over to ask me to re-pack my bounty in the back of the car lest he perish from the stench. Better to puree (a la the White House), sautee to serve atop pasta or pizza, fry, pickle, or in general treat as you would a scallion or green garlic.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy them (and I realize this flies in the face of the not-raw rule, so I never serve this to company or, you know, other people) is to pound the greens and bulbs into pesto and spread on crackers, stir into pasta or drizzle atop roasted chicken. It works well anywhere you'd use a traditional basil pesto and can be frozen in ice cube trays (though you'll want to hold off adding the cheese until you're ready to thaw and serve it) to let a taste of spring pop up after all the ramp chatter has wilted away.
Kat's Ramp Pesto
Ingredients (quantities to taste)
Handful of ramps – bulbs and greens
Pre-chop greens and bulbs into 1/2 inch pieces on a cutting board, and place in mortar or rough-textured bowl with a pinch of kosher salt. With a pestle or wooden spoon, grind the ramp against the surface of the bowl, using the salt's grit to help break down the fibers until they form a somewhat uniform paste.
Sprinkle in pine nuts and crush them into the paste with the mortar. Once they're integrated, drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly until the desired consistency is achieved. Sprinkle in grated parmesan cheese to taste.
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